Sunday, May 29, 2022

Evidence Based Social Policy - Armed School officials does not reduce fatal school shootings

 JAMA Network Open includes a study: "Presence of Armed School Officials and Fatal and Nonfatal Gunshot Injuries During Mass School Shootings, United States, 1980-2019.”

The authors are Jillian Peterson, PhD1; James Densley, DPhil2; & Gina Erickson, PhD1.

Here’s how it opens:

[begin excerpt]

After deadly school shootings at Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Parkland, many states mandated School Resource Officers or provided funding for districts to hire them.1 Lawmakers also considered arming teachers. Florida now requires a law enforcement officer or trained school guardian in every school.2

By examining every recorded incident where one or more people was intentionally shot in a school building during the school day, or where a perpetrator came to school heavily armed with the intent of firing indiscriminately, we examine the association between the presence of an armed officer on scene and the severity of shootings in K-12 (kindergarten through 12th grade) schools.

[end excerpt]

Another excerpt: "This study examined a total of 133 cases of school shootings and attempted school shootings from 1980 to 2019. Perpetrators’ ages ranged from 10 to 53; however, only 16 shooters (11%) were aged 22 years or older. Ninety-four perpetrators (70%) were current students, and 21 perpetrators (15%) were former students. Of all perpetrators, 83 (76%) were White and 148 (98%) were male. Of 121 cases with full information, 57 (47.11%) were targeted shootings. There were 134 shootings, 12 with more than one shooter. A mean (SD) of 1.34 (3.25) people per case were killed and 3.15 (5.06) per case were injured, with a mean (SD) of 1.63 (1.22) weapons per shooting (primarily handguns; 68.66% [92 of 134]). An armed guard was on scene in 23.58% of shootings (29 of 123) (Table 1).”

Here’s how the article concludes: “The data suggest no association between having an armed officer and deterrence of violence in these cases. An armed officer on the scene was the number one factor associated with increased casualties after the perpetrators’ use of assault rifles or submachine guns.  The well-documented weapons effect explains that the presence of a weapon increases aggression.6 Whenever firearms are present, there is room for error, and even highly trained officers get split-second decisions wrong. Prior research suggests that many school shooters are actively suicidal, intending to die in the act, so an armed officer may be an incentive rather than a deterrent.4 The majority of shooters who target schools are students of the school, calling into question the effectiveness of hardened security and active shooter drills. Instead, schools must invest in resources to prevent shootings before they occur."

TO OBTAIN A COPY OF THE ARTICLE: Contact info for reprint requests and questions or other correspondence about this article: Jillian Peterson, PhD, Department of Criminal Justice, Hamline University, 1536 Hewitt Ave, St Paul, MN 55104 (

Ken Pope

Ken Pope, Melba J.T. Vasquez, Nayeli Y. Chavez-Dueñas, & Hector Y. Adames:

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