Research on understanding school shootings has traditionally focused on the individual level factors surrounding several highly publicized mass shooting events such as those in Parkland, Florida and Santa Fe, Texas. However, researchers have recently begun to examine characteristics among other types of shootings on K-12 school campuses, including non-mass and non-fatal shooting incidents. Correlates such the type of firearms used, the number of firearms, the age of the perpetrator, and school level, have been shown to differentially affect the severity of a school shooting incident. The current study provides a descriptive analysis of shooter, school, and incident level characteristics as they relate to the predicting casualties and fatalities in school shooting incidents from 1970–2020. Results suggest that school and incident characteristics are significantly related to school shooting severity. We discuss the importance of broadening the understanding of school shootings to include these other types of incidents.
Data from this study come from the Naval Postgraduate School's Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS) School Shooting Database (SSDB) (Riedman & O’Neill, 2018). The database is an ongoing, comprehensive list of instances when a firearm was brandished or fired on a K-12 school property and related properties (i.e. school buses or athletic fields) in the United States from January 5, 1970 to November 11, 2020. Information on perpetrator characteristics (e.g. demographics, number of perpetrators), school characteristics (e.g. school type), and gun characteristic (e.g. weapon type, number of weapons) was collected and aggregated for each incident in the database. The database aggregates information from a variety of publicly available primary sources, including peer-reviewed studies, government reports, mainstream media reports, advocacy groups, and private sources. In order to be included in the SSDB, cases were cross-referenced and filtered such that each case, even if appearing in more than one original source, is only included once. More information about the database is available on the CHDS website (https://www.chds.us/ssdb/about/). The database is freely available to researchers.