Spotlight: The Worrying Spike In School Shootings Across America

October 28, 2022

By a Biometrica staffer

No matter what database you look at, the stats on school shootings in the United States in recent times should be cause for worry for anyone with any interest in child safety and child protection. After the latest school shooting this week, at a St. Louis, Missouri school, a few social media users wondered if the country has grown numb to such incidents. There’s an ocean of fear, worry, and sadness behind questions like that. After all, major headlines over the past year have been peppered by incidents of gunfire at schools in Michigan, Texas, and California, not to mention the latest one in Missouri this week.

On Oct. 24, an armed former student broke into a St. Louis high school in the morning hours. He is said to have warned, “You are all going to die!” before fatally shooting a teacher and a teenage girl, and wounding seven others before police killed him in an exchange of gunfire, according to an Associated Press report. The attack forced students to barricade doors, huddle in classroom corners, jump from windows and run out of the building to seek safety, the report adds.

The 19-year-old gunman, who was identified as Orlando Harris, was able to buy the AR-15-style rifle from a private seller after an FBI background check stopped him from buying a weapon from a licensed dealer, another Associated Press article says. Missouri does not have a red-flag law aimed at keeping firearms away from people who may be a danger to themselves or others.

Anyone who is 19 and older can legally conceal and/or open carry a gun in Missouri without a permit, according to the law, and the state also recognizes concealed weapon permits issued by other states, per an ABC News report. Tragically, in this case, Harris’ family had removed the weapon from their home, but Harris managed to gain access to it again.

News of the St. Louis school shooting came even as 16-year-old Ethan Crumbley pled guilty to terrorism and first-degree murder in a Michigan school shooting that killed four students last year.

Worst Year For School Shootings?

It’s little wonder then that the numbers are also showing a spike in incidents of gunfire at campuses. Let’s start by looking at data from The Conversation, a not-for-profit media outlet whose criminologists have built a database to log all school shootings in the U.S. Their numbers show that 2022 is the worst year on record for school shootings. “As of Oct. 24, there have been 257 shootings on school campuses,” per The Conversation.

That compares with 250 shooting incidents in 2021, which itself was a record number and more than double the total for the years 2018-2020, the media outlet adds. With over two months left to the end of this year, 2022’s record so far is worrisome. There have been shootings at schools in the country nearly every single year since 1966, per the media outlet. But the number of incidents have been rising steadily since 2010, with significant spikes in 2018 and 2021, it continues.

Since the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, over 700 people have been shot at U.S. schools on football fields and in classrooms, hallways, cafeterias and parking lots, The Conversation adds.

However, it is important to pause here to explain what The Conversation takes into account when it uses the term ‘school shooting.’ Shooting incidents, per its website, include “any occurrence of a firearm being discharged, be it related to suicides, accidental shootings, gang-related violence or incidents at after-hours school events.”

Image source: The Conversation

Journalists at Education Week also began tracking shootings on K-12 school property that led to firearm-related injuries or deaths in 2018. Their records show that there have been 40 school shootings this year that resulted in injuries or deaths. While that number may be very different from what The Conversation’s data shows, there’s one crucial factor linking the two: Education Week’s journalists also say that the 40 school shootings this year that led to injuries or deaths is the most in a single year since they began tracking such incidents.

Per their data, there were 132 such gun violence incidents at schools since 2018. Before 2022, the year with the highest number of such incidents was 2021 with 34 such shootings. There were 10 in 2020, and 24 each in 2019 and 2018, Education Week data shows.

Data from the advocacy, not-for-profit group Everytown for Gun Safety, however, shows that there have been fewer incidents of gunfire on school grounds so far this year than last. It says there were at least 141 incidents of gunfire on school grounds in 2022 as of Oct. 27, resulting in 48 deaths and 115 injuries nationally. That compares with at least 202 incidents of gunfire on school grounds in 2021, resulting in 49 deaths and 126 injuries nationally.

In 2020, according to the anti-gun violence group, there were at least 96 incidents of gunfire on school grounds, while there were at least 130 incidents in 2019 and 105 in 2018. However, according to their data too, the number of such incidents rose sharply in 2021, even when compared with the pre-pandemic years.

Ultimately, whether it is the worst year on record or not for school shootings, even a single incident of firearm-related violence at campuses should not be ignored. It can leaves students, parents, teachers and entire communities battling with the emotional scars for years.