If trends from the past five decades continue for the remainder of the year, there would be about 400 shootings in 2023, outpacing last year’s record high of 273.
Based on 53 years of data, a predictive model estimates “approximately 400 shootings this year, which follows the observed trend of increased gun violence at schools since 2018,” said David Riedman, founder of the K-12 School Shooting Database, which is updated daily.
Though Riedman’s data collection dates back to 1970, he acknowledges it is still a relatively small dataset for applying predictive statistics. “There is no way to know for sure” what the final number will be, Riedman said.
School shootings to break another record if trends continue
The number of school shootings by year
But there have already been more shootings, with more victims, so far in the first three months of 2023 than during the same time frame last year.
The mass shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee, that took the lives of six — including three children — on March 27 brought the year’s school shooting count to 89, with 75 total victims injured or killed. By comparison, there were 80 shootings with 65 total victims killed or wounded by March 27, 2022.
2023 shooting victims higher than this time last year
School shooting victims by first quarter of year
Mass shootings on school grounds have also increased in recent years. The Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit group that catalogs incidents of gun violence in the United States, defines mass shootings as having 4 or more victims — either injured or killed — other than the shooter.
By this definition, there were 10 mass shootings on school grounds in 2022, according to data from the K-12 School Shooting Database. So far in 2023, there have been two.
The most recent year to see no mass school shootings was 2020, when schools were on lockdown due to COVID-19. Other than that, there have been mass shootings every year since 2014.
Mass shootings peak in 2022
Number of shootings with 4 or more victims since 1970
Increase in shootings lead to district communication
With the increase in mass shootings and overall gun violence on school grounds, schools have had to double down on safety measures, including mental health support for students. They’ve also been proactive in communicating with their communities about safety measures when tragedies take place elsewhere.
Following the Nashville shooting, for example, Superintendent Gary Waddell of Santa Clara Unified School District in California sent a letter to the school community that listed the district’s safety precautions.
“While yesterday’s incident occurred outside of our area, media coverage can still cause responses of stress, anxiety, and fear,” said Waddell. “School safety continues to be our first priority,” Waddell wrote.
In Georgia’s Marietta City Schools, Superintendent Grant Rivera held a virtual town hall just one day after the mass shooting in Tennessee, to discuss school safety questions he had received from the community “throughout the afternoon.”
“I just felt like tonight was an opportunity to come together and share with you a bit as to how we approach this … and certainly be transparent to the degree that I can about what we’re looking at going forward,” said Rivera during the town hall.
In the past, Rivera has also sent emails about school safety protocols to parents, but he said some details on school safety were omitted intentionally for confidentiality and safety reasons.
“You send your child to school every day with the expectation that they’re going to come home … And I think moments like these tragic school shootings challenge that for all of us.”
Building trust in these kinds of conversations is key, said Emily Torres, a program manager at the National Center for School Safety. Torres has experience in youth violence prevention, helping schools change policies to support student health, and community engagement and outreach.
“The really important piece is that we try to meet the community with where they are with their concerns … and try to listen to what they’re saying that they want, and that we’re also communicating,” Torres said.
Schools, she said, should be communicating what happens in case of different events, from fire drills to credible shooting threats. “And if they don’t know that, it can really add to the fear, it can really add to the trauma, that our students and our communities are facing in these different events.”