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A History of School Shootings
The first recorded incident of a school shooting in America was in 1764, during the Pontiac Rebellion. In what is notoriously known as the Pontiac’s Rebellion School Massacre, four Lenape American Indians broke into a schoolhouse near present-day Greencastle, Pennsylvania, and shot and mortally wounded Enoch Brown, the school headmaster, and ten schoolchildren.
While America is objectively safer than it was in the 18th century, we still suffer from deadly school shootings, albeit from different motives.
Historically, the majority of school shootings have come from the hands of individuals, not organized criminal parties, and thankfully have only injured small numbers of people.
Unfortunately, with the advent and easier access to more lethal weaponry, namely semi-automatic weapons, school shootings have become more deadly than ever before.
Notably in 1966, Charles Whitman, a former Marine, mortally wounded his wife and mother with a knife and then took a small arsenal of rifles and other weaponry to the observation deck on top of the University of Texas at Austin. Over the next 96 minutes, he indiscriminately fired on the school campus and surrounding streets, killing 15 people and injuring 31 others. Remarkably, one victim survived the attack, but unfortunately succumbed to his wounds in 2001. While Whitman had a history of violence, it was discovered during his autopsy that he had a brain tumor in the white matter above his amygdala.
One of the most infamous school mass shootings in American history was the Columbine High School Massacre on April 29th, 1999. Fifteen students were gunned down by two members of the senior high school class, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. No clear motive was ever established as the two perpetrators were themselves killed by first responders to the scene.
The deadliest school shooting and fourth deadliest mass shooting event to date took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old shooter, shot and killed 26 people, including 20 children between the ages of six and seven years old as well as six adult staff members.
Lanza committed suicide as first responders arrived, so no motive was ever realized for this crime. Investigators did however conclude that he planned the shooting and acted alone.
While new regulations and policies come into play to mitigate school shootings, the one constant theme among school shooters is that there is no common thread or connecting reason why they occur.
Elementary schools, high schools, colleges and universities are all at risk of school shootings.