May 21, 2024 - News

School gun incidents are skyrocketing in Texas

Column chart showing firearm incidents on K-12 campuses in Texas, from 1966 to 2024 (as of April 29). There have been 223 reported firearm incidents since the start of the time period. 35% of all incidents have taken place since 2020.
Data: David Riedman, K-12 School Shooting Database; Note: Firearm incident defined as when a gun is brandished with intent to shoot or fired, or when a bullet hits school property; Chart: Axios Visuals

Schools in Texas experienced a soaring number of incidents with guns in the years before and after the Uvalde school shooting, research shows.

Why it matters: Friday will mark two years since a gunman opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, killing 19 children and two teachers.

  • In the years since, Texas lawmakers have responded with school safety measures that don't restrict access to guns.

How it works: The K-12 School Shooting Database is an open-source research project attempting to quantify gun incidents at grade schools.

  • It defines "incidents" as when a gun is fired or brandished with intent to shoot, or when a bullet hits school property.

By the numbers: From 2004 to 2013, there were 30 incidents with guns on K-12 campuses in Texas.

  • In the next decade, from 2014 to 2023, there were 96 such incidents — a more than threefold increase.
  • In the decade from 1964 to 1973, there were just nine firearm incidents at Texas schools.

Zoom out: School gun incidents have been on the rise across the country.

  • Nationwide, there were 1,468 firearm incidents at K-12 schools in the decade ending in 2023 — a 324% increase from the prior decade's 346 incidents.

The latest: 10 incidents have occurred in Texas so far in 2024, as of April 29, per the database.

What they're saying: Few incidents with guns on school campuses are like the Uvalde shooting.

  • "The most common circumstance for a gun to be fired is a dispute between students usually taking place in a hallway or parking lot at dismissal," David Riedman, founder of the database, said in a video interview with the Economist.

The big picture: As the Legislature expands gun rights, Texas lawmakers and districts are turning to other measures to protect kids from gun violence.

  • Districts are now required to employ an armed guard at each public school campus, although many can't afford the cost.

Zoom in: A bill last year to raise the minimum age from 18 to 21 to buy certain semi-automatic rifles received an initial green light in a Texas House committee before stalling out.

The other side: "There are thousands of laws on the books across the country that [limit firearms] that have not stopped madmen from carrying out evil acts on innocent people and peaceful communities," Gov. Greg Abbott said after the shooting in Uvalde.

Between the lines: Nearly a quarter of K-12 teachers experienced a gun lockdown last year, according to a Pew Research Center study.

  • Still, some parents, teachers and administrators are reconsidering the post-Columbine emphasis on lockdown drills, which some say may be causing kids undue mental trauma.

The bottom line: "Until (it's) documented and aggregated, there's no way to understand the context of this problem and realize what a big issue it is," Riedman said.

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