Analysis of School Shootings

December 31, 2015

In 2013, Everytown began tracking gunfire in schools and at college and universities — public reports that a firearm was discharged inside a school building or on school or campus grounds — and over the next three years identified 160 qualifying incidents, including fatal and nonfatal assaults, suicides, and unintentional shootings.

Introduction

In all, these incidents resulted in 59 deaths and 124 non-fatal gunshot injuries.

Regardless of the individuals involved in a shooting, or the circumstances that gave rise to it, gunfire in schools and at colleges and universities undermines the sense of security that all students should have in their learning environments. By tracking this data, Everytown hopes to begin a reasoned discussion about effective means to promote school safety.

  • Of shootings perpetrated by minors at primary and secondary schools and for which the source of the firearm was known, more than half of the kids obtained the gun at home — likely because an adult did not store it locked and unloaded.
  • Twenty-four shootings — nearly one in six — occurred after a confrontation or verbal argument intensified, because of the presence of a gun rather than in spite of it.

Incidents were classified as school shootings when a firearm was discharged inside a school building or on school or campus grounds, as documented by the press or confirmed through further inquiries with law enforcement. Incidents in which guns were brought into schools but not fired, or were fired off school grounds after having been possessed in schools, were not included.

Three Years and at Least 160 School Shootings

Everytown began tracking gunfire in schools and at colleges and universities because no one else was doing it. The U.S. Department of Education produces statistics annually on the number of students killed on-campus per year — approximately 15 homicides and 5 suicides annually. But they only track shootings at primary and secondary schools (not higher education institutions), do not distinguish between the weapons used, and omit shootings outside of regular school hours.Robers, S., Zhang, A., Morgan, R.E., and Musu-Gillette, L. (2015). Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2014 (NCES 2015-072/NCJ 248036). National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, and Bureau of Justice Statistics, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Washington, DC. To fill this gap, Everytown began documenting all incidents where a firearm was discharged on school property, relying on media reports and following up with local law enforcement and school officials when necessary.

Between 2013-15 Everytown identified 160 school shootings across 38 states. Nearly 53 percent of the identified shootings took place at K-12 schools, and 47 percent took place on college or university campuses.

In 95 incidents — over half — the perpetrator(s) intentionally injured or killed at least one other person with a gun. In eight of those incidents, the shooter then shot and killed him or herself; in 20 separate incidents, the shooter attempted or completed suicide without first attacking someone else. Twelve shootings were purely unintentional in nature, and in 33 other incidents, a gun was discharged but no one was injured.

The number of identified incidents was relatively stable over the three years with the exception of incidents in which a gun was fired on campus and no one was injured, which rose each year. It is possible that press coverage of those incidents became more comprehensive over the period of observation.

Regardless of the individuals involved in a shooting or the circumstances that gave rise to it, gunfire in schools undermines the sense of security that all students should have in their learning environments. There is evidence these shootings have long-term impacts on the school community as a whole: a recent analysis of school shootings found that those involving a homicide reduced student enrollment in the affected schools, and depressed students’ standardized test scores by nearly five percent.Beland, L., and Kim, D.. (2015). The Effect of High School Shootings on Schools and Student Performance. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Vol. XX, No. X, pp.1-14, available at: http://every.tw/1S4KInT.

K-12 School Shootings in Focus

Between 2013 and 2015, an average of two school shootings took place at K-12 schools each month. Among shootings at K-12 schools in which the age of the shooter was known, 56 percent (39 of 70) were perpetrated by minors.

Many of the students who perpetrated these shootings had easy access to guns at home. In some cases investigators declined to comment on the source of the firearm because the incidents were under active investigation, but in the 24 incidents where the source of the firearm could be determined, 13 of the shooters (54 percent) used a gun they obtained from home.

This is consistent with an analysis of school-associated violent deaths between 1992-99 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found that 56 percent of students involved directly in a school-associated homicide or suicide used a firearm, and of those guns for which the source could be determined, 79 percent were obtained from the shooter’s home or that of a friend or relative.CDC, “Source of Firearms Used by Students in School-Associated Violent Deaths, United States, 1992-1999,” Mar. 7 2003, available at: http://1.usa.gov/1BIyk2X

Unsecured firearms frequently make their ways to school. A recent press analysis found that nationwide, a child brought a gun onto school property almost daily during the academic school year.J Mascia, “Kids are Bringing Guns to School on an Almost Daily Basis this Academic Year,” The Trace, November 16, 2015, available at: http://bit.ly/1TrZBnN And a survey by the Department of Education found that, during the 2009-2010 school year, one in every thirty K-12 schools took serious disciplinary action against at least one student for use or possession of a firearm on school property.Robers, S., Zhang, A., Morgan, R.E., and Musu-Gillette, L. (2015). Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2014. National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, and Bureau of Justice Statistics, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Available at: http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov

School shootings involving unsecured firearms brought from home included the following:

November 10, 2015 – Lecanto High School, Lecanto, Florida: During his morning English class, a 15-year-old boy walked to the front of the classroom, pulled out his father’s 9mm semi-automatic handgun, and shot himself in the head. He was taken to an area hospital in critical condition and survived.

August 25, 2015 – Hornsby Elementary School, Augusta, Georgia: An unidentified male third-grader brought his father’s gun to school, and while playing with the gun inside his desk, he unintentionally discharged the weapon and hit a female student sitting next to him, injuring her.

October 24, 2014 – Marysville Pilchuck High School, Marysville, Washington: Fifteen-year-old Jaylen Fryberg walked into the school cafeteria and shot five students, killing four, before fatally shooting himself. The gun used in the incident belonged to Fryberg’s father.

January 14, 2014 – Berrendo Middle School, Roswell, New Mexico: Mason Campbell, age 12, walked into his school gym and pulled out a 20-gauge shotgun that he’d taken from home. The boy opened fire on his fellow students, critically wounding an 11-year-old boy, seriously injuring a 13-year-old girl, and slightly wounding an adult staff member. A teacher persuaded the boy to put the gun down.

October 21, 2013 – Sparks Middle School, Sparks, Nevada: Shouting “Why are you laughing at me? Why are you doing this to me?” 12-year-old Jose Reyes fatally shot a teacher and wounded two other 12-year-old students with a 9mm semiautomatic Ruger handgun. His parents told investigators that the gun had been stored in an unlocked case on a shelf above the refrigerator.

January 10, 2013 – Taft Union High School, Taft, California: Sixteen-year-old Bryan Oliver walked into his science classroom with a 12-gauge Winchester shotgun that belonged to his brother, aimed at a 16-year-old classmate he said had bullied him, and fired a single shot that struck the boy in the chest, injuring him.

School Confrontations Lead to Shootings

Between 2013 and 2015, at least 14 shootings on college or university campuses — nearly a quarter of total documented incidents there — occurred after a confrontation or verbal argument intensified to gunfire. Among the shootings that occurred on college campuses after an altercation escalated:

October 9, 2015 – Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona: Following a fight outside of a dormitory shortly after midnight, 18-year-old freshman Steven Jones ran to his car, grabbed a handgun, and shot and killed freshman Colin Brough, and shot and injured three other students.

April 16, 2014 – Stillman College, Tuscaloosa, Alabama: After two students began arguing over a bet they had made over a video game, one pulled out a small caliber handgun and shot the other student twice in the torso. The victim was rushed to a hospital but did not die, and the other student turned himself in and was charged with attempted murder.

January 22, 2013 – Lone Star College, Houston, Texas: A confrontation that began when two young men bumped into each other in the doorway of an academic building ended when one fired at least 10 shots. Three people were wounded, including two students and a 55-year-old maintenance worker who was shot in the leg.

January 16, 2013 – Chicago State University, Chicago, Illinois: A fight broke out after a basketball game and spilled into the parking lot. In the confusion 17-year-old Tyrone Lawson was shot twice in the back, killing him. Two older men were later charged with the crime.

Appendix

Click here to view an appendix of the shootings profiled in this report.