A History Of Violence: The Most Deadly School Shootings in America
We’re Experiencing an Epidemic
School shootings are becoming so commonplace in the United States that you might not even hear about it on the news or through social media. Just this year, 2020, (At the time of writing), there have been 20 incidents of gunfire on school grounds in the United States. Seven people have already lost their lives to this epidemic in the United States. If this pace were to continue, we could see record-breaking numbers this year. Security guard services in Los Angeles are doing what they can to supply schools with the security they need, but the numbers keep rising. It’s hard to get a handle on this problem without looking at the numbers. There’s just no way to understand the severity without the facts.
Since the year 2000 nearly (Counted just after the Parkland shooting of 2018), 70 people have died, and over 200 have been wounded. This number comes from The Washington Post, and they have stricter guidelines for what counts as a school shooting that most. They require that the violence is either perpetrated by a student on campus or is directed at students and teachers.
More than 4.1 million students in the United States have endured at least 1 lockdown at their school (Number recorded shortly after the Parkland Shooting). The majority of the shootings have been recorded at elementary, middle, and high schools accounting for 130 of the shootings recorded by the Washington Post. This didn’t just come out of nowhere though, The USA has always had a history of gun violence in schools, and it’s a part of American History that we aren’t proud of but the modern understanding of what a school shooter is can trace its cultural roots back to Littleton Colorado in 1999.
Columbine High School Massacre
On the morning of April 20th in 1999, 13 people left their homes and said goodbye for the last time. Two teens would come to the school that morning with rifles and massacre their fellow students, a teacher, and attempt to gun down the rest that tried to escape before turning their guns on themselves.
The two teens arrived that morning in separate cars, walked into the cafeteria, and placed a homemade propane bomb that was set to go off a few minutes. The two returned to their cars, and when the bomb didn’t go off, the shooting began. We can only imagine how much more tragic the day would’ve been if it had gone off as they intended. At the time, this was the most deadly school shooting in American history. The country was left to mourn, and the small town has never been the same.
In the wake of the shooting, there would be many theories as to why the two teens committed such a heinous atrocity. Immediately after the shooting, their actions were blamed on violent media and video games. This would later be disregarded. The only thing we know for sure is that it was the act of a couple of very disturbed teens on an unsuspecting student body that was completely unprepared.
Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting
The shooting at Stoneman Douglas High school is the 4th most deadly school shooting in American history, so far. The shooting was carried out by a single student on February 14th, 2018. He was dropped off by an Uber driver that morning carrying a black duffle bag with a legally purchased AR-15 and several magazines.
Before this massacre, Stoneman Douglas Highschool had warned the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, about the possibility of expulsion for “disciplinary reasons.” He was spotted unpacking his bag in a stairwell by a freshman. Nikolas told the freshman, “You better get out of here. Things are going to start getting messy.” The freshman ran outside to find a coach who was also the school security monitor, Aaron Feis. Aaron took the freshman away and went back to check it out.
Nikolas exited the stairwell, and in less than 2 minutes, he had killed more 11 people and injured 13 others. He then went upstairs and repeated the pattern on the next two floors. He killed 6 more after leaving the first floor and injured four more. Aaron Feis would die in the attack while trying to protect the students, shielding them from gunfire.
Then he set up a bipod in a faculty lounge. He reloaded and began to fire at students outside who were trying to escape. The only thing keeping the death toll from rising any higher was hurricane-resistant glass in the windows. Once he felt as though he was finished, he abandoned his weapons and attempted to blend into the crowd. He was later arrested at a McDonalds after being spotted by a Broward County Police Officer.
5 minutes is as long as Nikolas needed to wreak devastation of the highschool, the lives of every student attending. The shooting resulted in the deaths of 17 people and leaving 17 others injured. Officer Micheal Leonard said in an interview after arresting Nikolas Cruz, “He looked like a typical high school student, and for a quick moment, I thought, ‘Could this be the person who I need to stop?’
University of Texas Tower Shooting
Charles Joseph Whitman was a former marine and a student at the University of Texas in 1966. During his time in the marines, he was taught to be a sharpshooter. He would be honorably discharged, and after that, he would go back to the University of Texas and try his hand at a couple of different degrees, finishing neither of them.
In his early life, his father was abusive to both him and his mother. While he was attending the University of Texas, his mother would leave his abusive father, and that would ultimately be a fatal decision.
The killing would begin the night before the shooting. Charles stabbed his mother and his wife to death. He wrote in his suicide note before killing his wife.
“I don’t want her to have to face the embarrassment [sic] my actions would surely cause her.…I truly do not consider this world worth living in, and am prepared to die, and I do not want to leave her to suffer alone in it….Similar reasons provoked me to take my mother’s life.”
The next morning he went and purchased several more guns, expanding his arsenal. He dressed in coveralls like a workman and went to the top of the historic tower. At about 11:30, he bludgeoned the receptionist to death, killed two others and injured another 2, all on his way outside. He barricaded the door behind him and went out to the observation deck around 230 feet above the ground. He took some time to spread his guns out on the deck for easy access. At around 11:50, he took his first shot. Most of the casualties would occur in the first 20 minutes. Law enforcement arrived, and even citizens armed with hunting rifles showed up to stop Charles.
The shooting lasted around 90 minutes. It’s important to remember that this was in an era before rapid response, and there was a limited capability for the police to communicate with other branches. Charles was killed when 3 police officers and the university bookstore manager (who was armed) made their way up and took the observation deck back. Excluding his wife and mother, Charles killed 14 people and injured 31 more.
Police would do everything they could to uncover the shooter’s motive. They found a tumor in his brain during the autopsy, but there’s a great deal of speculation as to the effect that it had on him. We still don’t know what motivated him, and it’s a chilling example of what can happen on campuses around the country.
Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting
The majority of the victims were between 6 and 7 years old. Sandy Hook Elementary school is a particularly devastating event because the victims were so young. In a single day, 20 first-graders and 6 school employees would be killed by Adam Lanza. The shooter was 20 years old and had a history of mental health issues. We don’t know why he did this as he left no note and turned the gun on himself before the police intervened. Before the attack, he destroyed his hard drive and killed his mother with the weapons she had purchased, so his motive will never be known. It’s also unknown why he targeted Sandy Hook.
On December 14th, 2012, Lanza arrived at Sandy Hook. He shot out the glass in the door to let himself in. When the principal and school psychologist went to investigate the sound, they were killed. He also shot another two staff members who were present.
The alarm was sounded, and teachers were trying to hide their students in closets and bathrooms, anywhere that they might be safe. They barricaded the doors with anything they could find, including themselves.
He entered the first room and killed teacher Lauren Rousseau and the 14 children in her classroom. He then went to the second classroom where, having hidden the class in a closet, teacher Victoria Soto tried to misdirect the shooter by telling him that her class was in the auditorium on the other side of the school. He shot her and 6 students that tried to flee from their hiding spot in panic.
The police responded quickly, but when the shooter realized they were surrounding him, he shot himself in the head. Police would continue to pour in as the severity of the attack became known. All told there were 27 people killed, 20 first graders, 6 staff members, and the shooter. Sandy Hook was eventually closed and demolished before being replaced with new buildings and a different footprint.
Virginia Tech Shooting
This is still the deadliest school shooting in American history. April 16th, 2007 was the day that Seung Hui Cho opened fire in two separate incidents at Virginia Polytechnic Institute.
The first was in the morning when Cho shot and killed a student and RA in the dorms. Cho fled the scene, and the police believed the incident to be an isolated domestic dispute. The University would send a vague email, but it did little to put anyone on alert and didn’t mention that the shooter was still at large.
Cho would return later that day, armed with two weapons and around 400 rounds of ammunition. He killed 30 people during his rampage at Norris Hall. 17 others suffered gunshot wounds, and even more, were injured while trying to escape via jumping out of windows or any other way they could. Police stormed the building, and Cho took his own life.
In the time between the two attacks, Cho mailed NBC a package containing photos of him posing with his weapons and ammunition. He also included a manifesto where he referenced the Columbine shooters as martyrs. The shooting at Virginia Tech remained the most deadly mass shooting in the United States until 2016 when a nightclub in Florida was attacked, resulting in the deaths of 49 people.
What Can Schools Do?
There are quite a few actions that can be taken to prevent the next mass shooting. Although there’s no right answer, there are steps that can be taken at the school level. All of the stories we listed had a common element, time. The time from the initial shots, to the police arriving was when the most death occurred. When violence, of any kind, not just gun violence, breaks out, you’re fighting against time. The longer the situation continues, the more people are in danger. You need an immediate response that’s on-site to handle the problem immediately. A Security guard company in Los Angeles can provide you with the additional security that you need. They can help in preventing your school from becoming a statistic. There are many security guards in Los Angeles, but only the best belong in our schools. We will do everything we can to protect the children of our communities and the adults on college campuses alike. Don’t wait, do what you can now.