A gun is fired on a school campus in America nearly twice a week. Suicide, homicides, a police shooting, attacks on students by other students: more than once a month this past year, gunfire on American school and university campuses has turned deadly, according to a database of school gunfire incidents compiled by advocates.
Schools are one of the safest places for kids in the United States, and shootings in and around schools represent only a tiny fraction of the violence that children face here on a daily basis. But even the small amount of gun violence that occurs at American schools adds up.
Since the Columbine shooting in 1999, at least 233,000 kids across 243 schools have been exposed to gun violence during school hours, a Washington Post investigation found. Experts are quick to put that number in context. Researchers found that nearly 1,300 American children aged 17 and younger die from gunshot wounds each year, and they are more likely to be killed in homes or neighborhoods than at school.
“Gunfire on school grounds is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how gun violence affects children and teenagers,” said Ruhi Bengali, a senior associate at Everytown for Gun Safety, the country’s largest gun control advocacy organization.
But tracking gun violence on school grounds, as Everytown has done since after the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, does provide a window into the many ways gun violence burdens young people, even in places that are “inherently meant to be safe spaces for learning,” Bengali said.
Everytown’s analysis found that 20% of all gunfire on school grounds comes from unintentional shootings, but that even these “actually resulted in a fair number of injuries. Gun suicides, with no intent to harm anyone else, represented 12% of all incidents,” she said.
As with other kinds of gun violence in America, students of color, and black students in particular, were disproportionately affected. Black students make up only 15% of the school population for K-12 schools, yet represented 24% of student victims in instances of gunfire on school grounds.
For the students affected by ongoing gun violence in and around their schools, local officials can offer additional counselors, but little evidence of national change on gun laws: Republican lawmakers have blocked any substantive gun control laws for the past quarter-century.