School Shooting Statistics - Key Things to Know
School shooting statistics provide a window into patterns and developments in this tragic occurrence that continues to plague the nation. In 2022 alone, there were 51 school shootings in elementary and secondary schools in the United States—the highest annual total since Education Week began to track school shootings in 2018. These shootings resulted in 140 people killed or injured.
These unspeakable events have sparked debates and conversations about gun control and school safety. And while it is extremely unfortunate that school shootings continue to occur, familiarizing yourself and your loved ones with emergency protocols and how to protect your lives in an active shooting incident is the best way to be ready to respond to an emergency.
What Is Considered a School Shooting?
An active shooter is defined by the FBI as someone who is actively engaged in shooting or attempting to kill others in a populated location. The K–12 SSDB includes any incident in which a bullet hits school property as a school shooting.
A school shooting, therefore, is generally considered to be an armed attack against a school, such as a public or private elementary school, secondary school, high school, or university. According to the Gun Archive Violence Archive (GVA), "school shootings" do not include incidents on or around school property or near school grounds when no kids, faculty, or staff are present.
How Are Shooting Statistics Tracked?
Tracking active school shooting statistics can be subjective. There is not one correct technique for calculating campus gun violence and K-12 school shooting statistics, as it can be challenging to quantify the short and long-term human death and injury toll.
So while there is debate over how to measure and track these tragic events, plenty of current and reputable sources have compiled trustworthy education statistics, including a comprehensive school shooting database.
Where Do School Shooting Incidents Occur?
School shooting incidents can occur in various educational settings, including elementary schools, middle schools, junior high schools, high schools and college campuses. While statistics show that school shootings have occurred mostly in elementary and secondary schools over the past few years, no educational institution is immune to the possibility of such an attack.
Below is a breakdown of K–12 school shooting statistics that cover the years 1970 through June 2022:
- Since 1970, there have been 1,924 school shootings.
- Since 2020, there have been 738 school shootings.
- The year 2021 saw the most incidents, with 249 shootings. The following highest year was 2019, with 119 shootings.
- The states with the most incidents are California, Texas, and Florida.
- There were 1,086 events that happened on school grounds and 672 that occurred within a school facility.
- Parking lots and classrooms are the two locations where school shootings occur most frequently.
Source: Center for Homeland Defense and Security, Naval Postgraduate School (CHDS)
Firearm-Related Deaths in Minors Aren’t Limited to Schools
In 2020, there were a total of 4,368 firearm-related deaths in children under 19 years of age in the United States, including homicides, suicides, and unintentional injuries. This was the first year that firearms became the leading cause of death in children and adolescents in the United States, surpassing motor vehicle accidents which had previously been the leading cause of death in that age bracket.
As you can see, the deaths related to school shootings account for a very small percentage of the total firearm-related deaths in minors for that period of time, showing how important it is to pay paramount attention to firearm safety, the mental well-being of minors, and be ready to treat gunshot wounds in an emergency.
School Shooting Statistics on College Campuses
While shootings at K–12 schools are tracked by the Center for Homeland Defense and Security’s K–12 School Shooting Safety Compendium, shootings at universities are not included in this database. However, many researchers, media, nonprofits, law enforcement bodies, and volunteers keep tabs on the frequency of campus shootings.
According to a BestColleges poll, 65% of students are concerned about their safety on campus because of school shootings. Below are a few critical facts about school shootings that took place on college campuses:
- Since 1966, there have been 9 mass shootings at or near colleges and universities.
- The Virginia Tech massacre was the deadliest school shooting in the United States between 1982 and 2023, with 33 fatalities and 23 injured.
- Shooters on college and university campuses usually have a preexisting relationship with the universities they target.
- The gunman in every college mass shooting in the database was a male, with an average age of 28.
Who Are the Most Likely School Shooters?
Since 1982, male shooters have carried out 140 mass shootings in the United States, according to statistics gathered by Statista. 17-year-olds were responsible for 175 school shootings between 1970 and June 16, 2020. 16-year-olds carried out 163 school shootings.
Rarely are school shootings spontaneous acts. Usually, they are well thought out and prepared in advance. Here are a few key facts concerning the profile of past school shooters:
- The majority of people who carry out school shootings in grades K-12 display warning behaviors and typically disclose their plans to friends or through social media.
- Many school shooters displayed a great amount of mental instability and broadcast this on social media prior to an attack.
- The majority of individuals who carry out a K-12 mass shooting are connected to the school they attacked. Many are former students.
- Most individuals who carry out K-2 mass shootings take a weapon from a family member.
Source: National Institute of Justice
What Types of Weapons Are Used in School Shootings?
Semi-automatic assault weapons were more frequently utilized in K-12 mass shootings than in other settings. However, handguns are still the most common type of weapon in both elementary school and secondary school shootings.
A gunshot wound can cause traumatic bleeding and always needs to be treated promptly. Without treatment, arterial bleeding can lead a victim to bleed out in as little as two minutes. A well-stocked trauma kit can be a life-saving asset in the event of a school shooting.
Why Do Mass School Shootings Occur?
While data has been unable to show one leading cause of school shootings, most agree that mass school shootings occur due to a combination of variables. These variables may include a perpetrator's mental health issues and easy access to guns. Experts believe that most school shootings are primarily a result of individuals suffering from grave social isolation and a lack of coping skills.
According to Dr. Michael Pittaro, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at American Military University, the profile of a school shooter is as follows:
“The typical American school shooter is likely to be a Caucasian adolescent male from a middle-class community who attends or attended a suburban high school. Further, the shooter is likely to be a loner, an outcast, and is described by teachers and peers as being socially awkward with a limited number of friends”.
Finally, the FBI investigated common pre-attack behaviors in active school shooters and discovered that 88% of active shooters under the age of 17 communicated a desire to do violence, either verbally or through social media. As a result, it is critical to address these underlying factors and put effective preventative measures in place to avoid similar unfortunate situations.
What Are the Physiological Effects of Shootings That Occur on School Property?
Studies indicate a greater prevalence of antidepressant usage among people who experience campus gun violence. In addition, students who have seen school shootings are less likely to complete high school, attend college, finish college, or be employed and earn well in their mid-20s.
How Can We Protect Children and Improve School Safety?
The reality of a school shooting occurring again is an issue that has parents worried about the safety of their children. While there is no way to predict whether or not a school shooting may occur, there are certain safety measures and protocols that may help keep students safe in an active shooting emergency.
Preventative measures include stepping up security protocols like setting up metal detectors and hiring a qualified security staff. In the event that a school shooting occurs, a school should have a bleeding control kit (or several) on hand as the kit’s contents can help prevent a person from going into shock from a gunshot wound. Refer to the following guides for instructions:
- How to Treat a Gunshot Wound to the Arm
- How to Stop Bleeding from a Gunshot Wound
- How to Treat a Gunshot Wound With Household Items
Recognizing and responding to potential warning indicators that a person exhibits, like aggressive behavior or self-isolation, could also assist in preventing a school shooting attack before it begins.
Unfortunately, gun violence in schools is becoming an increasing worry in the United States. Active shooter drills and simulations are a good idea so that you’re ready to protect yourself and your family.
Staying up to date with active shooter facts can help you be better placed to recognize the warning signs that an individual may display before an attack. Every school should also have multiple trauma kits (and the training to use them) to stop life-threatening bleeding if a shooting occurs on school grounds.