Most school shootings caused by guns taken from relatives

A new study by researchers at the University of Florida and University of South Carolina found that most school shootings involving adolescents do not result in mass casualty events. The study also suggested that there is likely a parallel between school gun violence and broader community violence. 

Researchers analyzed 253 school shootings spanning 26 years. In most cases, the suspect took the weapon from a relative. 

The study noted that firearms involved in community violence are similarly deployed in school shootings, which suggests a “potential overlap in the factors driving these violent incidents collectively.”

All but seven of the 253 shootings analyzed involved fewer than four fatalities. 

While assault rifles are often the weapon of choice in mass shootings, 85.5% of school shootings analyzed involved handguns. About 9.6% of school shootings studied involved rifles, while shotguns were used in 5.9% of school shootings. 

The study’s authors said that media coverage tends to focus on larger mass school shootings and not the “broader issue” of guns in schools. 

“School shootings may not be isolated occurrences but could share underlying factors with off-campus violence. Hence, policy solutions should be comprehensive, intertwining with strategies to address gun violence more broadly, especially those targeting weapon accessibility,” the study’s authors wrote. “Overall, these findings stress the critical public health message concerning the secure storage of firearms, especially in households with adolescents.”

The authors suggested that policies and initiatives be put in place to prevent children from accessing weapons. 

“A majority of the firearms were procured from the perpetrator’s family or relatives or from friends or acquaintances. These findings may significantly influence discussions around gun control policy, particularly in advocating for secure firearm storage to reduce adolescents’ access to weapons,” they wrote. 

The findings were published online in JAMA Pediatrics.