History of School Shootings

Columbine High School Marquee / Photographer: Ed Andrieski, AP

Gunman, school, and several confirmed dead – these words should never be conjoined in any sentence. But in this time and age, all three are joined together with an astounding frequency. The first suggested-search result in Google that appears when you type in “history of school” is “history of school shootings,” not “history of school funding,” “history of school start times,” or anything innocent. School shootings have became such a huge problem that the number of people searching about past shootings outnumber the amount of people wondering how schools actually looked.

On Valentine’s Day, 2018, a student gunman killed 17 people and injured several others at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. This only marks the most recent of these tragedies. This school shooting has garnered what is considered the most press coverage and public outcry since Columbine. Yet, time and time again, nothing has been done to prevent these tragedies from happening again.

My intent is to present a timeline of these tragedies and present a somewhat unbiased list of the most deadly and impactful school shootings throughout recent history. Unfortunately, there are far too many school shootings for me to list them all, which is a sentence I never thought I would have to type.

Most people do not know that school shootings actually date back to before America even declared independence in 1776. However, most of these shootings entailed killing for revenge, and had one or two fatalities at worst. The first mass school shooting occurred on March 30, 1891. During a school exhibition and concert being held in the Parson Hill Schoolhouse in Liberty, Mississippi, a gunman entered the room with a double barrelled shotgun and injured 14 people.

The University of Texas massacre took place on August 1, 1966, 75 years later. This was the worst school shooting on a U.S. college campus until the shooting at Virginia Tech. The shooter, a graduate student, climbed onto an observation platform on campus and had a 96-minute shooting rampage, killing 17 and wounding 31. This marks the first shooting that seems similar to those happening in America today.

Some school shootings that may be lesser known but by no means less devastating include the California State University shooting in 1972; a custodian killed seven, and injured two. Another in Stockton, California was the Stockton Schoolyard shooting where six were killed and 32 were injured on January 17, 1989. The University of Iowa shooting occurred November 1, 1991, where a graduate student killed six and injured one. The Westside Middle School shooting occurred on March 24, 1998, when two students set off the fire alarm and opened fire, killing five and wounding ten. Then on May 21 of the same year, four were killed and 23 were injured at Thurston High School.

Now we arrive at one of the deadliest and most impactful school shootings: Columbine High School, April 20, 1999. Columbine changed everything. This was the first time a major public outcry caught traction within the government and the American society. We, as a people, grew paranoid. Parents, and the rest of America, scrambled for something to assign fault. Rock music, violent video games, and alternative lifestyles were blamed and thus shunned and demonized. Even dressing outside of the norm was avoided, as outcasts were instantly feared. If you ask almost anyone when this modern shooting craze began, most will say Columbine.

Then came the Virginia Tech Massacre, the deadliest shooting on an American college campus, and, at least at the time, the third deadliest shooting committed by a single shooter in modern U.S. history. On April 16, 2007, a 23-year-old student shot and killed 33 people, injuring another 23 on the campus.

During the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on December 14, 2012, 28 were killed and two were injured. This was similar to the Columbine shooting in that it, unlike some of the others, did get major media attention. The parents admirably cried out for change and refused to let their children be forgotten.

A little closer to home was the Marysville, Washington shooting on October 24, 2014 at Marysville Pilchuck High School, with one injury and five deaths, including that of the shooter’s.

Other prominent mass shootings, although not in schools, include the Orlando Pulse Club shooting on June 12, 2016. 50 people died, and another 58 were injured at the nightclub. Also noteworthy is the Las Vegas shooting on October 1, 2017, the current deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history with 58 dead.

In writing this article, I had to omit numerous shootings due to limited space. This is not by any means meant to disrespect those that lost their lives or were injured in these shootings, but I must regretfully say that there is simply not enough space to list them all.