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U.S. School Shootings Have Risen 12-fold Since 1970
  • Posted March 8, 2024

U.S. School Shootings Have Risen 12-fold Since 1970

During the past half-century, the United States' annual number of school shootings has increased more than twelvefold, a new study finds.

What's more, children are now four times more likely to be a school shooting victim, and the death rate from school shootings has risen more than sixfold.

“Firearm violence is a public health crisis, and it needs to be addressed,” said lead researcher Dr. Louis Magnotti, a clinical professor of trauma surgery at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson.

For the study, researchers analyzed 2,056 school shootings from 1970 through 2022. The incidents involved 3,083 victims, including 2,033 children ages 5 to 17 and 1,050 adults ages 18 to 74.

The yearly number of school shootings has increased from 20 incidents in 1970 to 251 in 2021, researchers found.

During that same period, the rate of children becoming a victim of a school shooting quadrupled, rising from 0.5 to 2.2 per 1 million population. 

Deaths occurred six times as often, rising from 0.2 to 1 per 1 million population.

“Not only have school shootings increased, but fatalities have increased even more than the number of shootings,” said Dr. Ronald Stewart, chair of the department of surgery at University Hospital in San Antonio, Texas. He wasn't involved with the study.

Victims and shooters were both predominantly male, 77% and 96% respectively, results show. Nearly two-thirds of shooters were younger than 17.

Handguns were used in 84% of school shootings, followed by rifles (7%) and shotguns (4%). However, rifles were the deadliest weapon, killing more frequently than wounding compared to other firearms.

California had the most school shootings (214), followed by Texas (176), and Florida (120).

However, the District of Columbia had the highest rate of school shootings, with 5.5 incidents per 100 schools. Delaware (5.4) and Louisiana (4.6) were just behind.

The findings were published March 6 in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

“As trauma surgeons, we're tasked with caring for these shooting victims, and as such, we hoped, through our study we would be able to reveal and acknowledge an ongoing public health epidemic, not just with firearm violence in general, but school shootings specifically,” Magnotti said in a news release from the journal's publisher.

Magnotti and colleagues argue that public health officials need to monitor and track school shootings, identify risk factors for these incidents, and come up with tested and proven ways to prevent violence in schools.

“Policymakers need to address these issues by focusing on improving knowledge of secure firearm storage amongst parents, educating the school community about potential risks, and engaging in programs and policy discussions concerning strategies to limit youth access to guns,” Magnotti said. “By applying this approach, we can focus our efforts on minimizing the impact of firearm violence."

As for what parents can do, here's some advice on how to talk about school shootings with your child.

More information

The Brookings Institution has more about school shootings.

SOURCE: American College of Surgeons, news release, March 6, 2024

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