Our analysis reveals that there have been a total of 304 school-shooting fatalities since the Columbine massacre.
We have charted the frequency and severity of this phenomenon in our timeline of school shootings in the U.S.
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On April 20, 1999, an episode of extreme violence in a suburban Denver community shocked the United States, causing 15 fatalities (12 students, one teacher, and two perpetrators) and 21 injuries within a span of about five hours with guns, ammunition, and homemade bombs. While this was not the first instance of a school shooting by any means, nor even the deadliest school shooting at the time, it got a great deal of media coverage. The media reaction was intense, creating a blame frenzy that demonized everything from video games like Doom to music artists like Marilyn Manson to films like Natural Born Killers. Despite these artists and even their style of art becoming outdated in the intervening decades, despite several documentaries about Columbine, and despite massive school safety training efforts for both students and teachers, the problem of school shootings has only grown more prominent over the years.
It’s become such a frequent problem that the news coverage of these events has fundamentally changed, with the Columbine massacre getting months of press and current events hardly drawing notice. Recent school shootings in America often get a fraction of Columbine’s coverage. Some, like the Santa Fe shooting, which had ten fatalities, have gotten less attention due to the fact that other shootings, like the Parkland shooting, which had 17 fatalities, dwarf them by their numbers. Both of those shootings happened just last year.
Are we numb to it all? How many school shootings have there been since Columbine, and how many of them have escaped our notice?
Setting politics, gun rights, media blame, and coverage analyses aside, let’s look at the history of school shootings along one mass shooting timeline to get a better idea of the scale of the problem. We’ve compiled a list of school shootings since Columbine to help
How Many School Shootings Since Columbine Have There Been?
There have been 229 U.S. school shootings since 1999’s Columbine massacre, not including misfires or instances in which a shooter was stopped before inflicting deaths or injuries.
Here are some of the latest school shooting statistics:
- 231: The number of school shootings since Columbine, not including misfires and stopped attempts
- 304: The number of fatalities (including perpetrators) resulting from on-campus shootings since Columbine
- 485: The total number of injuries resulting from on-campus shootings since Columbine
- 35: The number of mass school shootings in 2018 alone
- 10: The number of school shootings that have happened at elementary schools since 1999
- 6: The number of severely violent school shootings that reached a total death count of more than 10 people since Columbine
In terms of fatalities, the worst school shootings in America are the Virginia Tech massacre; the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, victims of which included 20 young children; the emotional Parkland, Florida, shooting that prompted a quick wave of advocacy; the Red Lake shooting; the Santa Fe High School shooting; and the Umpqua Community College shooting. Three of them happened in the past five years. Before Columbine, there was also the University of Texas shooting, which resulted in 18 fatalities but was widely regarded as one sniper gone awry.
We have seen an increase in the number of fatalities, a rising ceiling of shock, for these events. About 10 years ago, the Virginia Tech shooting became the deadliest mass shooting in America of any kind. That title has since between dwarfed by the Las Vegas shooting and the Orlando nightclub shooting, both of which thankfully happened outside of schools. These attacks are unnerving due to the fact that they are so recent and so bloody, showing the potential for damage unthinkable in a school setting. But these events have watered down our reactions; where Columbine led to a shocking 15 deaths, Las Vegas led to an unimaginable 59.
There’s a catch to how we look at the data about school shootings; if we focus solely on major school shootings by year or only on a list of school massacres resulting in a higher number of deaths, we miss the bigger picture. We miss the thwarted attempts, the one-off murders, and the high frequency of smaller events between the massacres with increasingly higher death counts. We miss situations like the school attack in East Greenbush, New York, which only resulted in one injury but had the potential to kill many more. That attack was thwarted. The student perpetrator has since gone on to praise both Parkland student activists and the teacher who tackled him to the ground, saying he is “a hero who I owe my life to.” That was a near-miss that could have been much worse, but those near-misses also need to be a part of the conversation about guns and schools.
Our list of school shootings in the United States should hopefully leave an impression of just how many small events resulting in unnecessary deaths have happened with very little notice, not just the events that gain Columbine-like national attention. Regardless of how it happens, hopefully the list of school shootings in America will show a decrease in fatalities over time.