The Year That Was: Guns & School Safety — 10 Years After Sandy Hook

December 14, 2022

By a Biometrica staffer

Ten years ago today, on Dec. 14 2012, a then 20-year-old gunman fired 154 rounds in under five minutes using various types of firearms, and killed 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. It was labeled the second deadliest mass shooting in the United States, next only to the deadly Virginia Tech massacre of 2007 that left more than 30 people dead.

How far have we come today, as a nation, in ensuring we’re doing the best to protect our children and make schools as safe as possible? In the rest of this piece, we review where things stand in 2022 by way of overall gun violence, how the year fared in terms of school safety, and how far gun safety laws have come since Sandy Hook.

2022: Worst Year For Gun Violence Since 2013

Has a lot changed over the past decade since the Sandy Hook massacre? The answer to that, as we will discover through the rest of this piece, is yes, although not entirely for the better. Take the number of incidents of gun violence overall in 2022, for instance.

There have been 628 mass shooting incidents just this year, according to data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive (GVA). That makes 2022 the second worst year since the GVA started tracking gun violence data in 2013, according to a Forbes report.

The absolute worst year on record since 2013 for gun violence was 2021 with 690 mass shooting incidents, per Forbes. Over 900 children (aged 0-11) have become victims of gun violence this year, i.e. have been shot at, according to latest GVA data. Of those, 302 children were killed due to gun violence in 2022.

When it comes to teens, those numbers are significantly higher. More than 4,000 teenagers (aged 12-17) fell prey to gun violence in 2022, with 1,281 losing their lives to the epidemic.

Source: GVA’s Twitter account

The number of people injured in gun-related incidents this year is the third highest, so far, since the GVA began recording data, according to the Forbes report.

News headlines through 2022 were peppered with various major shootings, including Chesapeake, Colorado Springs, Charlottesville, Highland Park, Uvalde and Buffalo.

159,698. That’s the total number of people killed and injured since the Sandy Hook massacre (between Dec. 14 2012 and Dec. 13 2022), according to latest GVA data. The number of people injured during the same period exceeds 400,000, and the number of gun-related suicides since Sandy Hook stood at 235,986, it added via a tweet.

Gun violence in the United States “far exceeds levels in other rich nations,” Bloomberg had reported in mid-2022. When the Sandy Hook massacre took place in 2012, it was considered a rarity. But today, incidents of gun violence have become far more commonplace, experts say.

Uvalde & School Safety In 2022

In 2022, there were 298 gun violence-related incidents at K-12 schools, according to Riedman, David (2022), K-12 School Shooting Database. That number is at its highest since 1970, per the database. There were 327 people shot (fatal and wounded) on K-12 school property, which is the highest in the last five years.

The database counts “all shootings at schools includes when a gun is brandished, is fired, or a bullet hits school property for any reason, regardless of the number of victims, time, or day of the week.”

In over 43% of the incidents the database analyzed, the shooter was found to be a student at the school. However, in a significant number of incidents (21.7%), the shooter had no relation to the school. The parking lot has been the most popular location for shooters to carry out their deadly firing, followed by classrooms.

Meanwhile, the narrative around school safety in 2022 was, undoubtedly, shaped by the horrific massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May. An 18-year-old gunman killed 19 children and two adults in the incident, which was the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook. The Uvalde shooting itself came only ten days after the rampage at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.

School safety was severely scrutinized after the Uvalde massacre. Proposals were made to add panic buttons, locks, and bulletproof windows. All aspects of school security technology were discussed and debated. For some schools, the shooting reinforced safety plans, while some said the Uvalde shooting showed that there were limits to school safety plans. On the other hand, false calls about active shooters soared after Uvalde.

The Many Facets Of School Safety

In the years since Sandy Hook, the school safety debate has developed various facets. Human-focused approaches have gained importance as a way to go to the source of the issue and prevent school shootings from taking place at all. Those methods include providing mental health support to students, offering students ways to communicate and to identify their emotions.

Scarlett Lewis, founder of the Choose Love Movement and a mother who lost her son in the Sandy Hook massacre, has been working on direct efforts to understand the shooters, according to an EducationWeek article. Over the past decade, Lewis has met with several others who have either plotted or carried out shootings similar to Sandy Hook. Her goal is to look for commonalities that could be the key to preventing future shootings.

However, school safety still remains a contentious issue and one that many believe has no singular solution. In May, after the Uvalde massacre, a coalition of experts published a call for action to prevent gun violence in the country. They advocated a combination of gun laws, mental health support, crisis intervention programs, and efforts to build supportive school climates.

Source: Former Rep. Gabby Giffords‘ Twitter account

Gun Safety Laws: How Far Have We Come?

The most significant gun safety event of 2022 was the passing of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) in June, the first major federal gun safety bill to be passed in nearly 30 years. It focused on tightening background checks and offering “red flag” grants for states that allow families and police to try to keep guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous people before they commit violence, NBC said.

On the other hand, in the same month, a Supreme Court decision expanded gun rights by striking down New York’s concealed-carry law. The state law required New Yorkers who want to carry a handgun in public to show a special need to defend themselves.

After the Supreme Court’s decision, there was a spike in demand for concealed gun permits in Maryland, for instance. However, some states (including New York) began tightening other requirements to obtain a concealed gun permit after the Supreme Court decision, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

In 2022, 21 states and Washington DC passed 90 strong bills, bringing the total number of significant laws passed since the massacre in Parkland in 2018 to 278, Giffords says in a report. The key takeaway over the decade since Sandy Hook, according to the report, is that nearly every state in the nation has passed at least one significant gun safety law. States have collectively passed more than 525 significant gun safety laws in the last ten years.

However, it’s not consistent across states and this inconsistency leaves “all Americans vulnerable, as guns are often trafficked from states with weak laws to those with strong ones,” the Giffords report added. From 2012 to 2020, gun deaths rose 46% in the five states with the weakest gun laws, the report continued.

In contrast, gun deaths rose only seven percent in the five states with the strongest gun laws. “Many states that had weak laws in 2012 further weakened them in the past 10 years, passing dangerous laws like permitless carry and Stand Your Ground,” the report adds.

Where should we go from here, as a nation? The Giffords report says President Joe Biden’s administration should now focus on making the implementation of the BSCA as effective as possible. Congress should “pass more legislation, including to enact universal background checks, increase funding for community violence intervention, address the deadly nexus of guns and domestic violence, and invest in research into gun violence,” it adds.

That must be backed by continuing to focus on human-centric approaches, including mental health support, in order to build a truly multi-dimensional strategy to battle the gun epidemic that has gripped the United States and claimed far too many lives.