A database to prevent gun violence

When discussing politics in America, few subjects are as devastating and horrific as shootings that kill and injure students at America's schools.  It's simply intolerable that a growing number of parents send their children to school or off to college only to learn that that they were killed or injured or bore witness to a shooting. 

The key to prevention is education.  As mass school shootings and other types of school gun violence became more prevalent in the 1990s, the need for an empirical database became more evident.  That's why, in August of 2009, the project at schoolshootingdatabase.com was undertaken: to document the surge of school gun violence shootings happening across America.

The database, which is available to download for free at schoolshootingdatabase.com, is an Excel spreadsheet with 125 columns that documents over 1,830 shootings (and counting) at American institutions of learning, from 1840 to the end of the 2021–22 school year.  The database covers 182 years in American history and includes 24 mass school shootings (four or more killed) with the first mass school shooting occurring in 1940.  Since 1940, 217 people have been shot to death in mass school shootings with another 234 people receiving gunshot injuries.  One hundred sixty-six of the 217 people deceased (76%) were students, and of the 231 injured by gunfire, 196 (or 85%) were students.

In addition, 105 shootings in the database are active shooter incidents (three or fewer killed, injured), which caused the death of 107 people and wounded at least 337 more via gunshot.  Fifty-four of the 107 killed (50%) were students, and wounded students account for 247 (73%) of the 337 injuries.  In all, 324 have been killed and 568 injured by gunshots in 130 active and mass school shootings in American history.

The database also sheds light on the much more common and more deadly single-victim school shootings, which generate not even 5% of the incessant media coverage that mass school shootings do.  However, since 1990, more than 232 people have been killed and an additional 369 survived gunshot injuries in 601 single-victim on-campus shootings compared to 19 mass school shooting tragedies killing a total of 180 people and injuring another 163 citizens in the same time frame.  It's important to note that approximately 20–25% of the single-victim shootings are not school-related shootings, but rather community gun violence spilling onto campuses.

The database covers all classifications of shootings at U.S. schools and includes all levels and types of educational institutions.  It documents shootings at K–12 schools, colleges, community colleges, vocational schools, military or theological schools, and preschools.  The database also explores the motives, causes, and contributing factors involved with each shooting to get a comprehensive understanding into the violence.  The detailed and specific nature of the database classifies the different types of shootings happening at American schools and documents the characteristics and facts about each shooting, which makes it easy to select or omit shootings based on the specific criteria one would like to study further, simply by saving the document under another name and deleting the shootings that don't match the chosen criteria.

The dataset includes fights, whether spontaneous altercations or feuds, that result in a shooting; accidental shootings; suicides; law enforcement intervention shootings; gang gun violence; and shootings arising from behavioral problems or revenge for disciplinary actions, like being suspended.  There are also drug-related shootings, terrorist acts, domestic disputes stemming from romantic rejection (or divorce), and many other motives behind the scourge of gun violence infiltrating American campuses.

One of the many things that differentiates the database at schoolshootingdatabase.com from other databases on the subject is a deeper examination of the multi-faceted issues related to school gun violence, like whether or not the school had metal detectors before a shooting occurred, and an in-depth exploration into the dark, murky world of the shooters.  The database has over 30 duplicate columns that offer a chance to tally statistics from the perspective columns.  Not only that, but the duplicate columns offer context and detailed information about each column's subject.  Columns offering context and specific details include the shooter's criminal history, how the shooter obtained the gun, if he was influenced by previous shooters, and whether he had a fascination with firearms and violence.

The dataset also offers deeper insight into whether the attacker posted threats online before his violent act, if he was impacted by major stressors in his life, the outcome for the shooter, and much more.  To facilitate verification of the information in the database, a huge bibliography of thousands of open-source articles, court records, police documents, and after-action and official reports, as well as books on the subject, has also been created.

An empirical database documenting school gun violence also serves to dispel false political narratives like the Defund the Police argument.  One of the biggest takeaways from the database at schoolshootingdatabase.com is the literally hundreds of examples of compassionate bravery and selfless heroism from law enforcement, demonstrating how the disrespect and misplaced anger leveled at America's police and the Defund the Police narrative are unfounded, culturally destructive, and among the most ridiculously dangerous political and policy forces in American history.

I encourage and grant permission to anyone or any group that is serious about reducing school gun violence to utilize the database to learn about America's school gun violence epidemic and to conduct further research to come up with multi-faceted solutions to protect America's most precious asset: American kids.  Solutions will never occur on the path we are currently on while entertaining only one variable, like gun control or mental illness, and America's students will pay with their lives until we come together and craft a plan to prevent the violence.

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