By The Numbers

Right now, it seems like every time we turn on the news there’s another school shooting headlining as well as dominating the broadcast. Social media - especially Twitter and Facebook - are filled with reports detailing the rising number of shootings since the Columbine shooting in 1999, and the effects on victims and communities. But in recent months a number of social commentators have claimed otherwise, stating that those numbers are inflated, and that the number of school shootings is actually much lower than what has been reported. As if school shootings in American schools aren’t at a crisis level and somehow the numbers are exaggerated.


The question remains: are school shootings happening more frequently?


There have been a number of differing opinions on defining school shootings, which leads to numerous conflicting POV’s. The first step in accurately measuring school shootings is to define exactly what qualifies as a school shooting – according to the FBI, the definition of a school shooting is “an incident when there is an active shooter on school property an individual (or individuals) actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area” – excluding drug and gang violence as well as incidents of domestic violence.


According to a new analysis by Guns & America, school shootings are happening more often – not less. Using data produced and maintained by the Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS- K-12 School Shooting database www.chds.us/ssdbl/), there were 68 school shootings in 486 firearms incidents at schools within a 20 year period ranging from April 1999 through May 2019.


More importantly, in recent years the average number of days between school shootings has decreased. From 1999 to 2014, the average number of days between shootings was 124 days. From 2015 to 2018 the average was 77 days. In the 13 years between 1999 and 2012 there were four periods of time longer than 400 days without a single school shooting (the longest period was one year and six months – 574 days – from April 2001 to November 2002). On December 14, 2012, 27 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary. Since then, the country has not gone more than 231 days without a school shooting.