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Sight Magazine – Essay: US school shootings already hit record high in 2022 – with months still to go

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As a Michigan teenager pleaded guilty on October 24, 2022 to the murder of four students in an attack in December 2021, America was learning of yet another school shooting. This time it was a performing arts high school in St Louis, where a former student opened fire, killing two people and injuring at least seven others before dying in a shootout with police.

The fact that another school shooting took place hours after a gunman appeared in a separate case underscores the frequency with which these events occur in the United States. As criminologists who have builds a complete database to record all school shootings in the United States, we know that deadly gun violence in American schools is now a regular occurrence – with incidents only becoming more frequent and deadlier.

Our records show that seven other people died in mass shootings in US schools between 2018 and 2022 – a total of 52 – than in the previous 18 years combined since the watershed 1999 Columbine High School Massacre.

Since February 2018, mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, moreover, more than 700 people were shot in American schools soccer fields and in classrooms, hallways, cafeterias and parking lots.

“Since the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, more than 700 people have been shot in American schools on soccer fields and in classrooms, hallways, cafeterias and parking lots.”

Many of these shootings were not the mass shooting events that schools typically train for. Rather, they were an extension of increase in daily gun violence.

More common and deadlier
There have been shootings in American schools almost every year since 1966but in 2021 there was a record 250 shootings – including any occurrence of a firearm being dischargedwhether it be suicides, accidental shootings, gang-related violence or incidents at school events after school hours.

This is double the annual number of shooting incidents recorded in the previous three years – in 2018 and 2019, 119 shootings were recorded and there were 114 incidents in 2020.

With more than two months remaining, 2022 is already the worst year on record. As of October 24, there have been 257 shootings on school campuses – passing the total of 250 for the whole of 2021.

Many of these incidents were simple fights turned deadly because teenagers came to school angry and armed. At East High in Des Moines, Iowa, in March 2022, for example, six teenagers allegedly fired 42 shots in an incident during the school’s closure. The a rain of gunfire killed a boy and seriously injured two passers-by. The district attorney described the case as one of the most complex murder investigations their office never conducted, in part because six handguns were used.



At Miami Gardens High in Florida the same month, two teenagers are accused of having sprayed over 100 rounds with a rifle and handgun modified for full automatic fire. They targeted a student standing in front of the school, but bullets penetrated the building, banging two students sitting inside.

A similar situation held outside Roxborough High in Philadelphia in October. A lunchtime argument between students reportedly turned into a targeted shootout after a football scrimmage. Five teen shooters reportedly fired 60 shots at five classmates leaving the game, killing a 15-year-old.

In each of these cases, several student shooters fired dozens of shots.

The tally for 2022 also includes incidents involving snipers.

In April, a sniper with 1,000 rounds and six semi-automatic rifles fired from a fifth-floor window overlooking the Edmund Burke School in Washington, DC, during the firing. A studenta parent, a school security guard and a bystander were injured before the shooter died by suicide.

Threats, hoaxes and false alarms
The increase in shootings in and around school buildings worries many parents, students and teachers. An October 2022 survey from Pew Research found that one third of parents say they are “very worried” or “extremely worried” about a shooting at their child’s school.

Along with the near-daily occurrences of actual school shootings, there are also near misses and false alarms that only add to the heightened sense of threat.

In September, a potential attack was averted in Houston when police learned that a the student planned to chain the doors of the cafeteria and shoot the students who were trapped inside. The next day, near Dallas, another tip sent police rushing to stop a vehicle on its way to a high school homecoming football game. Two teenagers had a loaded semi-automatic rifle and planned to carry out a mass shooting at the stadium, it is alleged.

There was also thousands false information about shootings this year. Hoaxes, crush callseven viral TikTok School Shooting Challenge have sent schools across the country into lockdown. Dozens, if not hundreds, of these threats are automated 911 calls from abroadbut the police have no choice but to react.

People are so nervous that a burst balloon at a California school in September led to an active response from police shooters. The sound of a metal pipe hit in August caused thousands to flee an Arkansas high school football stadium for fear of being shot. A strong kick from a thrown chair caused a code red lockdown and parents rushed to a high school in Florida.


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A better way?
The rising annual number of school shootings has occurred despite tighter school security in the two decades since the Columbine massacre. Metal detectors, see-through backpacks, bulletproof blackboards, lock apps, automatic door locks and cameras haven’t stopped the rise in school shootings. In fact, the May 2022 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas provides a case study in systemic failure throughout the school security enterprise.

Federal legislation passed in the wake of Uvalde will provide districts with money to hire additional school social workers, or pay for better communication mechanisms in school buildings to respond to traffic signs violence missed in dozens of high-profile attacks.

It aims to better identify and help at-risk students before they turn to violence. However, another area that needs attention is students’ easy access to firearms.

school shooters, like the aggressor in Uvaldeare young adults old enough to get their guns legally from gun stores, raising questions about whether some states should reconsider a minimum age for gun sales.

During this time, most school shooters get their guns homemaking the safe storage of firearms a public health priority.

But many children get their guns from the streets. Preventing guns from falling into the hands of would-be shooters in schools will require police and policy makers to devote resources to cracking down on straw buyers – those who buy guns for someone else – and to the recovery of stolen weapons, ghost guns without serial number and barrels modified with self-grasp to make them fully automatic on the streets.

Such measures could be what it takes to stop the tragic normalization of school shootings.

James Denley is a professor of criminal justice at Metropolitan State University; David Riedmanis a doctoral student in criminal justice and creator of the K-12 School Shooting Database at the University of Central Floridaand Jillian Peterson is a professor of criminal justice at Hamline University. This article is republished from The conversation under Creative Commons license. Read it original article.


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