On Tuesday, a gunman rampaged through Rancho Tehama Elementary School in California, spraying bullets that injured 10 people, some of them elementary school students and claimed the lives of four people. Details remain scant, but the suffering and the terror sound familiar. Since the year 2000, the United States has experienced 194 school shootings. Fatherly built an interactive map of these tragic school shootings, with brief descriptions of each event, culled from Wikipedia.
Before the infamous Columbine slaughter perpetrated by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold in 1999, school shootings were less common, so it was impossible to pin down why they happen. But even now that we’ve experienced hundreds of these horrifying events, patterns that could help us prevent them stubbornly refuse to emerge from the data. All we know is that school shootings involve guns (obviously) and are carried out by one of the largest U.S. demographics — young, white men.
“School shootings are a modern phenomenon,” The New Yorker explains. “There were scattered instances of gunmen or bombers attacking schools in the years before[Frontier Middle School shooting perpetrator] Barry Loukaitis, but they were lower profile. School shootings mostly involve young white men. And, not surprisingly, given the ready availability of firearms in the United States, the phenomenon is overwhelmingly American. But, beyond those facts, the great puzzle is how little school shooters fit any kind of pattern.”
Bullying may have something to do with it — at least one study found that kids who are bullied are more likely to report that they have access to loaded guns. Meanwhile, the politically-charged issue of whether stricter gun laws would prevent these sorts of attacks dwells in fuzzier territory. On one hand, large data analyses suggest that the sheer presence of guns in the U.S. primes us for mass shootings. On the other, studies have shown that assault weapons bans may not help. Perhaps the greatest barrier to preventing gun violence in the U.S. is that Congress continues to prohibit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from studying the phenomenon, despite the fact that the CDC already studies most other causes of death by trauma, including car accidents.
Meanwhile, keeping kids safe in school is only getting more difficult. School shootings are on the rise. We’re not sure how to prevent them. And programs designed to protect kids are not up to snuff. Until major changes are made, one thing is certain: such tragic incidents will continue to be all-too-common.
Note: This article has been updated to reflect the fact that, although elementary school students were among the wounded, those murdered in Rancho Tehama were adults.