School shootings used to happen about once a year. Between 2013 and 2015, however, a shooting occurred on average once a week in the U.S.
After analyzing news reports on school shootings, researchers from Boston and Columbia universities found that states with background checks and increased funding for mental health services had lower rates of gun violence in schools.
Their analysis also found the majority of shootings are intentional and carried out by males.
New Jersey, for instance, had a lower rate of gunfire at schools. Researchers say that is attributable to laws requiring background checks for firearm and ammunition purchases coupled with higher per-capita spending on mental health services
“Here we find that background-check laws might be effective, might help in preventing some of these school shootings,” said Dr. Bindu Kalesan, an epidemiologist at Boston University who led the study. By combing through the online LexisNexis database that tracks news stories, she and her team compiled records of the school shootings reported by media outlets between 2013 and 2015.
The dearth of national statistics on the incidence of gun violence in schools frustrated the researchers. And as a scientist, Kalesan said, she was unsatisfied with having to rely on news reports to track school shootings because the data is incomplete.
“What we learned from that experience of going through the 900-something reports, is that we definitely need a national surveillance registry on all these and we need more granular data, so that we are able to understand these events in a more detailed fashion,” she concluded.
Between 2013 and 2015, Delaware has two school shootings and Pennsylvania had five. New Jersey had none.