Researchers: Schools Shootings Not on the Rise, Schools Safer Than in the '90s

'There is not an epidemic of school shootings'

Gardena High School in Gardena, Calif. / Getty Images
February 28, 2018

Researchers from Northeastern University said on Monday that school shootings are not on the rise over the past decade and remain rare events.

James Alan Fox, the Lipman Family Professor of Criminology, Law, and Public Policy at Northeastern, and Emma Fridel, who is currently completing her doctorate at the school, revealed this week that their research indicates school shootings remain "incredibly rare events." Their findings, which are set to be published later this year, indicate that shooting incidents which involve students have actually declined since the 1990s.

The research team determined that, "on average, mass murders occur between 20 and 30 times per year, and about one of those incidents on average takes place at a school." They said the rate of students killed in school shootings is only a quarter of what it was in the early 1990s.

"There is not an epidemic of school shootings," Fox said.

The researchers studied data from a wide variety of sources including 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. They concluded that, on average, of the 55 million school children in the United States, 10 per year have been killed by gunfire while at school over the last 25 years. In their research they found only five cases over the past 35 years where AR-15s and similar rifles were used by the attackers.

"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.

The researchers said that more kids are killed each year in accidents involving pools and bicycles than from school shootings. They said they supported ideas like banning bump-fire stocks or raising the age for certain rifle purchases but did not believe they would prevent school shootings. They also said active shooter drills did more to alarm students than protect them, and things like installing metal detectors or requiring ID cards for entry have not prevented shootings in the past.

"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."

The researchers did point to increased mental health resources as a potential tool for preventing future school shootings.

"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.

During the 2014-2015 school year, the American School Counselor Association found there was one student counselor for every 482 students in America, which is double what the group recommends.

Published under: Guns , Schools