As of December 7, in the U.S. in 2021 there were at least 149 incidents of gunfire on school grounds, resulting in 32 deaths and 94 injuries.
Between 2009 and 2018, the U.S. had 57 times more school shootings than the rest of the G7 countries combined.
There are bipartisan, publicly-supported, and data-backed solutions to reduce and prevent school shootings — and we can all help make them a reality.
(Plus, some good news on the progress we've already made)
The most recent school shooting in Oxford, Michigan is a devastating reminder of the near-constant threat of gun violence in U.S. schools
In 2021 alone, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, there were at least 149 incidents of gunfire on school grounds as of the beginning of December.
Those incidents resulted in 32 deaths and 94 injuries. According to Education Week, 28 school shootings have resulted in injury or death so far in 2021 — 20 of them since August 1.
Everytown reports there were 32 incidents of gunfire on school grounds in September, and 32 more in October alone — the most in a single month since they started tracking in 2013.
On October 6, four people were injured in a shooting at Timberview High School in Arlington, Texas after a fight broke out in the school. Two of the four injured had gunshot wounds.
On September 1, a 15-year-old student was shot at Mount Tabor High School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and died from his injuries at the hospital.
On May 6, two students and a custodian were shot and injured at Rigby Middle School in Rigby, Idaho. None of the victims died from their injuries.
And most recently, a 15-year-old in Oxford, Michigan opened fire at his high school, Oxford High School, killing 4 students between the ages of 14 and 17 years old, and injuring 6 more students and one teacher.
Four days prior, the shooter’s father purchased a gun, which was then not stored securely, and the shooter posted a photo with the gun on social media. Earlier on the day of the shooting, the shooter and his parents were brought into a meeting by school officials who were concerned by both ongoing behaviors, and behaviors exhibited earlier in the day. He was not sent home from school, and his belongings were not searched — and he carried out the attack later that day.
Prosecuting attorney Karen McDonald said the shooting was premeditated, based on a "mountain of digital evidence."
In the days following this devastating shooting, there were “copycat” threats at schools in Michigan and around the country.
Why gun violence — and school shootings in particular — are a problem
According to an estimate from Everytown based on the 2021 National Firearms Survey, an estimated 5.4 million school-aged children now live in a home with at least one loaded and unlocked firearm.
Over the last 20 years as many as 80% of school shooters obtained their gun(s) from their home or the home of a friend or relative.
The number of guns and gun owners in the U.S. is on the rise — according to an Everytown analysis of Gun Violence Archive data on the number of background checks run, gun sales in the U.S. increased by 64% in 2020. (And that’s just on purchases made with a background check, which is not always required.)
According to Everytown, as of December 7, in 2021 there were at least 149 incidents of gunfire on U.S. school grounds, resulting in 32 deaths and 94 injuries.
Expanding that data out, between 2013 and 2019, Everytown identified 549 incidents of gunfire on school grounds. Of these, 347 — just over 63% — occurred on the grounds of an elementary, middle, or high school. In total, they resulted in 129 deaths and 270 people injured. At least 208 of the victims were students.
Adding another element of nuance to it, among those K-12 school shootings, 64% of them occurred at majority-minority schools.
And while other countries devastatingly also experience school shootings — the quantity and frequency is a uniquely American problem.
According to a different analysis by CNN, between January 1, 2009 and May 21, 2018, the U.S. had at least 288 school shootings — 57 times more than the other six G7 countries (Canada, Japan, Germany, Italy, France, and the U.K.) combined.
Beyond school shootings, gun violence in general is also a problem unique to America. Each year in the U.S. almost 350 children ages 17 years and under access a firearm and unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else. Nearly 700 children 17 and under die by suicide with a gun every year.
The data is staggering, heartbreaking, and overwhelming.
We’ve made progress in passing common sense gun laws around the country — and it should inspire us to keep working.
One of the organizations leading the charge in passing policies around gun safety is Moms Demand Action. Their network of volunteers and advocates have helped pass background check laws in 21 states, laws that disarm domestic abusers in 29 states, laws that close the “Charleston loophole” (which allows gun dealers to sell guns without a background check, in cases where the FBI doesn’t complete a buyer’s background check within three days) in 19 states, and red flag laws in 19 states.
However, the reality, as Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts said on the Sounds Good Podcast, is that “we're all only as safe as the closest state with the weakest gun laws.” So action is needed on the national level, as well.
And progress is being made there, too. Within the first 100 days of his presidency, Joe Biden not only encouraged Congress to pass universal background checks and other laws that have already passed through the House, but put in place several executive actions that will save lives immediately.
Those actions included regulating the market for ghost guns, appointing an Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Director, and giving over a billion dollars to city gun violence intervention programs.
If you’d like to be even more encouraged by the progress we’ve made, look through Moms Demand Action’s timeline of victories.
Gun safety is popular, bipartisan, and should be inherently non-political because of its wide public support. Around 90% of Americans support common-sense gun laws like universal background checks.
It’s encouraging to know that most of your neighbors likely support evidence-based solutions to prevent and stop school shootings (and gun violence in general), too.
Here are some of those data-backed solutions:
3 Data-Backed Ways to Prevent School Shootings
In addition to being traumatizing for teachers, school staffs, students, and students’ families, active shooter drills, school resources officers, and other measures taken by states and school districts only prepare schools to respond to school shootings and threats — they do little (if anything) to actually prevent them from happening in the first place.
Students should be focusing on their academics, emotional growth, and social growth at school. Teachers should be facilitating that learning and growth. Neither should be worrying about their safety and security, much less losing their life, while doing so.
And as Shannon Watts said on the Sounds Good Podcast, gun safety and passing stronger gun laws “is not about undoing the Second Amendment or taking away people's weapons. This is simply about restoring the responsibilities that should go along with gun rights and do in other countries with high rates of gun ownership.”
Here are 3 data-backed, effective, proven preventative measures to stop shootings in our schools:
Pass Secure Firearm Storage laws, enforce them, and improve secure storage education
As mentioned earlier, based on the 2021 National Firearms Survey, Everytown estimates that 5.4 million American children live in a home with at least one gun that is unlocked and loaded — and as many as 80% of school shooters got their guns from their own home, or the home of a family member or friend.
If you’re a parent: If your child asks to visit a friend’s house, before they go, ask the friend’s parents and/or guardians if 1) there are guns in the home and 2) if they’re stored securely. If they aren’t, share the resources above with them — and talk to them about why it’s so important.
Schools, school districts, and even the Department of Education can help secure storage education by publishing and proactively distributing materials and resources about both the importance of and how to securely store guns at home.
Additionally, cities and/or states must pass laws requiring that people store firearms securely when they are not in their possession to prevent unauthorized access. Under these laws, Everytown says, “when a person accesses a firearm and does harm with it, the person who failed to securely store the firearm is liable.”
Currently, only 23 states and Washington, D.C. have some form of secure storage law: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. Several cities, including New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Edmonds, Washington, have passed secure storage laws.
Pass Extreme Risk laws to prevent an at-risk person from accessing guns
Extreme Risk laws — sometimes called “Red Flag” laws — allow law enforcement, family members, and/or educators to ask a court “to prevent a person from having access to firearms when there is evidence that they are at serious risk of harming themselves or others,” as Everytown describes.
A 2019 study from the Department of Homeland Security on violence in K-12 schools between 2008 and 2017 found that every shooter displayed prior warning signs, and in all but 2 cases those signs were displayed at school.
Extreme Risk laws are a critical intervention tool that can be used to prevent gun violence, like school shootings. According to Everytown, only 17 states and Washington, D.C. currently have a law like this in place: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington.
Require Background Checks on all gun sales
Nationally, current laws require licensed gun dealers to perform a background check prior to all gun sales to ensure the buyer is not legally prohibited from buying a gun. In some states, laws allow even licensed gun dealers to move forward with a sale if a background check is not completed within 3 days — this is sometimes referred to as the “Charleston loophole.”
Current federal gun laws do not, however, require background checks on gun sales by unlicensed dealers — like sales made at gun shows or online. This allows those who are underage or would not pass a background check to easily possess a firearm.
This is a huge problem. An Everytown investigation found that as many as 1 in 9 people looking to purchase a gun on Armslist.com (the largest online gun marketplace in the U.S.) are people who cannot legally have them, including because they are under 18 years old. It also found that in 2018, there were 1.2 million ads for gun sales that would not require a background check.
Both states and the federal government need to pass laws requiring background checks on all gun sales so that firearms can not be easily purchased by people who should not have them, including people with dangerous histories, deemed “extreme risks,” or underage.
Background checks have been proven to reduce gun violence — they are associated with lower firearm homicide rates, firearm suicide rates, and firearm trafficking. Twenty-one states and Washington, D.C. require a background check on all handgun sales: California, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
We can all help stop more school shootings by contacting our elected officials and demanding they act on these solutions
Gun safety and common sense gun laws don’t “belong” to a political party. In fact, because they’re so effective, they have strong bipartisan support.
The Federal Commission on School Safety, started by President Trump, endorsed extreme risk laws specifically.
Since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, twelve states have passed extreme risk laws — five signed by Republican governors.
Contact your local, state, and federal elected officials, share your concerns, and ask them to enact proven, popular solutions to prevent school shootings: secure storage and extreme risk laws, and universal background checks.
Call 1-844-USA-0234 and enter your zip code to be connected with your representatives, text RESIST to 50409 to contact them via Resistbot, or use this complete guide to contacting your representatives.
Remember that the more personal your message, the better — unfortunately, sometimes mass-written emails get filtered out by spam.
Use this sample letter/script to get you started:
Gun Safety Script for Calling Elected Officials in Congress
[Senator / Representative / Congressman / Congresswoman] [Name],
My name is _______, and I am your constituent living in ________. I am writing to express my concerns, as well as action steps I’d like you to take, in the aftermath of the recent school shooting in ________ — and the at least 149 other incidents of gunfire on school grounds in the U.S. that all happened in 2021 alone.
I understand the desire and legal protection people have to purchase guns, but what I don’t understand is how that legal protection can outweigh the protection of students at school. And while you may argue that it doesn’t outweigh it — the statistics prove otherwise.
Our [state/city/country’s] current laws around gun ownership aren’t strong enough if they’re allowing gun violence to occur at our schools as often and as frequently as it does right now. It needs to stop.
There are several proven, data-backed solutions you can help enact right away to prevent school shootings.
1. Secure storage: Based on the 2021 National Firearms Survey, Everytown estimates that 5.4 million children now live in a home with at least one firearm. And 80% of school shooters got their gun from their home, or the home a friend or relative. Require gun owners to secure their firearms securely at home, so they are not easily accessed by children, or anyone who isn’t the lawful owner.
2. Extreme risk laws: A 2019 study from the Department of Homeland Security on violence in K-12 schools between 2008 and 2017 found that every shooter displayed prior warning signs (in all but 2 cases those signs were displayed at school). Extreme risk laws, or “red flag” laws give a legal pathway for concerned officials to prevent a person from accessing a firearm when evidence suggests they could harm themselves or others.
Because they’re so effective, extreme risk laws also have strong bipartisan support. The Federal Commission on School Safety, started by President Trump, endorsed them; and twelve states have passed extreme risk laws since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018 — five by Republican governors.
3. Background checks on all gun sales: There is no reasonable circumstance where a person should not have to undergo a background check to purchase a gun of any kind. I believe you care about the lives of your constituents — adults, young people, students — and universal background checks on ALL gun sales would save countless lives.
You have the power to implement real, meaningful change. Please do your part to ensure this problem — that is devastatingly unique to our country — is not only addressed, but is made right.
And if you want to take further, direct action to end gun violence and school shootings — get involved with Moms Demand Action.
Moms Demand Action is a nonpartisan grassroots movement of Americans (not just moms!) fighting for public safety measures that can protect people from gun violence.
It has more than 6 million supporters and chapters in every U.S. state. Their work has been monumental in getting helpful, life-saving resources into the hands of gun owners, and common sense gun laws on the books in cities and states.