Academics Find School Shootings Are Not More Common Than They Used to Be

Emotions don’t make good public policy. Facts do. And a new study from researchers at Northeastern University has found that school shootings are not more common than they used to be, and that schools are actually safer than they were in the 1990s.

According to James Alan Fox, the Lipman Family Professor of Criminology, Law, and Public Policy at Northeastern, four times the number of children were killed in schools in the early 1990s than in the past few years.

“There is not an epidemic of school shootings,” he said, adding that more kids are killed each year from pool drownings or bicycle accidents.

(Photo: Northeastern.edu)

Looking at just the past decade, the rate of school shootings has remained more or less constant, contrary to the narrative peddled by the mainstream media.

(Photo: Northeastern.edu)

In case one accuse Fox of pro-gun bias, his data was collected from governmental organizations and a laundry list of anti-gun organizations. He and doctoral student Emma Fridel used stats from USA Today, the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Report, Congressional Research Service, Gun Violence Archive, Stanford Geospatial Center and Stanford Libraries, Mother Jones, Everytown for Gun Safety, and an NYPD report on active shooters.

Despite the downward trend they identify, Fox and Fridel believe policymakers can still work to reduce the number of students killed each year. They cite the huge ratio of guidance counselors to high school students in many schools and note that increasing the number of counselors could help identify troubling behavior.

“You might have students in a very large school who are troubled but who are basically flying under the radar, because you have one guidance counselor for 400 students,” Fridel said.

SEE ALSO: Comedian Bashes Active Shooter Defense Drills in Schools

Most policy proposals currently being discussed, however, will have little effect, according to the researchers.

“The thing to remember is that these are extremely rare events, and no matter what you can come up with to prevent it, the shooter will have a workaround,” Fox said, adding that over the past 35 years, there have been only five cases in which someone ages 18 to 20 used an assault rifle in a mass shooting.

Other safety precautions, such as installing metal detectors and requiring ID cards for entry, have also proven ineffective in past school shootings. The study notes several examples of a murderer either avoiding or shooting through such security measures. In one 1989 incident, a man killed 5 elementary school children by targeting them on a playground.

“I’m not a big fan of making schools look like fortresses, because they send a message to kids that the bad guy is coming for you—if we’re surrounding you with security, you must have a bull’s-eye on your back,” Fox said. “That can actually instill fear, not relieve it.”

About the author: Jordan Michaels has been reviewing firearm-related products for over four years and enjoying them for much longer. With family in Canada, he’s seen first hand how quickly the right to self-defense can be stripped from law-abiding citizens. He escaped that statist paradise at a young age, married a sixth-generation Texan, and currently lives in Waco. Follow him on Instagram @bornforgoodluck and email him at jordan@gunsamerica.com.

{ 28 comments… add one }
  • auggie March 26, 2018, 7:48 pm

    Don’t forget to up the draft age to 21

  • Laurence March 17, 2018, 11:46 pm

    ‘BobR’ opines that a .223 will penetrate level 3 body armor while most handguns will not; ergo teachers being armed will only raise the body count. So by your logic more police will be killed by wearing body armor. How does this work exactly? You assume the teacher or administrator armed would be shot first. Nice assumption for your trolling purposes. You further assume the responder would not hit anywhere other than body center which is unlikely. The torso is a smaller target than an extremity. Of course if an aggressor is returning fire from a responder, they’re not shooting at anyone else. Your analysis is so full of holes they should name a cheese after you.

  • Bob R March 9, 2018, 7:44 pm

    Having read the bios of ,14 yr old, 16 yr old and 19 yr old mass shooters I was amazed at how knowlegable they were about various fire arms and their capabilities. As was mentioned in the article above, they would be very capable of working around any system designed to stop them. The idea of arming teachers or other adults in the school is a good way of increasing the shooters body count. These shooters will quickly recognize that if they are wearing a class 3 bullet proof vest, it will stop any pistol bullet shot at them. The return fire from an AR or AK would quickly dispatch them even if they were wearing a class 3 vest, which would be very unlikely. There are no easy solutions to stopping school shooters. Best to stop them before they get started.

  • KMacK March 9, 2018, 2:58 pm

    While some people advocate arming teachers and others advocate turning schools into “Fortresses”, both groups are seeking the unnecessary. What is wrong with: 1> Using chain link fencing to enclose the campus and 2> keeping all but one access gate locked during school hours? Access to the campus is only via the main office. Have two or three trained School Police officers present on campus acting as teacher’s aids when not actively providing security for the students.
    Nobody feels threatened but would-be shooters are kept out of the campus as a result.
    And what’s wrong with enlightening students to the fact that the Universe is NOT a friendly place for them and they are responsible for their own safety in everyday life? It’s the truth, and the sooner they learn it the less likely they are to be “victims”…of anything or anyone. That isn’t fear, it’s just simple reality.

  • Dave Brown March 9, 2018, 1:59 pm

    Well then The Pope Ain’t Catholic, and I don’t own any guns. My 2nd is important, my Guns are important to me, and have been for 53 years now. My Grand Kids are important, and School Shootings, or any kind of mass killing are A Big Deal, and these young kids that were Targets have a plan to tighten US up just a little. I agree, and I stand with them, Draft Card #252 Vet Nam and all of me……. FL is simply doing stuff that we tried before, it did not hurt then, and it will not hurt now.

  • Al March 9, 2018, 12:59 pm

    With regards to the last statement by the Author, the fact is we do indeed have a bull’s-eye on our backs, as this is the age of terrorism.
    Whether that terrorist is foreign or domestic, that IS the world we live in.
    And like it or not, a very large part of the problem with these shootings is the fact that we put our kids in ‘shooting galleries’ by NOT hardening our schools.
    So, we ourselves have indeed painted that bull’s-eye on our own kids backs, and foolish emotions of not wanting ‘instill fear’ won’t solve a damn thing.

    • KMacK March 9, 2018, 3:03 pm

      Yep. The universe is NOT a friendly place for anyone. Schools can be hardened cheaply with chain link fencing and locked gates. Learning to speak up when one sees something dangerous and staying aware of what’s going on around you is simple good sense.
      And it isn’t the terrorists we need to worry about…its the people with their minds a million miles away in some pink happy place that are the real danger – both to themselves and others. The risk level at schools hasn’t changed all that much, either; it’s the degree of disconnection that has increased, not the potential risk.

  • Greg Powers March 9, 2018, 11:49 am

    I’m going to add some of my own “research” on the topic. We all know how skewed the media reports “school shootings” by including drug deals after hours, on weekends, in parking lots etc. The public generally thinks of something completely different when they hear “school shooting”. They think of an armed person walking into a school where their children are in classrooms and opening fire at random killing as many as possible.
    I compiled a list using standard definitions used by the FBI to show details of EVERY SINGLE MASS SCHOOL SHOOTING IN THE UNITED STATES SINCE 1900. This list only includes K-12 schools, because college campuses are filled with adults who are there voluntarily and nearly all of them are eligible to own weapons. K-12 students are sent there by their parents and effectively allowing the government to guard their children during that time. The list also only includes shootings where 4 or more people are murdered at the school. I’ll bet you can’t guess how many times that has happened since 1900. If you think you know of another one, I am happy to update my list with any documented mass school shooting. This is an effort to educate the media and the masses that the dreaded “school shooting” while horrible, is NOT common at all.
    By the way, the answer is 9. 9 total mass school shootings in 118 years.
    Mass School Shootings in the USA since 1900 (K-12):

    1. May 6, 1940: Murderer was 38 year old male using 22 semi-auto pistol. Killed 5 adults and 0 students at South Pasadena Junior High School in Pasadena, California.
    2. January 17, 1989: Murderer was 24 year old male using a 7.62 x 39 caliber semi-auto rifle. Killed 0 adults and 5 students at the Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, California.
    3. March 24, 1998: Murderers were 11-year old and 13-year old male students using multiple weapons including handguns and rifles, but no “assault weapons” by the current definition. Killed 1 adult and 4 students at Westside Middle School in Craighead County, Arkansas. (these murderers were set free at age 21)
    4. April 20, 1999: Murderers were 17 and 18 year old male students using semi-auto pistols (1 each) a break open shotgun, and a 12ga pump shotgun. Killed 1 adult and 12 students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado
    5. March 21, 2005: Murderer was 16 year old male student using a 22 semi-auto pistol, a 40 caliber pistol and a 12ga pump shotgun. Killed 2 adults and 5 students at Red Lake Senior High in Red Lake Minnesota.
    6. October 2, 2006: Murderer was a 32 year old male using a 9mm caliber pistol, 30-06 bolt action rifle, and a 12ga pump shotgun. Killed 0 adults and 5 students in a 1 room Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines Pennsylvania.
    7. December 14, 2012: Murderer was 20 year old male using a 5.56 x 45mm semi-auto rifle and 10mm pistol. Killed 4 adults and 20 students at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
    8. October 24, 2014: Murderer was 15 year old male student using a 40 caliber pistol. Killed 0 adults and 4 students at Marysville Pilchuck High School in Marysville, Washington.
    9. February 14, 2018: Murderer was a 19 year old male using a 5.56 x 45mm semi-auto rifle. Killed 3 adults and 14 students at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida.

    Since the year 1900:
    Total of 9 incidents in which 4 or more people were murdered by a shooter or shooters in a K-12 school in the USA
    Total of 16 adults and 69 student killed.
    Total number of semi-auto “assault weapons” used was three. (Sandy Hook, Parkland, Stockton)
    All three of those shooters (Sandy Hook, Parkland, Stockton) had been previously diagnosed with mental illness by professionals.

    You have my permission to re-post this anywhere you like. Also feel free to independently fact check it.

    • Benja March 9, 2018, 12:29 pm

      Awesome post – Thank You!

    • Dennis Dodd March 11, 2018, 3:51 am

      Greg that is an excellent comment/post. Im 68 yrs old and not tech savvy, but if i could post your comment alone on fb I would. Im so sick of people’s anti gun rhetoric from the left. And lets not forget the guy that killed all those people from the bell tower in the 1960’s with a bolt action rifle not a semi auto assault rifle.

    • John A March 30, 2018, 6:18 am

      And of those mass shooters in the last 20 years, how many spent numerous hours a day engaged in violent 1st person shooter games? That’s an area no one is addressing in public forums. Those games do three things desensitize, train, and glorify mass killing.

  • Ivo Roberts Jr March 9, 2018, 11:22 am

    Until we armored the cockpit, X ray, and search with seizure, flying and the possibility of being hijacked was good. At first we didn’t feel safe cause of all the security reminded us of the hazard but now your only complaint is the time it takes to go through X ray and security. I feel fairly sure that no one has a gun or knife on the plane because of the security position of keep weapons off the plane. If you start the kids off early enough and through encouragement that the process allows them to go to school without fear of being shot by a student or outsider they will get use to it just like we have to fly. The schools our kids attend today are designed and look like prisons but instead of keeping the kids in we need to keep the dangerous elements out by using secure drop off points, X ray stations, armed security and increased perimeter security. No gun zone signs don’t stop criminals but maybe signs that read: The security in this place is well armed and improper or illegal entry may be grounds for lethal force. Those kind of warnings say something to criminals or mental mentally troubled people.

  • Fudd B March 9, 2018, 10:08 am

    Seems to me that comparing stats from the 1990’s to today is too narrow a span. I grew up in the ’50s and graduated high school in 1962 and don’t recall any school shootings. From the late fifties on the agenda of the high-jacked Democratic Party became more and more obvious with violent radical movements for social change and opposition to everything positive about the America that I had experienced. In retrospect we only had the threat of nuclear annihilation and a few gangsters.

    This analysis should compare stats starting in 1950 to today. The statistical graphs of the increase in gun-related violence since, say 1963, would correlate with the social initiatives of the left with the Gun Control Act of 1968 their cornerstone achievement to build on. Sepp W is right about their end goals. Socialists are very patient.

  • Zupglick March 9, 2018, 10:03 am

    This article, as well written, logical, and factual it may be, is pretty much useless. No liberal media will report it. No “Right Minded” liberal who can, will read it. I try not to tar all Democrats with the same brush as there are a few with brains that are somewhat willing to use them. Myself, I tend to be Conservative Libertarian. I don’t agree with large, expensive, controlling Government.
    I think, if we want to get the facts out there and be believed, we need a way to get it across, so that its not dismissed as propaganda.

  • RGE March 9, 2018, 9:46 am

    My take on it is during school hours, the entire campus should have only 1 entry point which is monitored constantly. The best way is to create a waiting area, with bullet proof walls and window, with someone inside taking information and ID. And yes, wand them coming in.

    During morning and afternoon intake and release times, you need some presence of law enforcement. Just plain uniformed police there to observe. I don’t think having officers present on campus is a bad idea. A lot of things happen on campus during the day.

    The thing is, it isn’t just about keeping shooters out, its about discouraging them from targeting schools to begin with. You don’t need to create soft targets. You do need more vigilance.

    Look we have armed security at airports, courthouses, and public buildings. We spend more money protecting industries than children.

    Finally, ID cards for entry, etc. are important and discouraging. A determined shooter will find a workaround. But the harder it is for them to target a school the more likely they will look elsewhere. And that is the concern that they are looking at all. But you can’t fix that part, just be vigilant.

  • Don Wallace March 9, 2018, 9:16 am

    The first half of the article referenced was correctly summarized. The second half was omitted.
    I would call this cherry-picking. Click on the link at the top of the article and read all of it yourself.
    Don Wallace

  • Tom Lee March 9, 2018, 9:13 am

    Correction to earlier post: Just like emotion not making good public policy it like wise does not make for good business decision as have several large retail chains.

  • Tom Lee March 9, 2018, 9:06 am

    Just like emotion not make good good public policy it like wise does not make forcgood business decision as have several larg retail chains.

  • Jim Kudej March 9, 2018, 6:37 am

    18,000,000 18 to 21 year olds in this country. One 19 year old with a mental health issues committed a horrendous classroom crime. It should be obvious why all 18 to 21 adults should be prevented from buying a rifle when .000006 percent of them committed a crime! It would make more sense to pass legislation to confiscate all weapons from NRA members. The are immoral, macho, coerces politicians, form unholy alliances, zealots, and per Rosie O’Donnell, terrorist.

    • Dan March 9, 2018, 5:05 pm

      If you had half a brain you would be able to see how stupid your remark is

  • John wilkins March 9, 2018, 5:36 am

    There are many times more people killed by drunk drivers and I see no talk about banning cars or alcohol.

    • joefoam March 9, 2018, 9:26 am

      John Wilkins- exactly, 30 people per day die at the hands of drunk drivers, yet you can get a drivers license with no background check, or any of the other restrictions placed on weapons purchases.

    • G'UmByTheP March 9, 2018, 11:31 am

      Exactly! It’s high time for the Pentagon to retrieve all firearms from the American military and replace them with cars and booze so that our soldiers can become deadlier fighting forces!

    • KMacK March 9, 2018, 3:12 pm

      Keep in mind that both the Auto and Beverage industries contribute vastly more to politics than the Firearms industry. Thus no restrictions on cars or on booze (outside of age-self policed).
      If we were as outraged by drunk drivers as we are at school shootings – things would happen, but – the having a beer or three “can’t be as dangerous as loading a gun” mentality still prevails in society.
      Guns and Cars and Booze don’t kill people – its the people using them that do the killing…but those same people vote and are thus “not to be annoyed” by restrictive legislation.
      And I’m a registered Democrat with a safe full of firearms and a profound dislike for Schumer and Feinstein when they decide to ride an emotional tide to get their flawed gun legislation passed…so not all Libs are enemies. (P.S. if you contribute to Social Security you’re already a Socialist. So, Meh…)

  • tsh77769 March 3, 2018, 6:46 am

    An excellent comparison would be mass deaths by jet airline crashes. For example, when a jet airliner crashes and maybe a 100 or so people die all at once and it is a big news story and gets all sorts of attention and press because like, OMG, 100 people just DIED, all at once, in HORRIBLE scary manner. We think what if that maybe could happen to me or someone I know. However, the fact is that the overwhelming majority of jet airliners do not crash, jet airliner travel is BY FAR the SAFEST way to travel, and jet airliner crashes are essentially very rare & very minor statistical anomalies. That said, I’m TERRIFIED of flying, EVERY time, especially terrifying for me is turbulence (even though as far as I know no jet airliner has been crashed because of turbulence). My fear and emotions about flying are irrational and not based on facts or logic. Thankfully, since I am not a left wing moonbat, I do not allow it to control my life or cause me to try to ban other people from flying.

  • Sepp W March 2, 2018, 6:37 pm

    School shootings are rare and a shootings occur in mostly gun-free zones for a reason. What isn’t rare is the sensationalism and anti-gun rhetoric as result of. The liberals and democrats use these tragedies to spread misinformation, made-up facts, and appeal to emotions for the need of more gun control. The end state of liberals and democrats, who abhor the Constitution, freedom and rights, are firearms confiscated and all rights abolished.

    • joefoam March 9, 2018, 9:29 am

      Sepp W-notice how quickly the bills were ready to present to the legislature? They were primed and ready just waiting for an event such as the FL shooting to pounce. I agree that total confiscation is the end game, exactly what the founding fathers were trying to prevent by writing the second amendment.

      • John R March 9, 2018, 3:02 pm

        Spot on! “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

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