OPINION: The History of School Shootings in the U.S. and How to Find Protection for Parents, Teachers and Children

Stacey Doud

The following article is based on the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of NewsBreak or Particle Media, Inc.

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Most people over 30 remember the Columbine and Sandy Hook “active shooter events (ASE),” which collectively claimed the lives of 32 students and seven teachers. The latest ASE happened at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX (near San Antonio) on May 24. This bad guy killed 19 kids and two teachers.

While it may seem that these school shootings are something that started in the 20th century, the United States has seen this type of violence as far back as 1891, when a man fired on a group of teachers and students that were at an exhibition in Liberty, Mississippi with a double-barreled shotgun. Over 14 people were wounded. That same year, a 70-year-old man opened fire on students in a parochial school in New York. Fortunately, everyone survived.

The more well-known mass shootings in the 1900s include: A 30-year-old man killed four people on a Pasadena Public Schools property (1940); a principal fired into a crowd of 30 students and teachers at William Reed Elementary in Indiana (1960); a man who had brutally murdered his family the night before, took several weapons to the top of the Main Building Tower on the University of Texas at Austin campus and started shooting into the crowds below and killed a total of 15 people (1966); a 17-year-old student armed with a rifle and a shotgun killed three adults and wounded 11 students in Olean, New York (1974); a janitor brought a semi-automatic rifle to work at California State University in Fullerton, shooting into the library, wounding two people and killing seven (1976); two students came to Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado with bombs and weapons, and killed 12 students and one teacher (1999).

There are many more shootings that happened in betwixt and in between the ones mentioned here. The rise of social media and report-all television have been key factors in alerting the general public to these incidents.


The US Dept of Homeland Security defines an active shooter as, “An individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearms and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims.” This term was not widely known by the public until Columbine but has been a term used by law enforcement for decades. Not all ASEs claim lives, and many active shooters die during the event.

According to the FBI’s Office of Partner Engagement report, which analyzed ASEs from 2009 to 2019, almost 40% of the shooters committed suicide either by their own hand or “suicide by cop,” which means that the shooter threatened either law enforcement officers or citizens with a weapon, with the goal of being killed by the police.


There’s no telling how many more schools or public places will be the background for an ASE in the future. There seems to be no panacea. Some people laud stricter gun control laws, some want to see teachers be trained to carry or have weapons in their classrooms, some blame the parents of young shooters, some blame law enforcement, and some just take their kids out of public school. There are positive and negative sides to every idea.


While the only person or persons that have any control over an ASE is the shooter or shooters, there are things that regular people can do to be prepared in case they are trapped in an active shooter event.

Several organizations have developed training for law enforcement and the public to reduce injuries and death during an ASE. These trainings are for parents, teachers, children, and the general public.

The Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) program at Texas State University developed a program called The Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE). This course builds on the “Avoid, Deny Defend” (ADD) method, which ALERRT developed in 2002. The brief training video is available to watch on ALERRT’s website or on YouTube.

The FBI offers a video called, “Run, Hide, Fight,” which may also be viewed on their website or on YouTube.

While America mourns the lives lost in Uvalde and wonders what this world is coming to, turning to something proactive, like ASE training, can produce the feeling of more control and safety. Another way to work through any feelings of anxiety or being scared on the street is to find a good therapist. People who witness violent events are often traumatized, and therapy may help.

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I live and work in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and enjoy discovering new trends, businesses, events and organizations to write about! As a writer/reporter/photographer and editor, I especially like to report on positive things, but I'll always bring you a balanced view (unless it's an opinion piece). I report locally in Grapevine, TX. Thank you for viewing my profile and I'd be honored if you'd follow me!

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