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Opinion: School shootings could be prevented – 3 key pieces of information on why we’ve suffered 137 of them this year alone

At least 19 children and two adults were killed when a teenage gunman allegedly shot them dead at a Texas elementary school on May 24, 2022 — the latest mass shooting in a country where such incidents have become commonplace.

Much is still unknown about the attack on Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, a small, predominantly Hispanic town in south Texas. The police have not yet announced a possible motive behind the attack in which the 18-year-old went classroom to classroom dressed in body armor and with two military-style riflesAccording to reports.

As the chart below shows, the frequency of school shootings in the United States has increased dramatically in recent years.

The conversation

Here are three stories from The Conversation archives to help complete the recent history of mass shootings in the US – and explain why the government failed to take gun control action despite the carnage.

1. School shootings are at record high

The attack on Robb Elementary School was the 137th school shooting in the United States this year, according to the data. There were 249 school shootings in 2021 – by far the worst year on record.

“School shootings are not inevitable. They are avoidable. But practitioners and policymakers must act quickly, as each school shooting feeds the cycle to the next, causing damage far beyond what is measured in lives lost.”


– James Densley and Jillian Peterson

James Densleythe Metropolitan State University and Hamline University Jillian Peterson Log such incidents to a database of US mass shootings. It helped them build a profile of the typical school shooting suspect – some of which seem to apply to the suspect in the recent massacre, such as his age and gender.

In general, school gunners are predominantly current or former students at the school they are attacking. And they are “almost always” in some sort of crisis before the incident, as evidenced by changes in their behavior. Suspects also often take inspiration from other school shooters, which may partly explain the rapid increase in such attacks in recent years.

Densley and Peterson write that the “overwhelming number of shootings and shooting threats” has left schools struggling to respond, resulting in a patchwork of different responses that have failed to slow the rate of attacks across the states.

Contrasting this local response to US school shootings with national legislative action taken in countries such as the UK, Finland and Germany, the two researchers conclude: “School shootings are not inevitable. They are avoidable. But practitioners and policymakers must act quickly, because each school shooting feeds the cycle for the next, causing damage far beyond measure lives lost.”

Continue reading: What we know about mass school shootings in the US – and the gunmen who carry them out

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Many children and young adults have easy access to firearms.

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2. More guns within reach of wannabe school shooters

While some of the traits that make a “typical” US school shooter may be shared by people in other countries, there is one area where the US stands alone – access to guns.

The suspect reportedly bought his military-style rifles at Robb Elementary School shortly after his 18th birthday. That he appeared to be able to do so with ease is likely due to lax gun control laws in Texas, where the alleged shooter lived, and in the United States. This lack of substantive regulations has resulted in an ever-increasing number of firearms in the hands of US citizens – a trend that has only accelerated in recent yearshow Patrick Carter from the University of Michigan and Marc A Zimmerman and Rebekah Sokol Note from Wayne State University.

“Firearm sales have skyrocketed since the public health crisis began. Many of these firearms have ended up in homes with teenage children, increasing the risk of accidental or intentional injury or death or suicide,” they write. It also makes it easier for would-be school shooters to get their hands on firearms left unsecured around the house.

“Most school shooters get their guns from home. And the number of guns within reach of high school-age teenagers has increased during the pandemic,” they write.

Continue reading: Most school shooters get their guns from home – and during the pandemic, the number of guns in households with teenagers has increased

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America responds to another mass murder in the classroom with thoughts, prayers and flags flown at half-mast.

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3. Why popular support for gun control is not enough

In response to the Texas killings, calls for stricter gun control laws are already being made, including by President Joe Biden in his speech the night of the shooting. But, as evidenced by the lack of meaningful policy action in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, which killed 20 children and six school workers, the chances of getting anything through Congress seem slim.

This is despite polls showing that a majority of Americans do support stricter gun laws, such as a ban on assault weapons.

So why doesn’t the government do what the people want? Harry Wilson, professor of public affairs at Roanoke College, has a three-Part answers.

First, the United States is not a direct democracy, and as such, citizens do not make decisions themselves, writes Wilson. Instead, the power to legislate rests in the hands of their elected representatives in Congress. But “the composition and rules of Congress are also crucial, particularly in the Senate,” he writes, “where each state has two votes. This assignment of senators disproportionately represents the interests of less populous states.”

Second: “Polls and public opinion are not as simple as they seem. Focusing on just one or two poll questions can skew the public’s views on gun control,” says Wilson.

Finally, the influence of voters and interest groups acts as a counterweight to popular opinion.

“Gun owners are more likely than non-gun owners to vote on gun control, have contacted an elected gun rights official, and donated money to an organization that takes a stand on gun control,” writes Wilson.

Meanwhile, lobby groups representing large membership, such as the NRA, continued to pressure elected officials. “Elected officials want votes. There is no doubt that money is essential for political campaigns, but votes, not money or polls, decide elections. When a group can provide voices, it has power,” writes Wilson.

Continue reading: If polls say people want gun control, why doesn’t Congress just pass them?

Matt Williams is the breaking news editor at The Conversation. This story is a summary of articles from The Conversation archives written by Harry L. Wilson, a professor of public affairs at Roanoke College; James Densley, Professor of Criminal Justice at the Metropolitan State University; Jillian Peterson, Professor of Criminal Justice at Hamline University; Mark A. Zimmerman, professor of public health at the University of Michigan; Patrick Carter, co-director of the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention and associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Michigan; and Rebeccah Sokol, assistant professor of social work at Wayne State University.

This article was originally published by The Conversation – 19 children, 2 adults killed in Texas elementary school shooting– 3 essential reads on America’s relentless gun violence

Full coverage of the Uvalde massacre

19 children and 2 adults killed in a shooting at a Texas elementary school

Gun control groups respond to Uvalde, Texas shooting: ‘Schools should be havens of safety for our children, not where they die’

The complicated, tense connection between gun violence and mental health: ‘We have to be very careful how we talk about the connection between the two’

Warriors coach Steve Kerr tears up Senate over gun control inaction: ‘It’s pathetic’

Biden says ‘we must act’ on gun control after Texas school shooting

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Brian Lowry

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