May 7, 2024 - News

Gun incidents surge at Florida schools, research finds

Illustration of a bullet balancing on the tip of a pencil

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Florida's K-12 schools saw 71 firearm incidents in the decade ending in 2023 β€” more than three times the prior decade's 21 incidents.

Why it matters: Florida had the third most incidents of any state, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database, an open-source research project attempting to quantify gun incidents at grade schools.

  • Only California and Texas had more.

How it works: The group defines "incidents" as instances when a gun is fired or brandished with intent to shoot, or when a bullet hits school property.

The latest: 111 incidents have occurred nationwide this year as of April 29, including seven in Florida.

Column chart showing firearm incidents on K-12 campuses in Florida, from 1966 to 2024 (as of April 29). There have been 152 reported firearm incidents since the start of the time period. 32% 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

The big picture: Absent significant gun reform, schools are turning to other measures to protect kids, ranging from rules requiring see-through backpacks to issuing teachers "panic buttons" and hiring armed guards.

  • The state took exclusive control over firearm regulation three decades ago, preventing local governments and school districts from setting their own rules.
  • The Legislature established a "Guardian" program after the Parkland school shooting that, in part, allows school districts to employ armed personnel (including teachers).
  • Fifty-three counties participate in the program β€” though many, including Hillsborough County, opt for security guards instead of armed teachers.

Between the lines: Nearly a quarter of K-12 teachers across the U.S. experienced a gun lockdown last year, Axios' Jennifer Kingson reports.

  • Even 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.

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