A report released last week by the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center on “targeted school violence” doesn’t add much to what we already knew. Nearly every attacker “experienced negative home life factors.” Most were victims of bullying and had a history of school disciplinary actions. The perpetrators typically had a grievance and a plan, which usually involved the use of a gun. But ultimately the report finds, “There is no profile of a student attacker, nor is there a profile for the type of school that has been targeted.”
As Stephen Sawchuk writes in Education Week, the analysis generally confirms the conclusion of the agency’s 2002 publication on school safety that “checklists of characteristics supposedly common to school shooters were not helpful in preventing violence.”
While the social scientists continue to try to figure out what to do next, let’s keep things in perspective. First, it is more likely that a kid will be killed being driven to school or by lightning than in a school shooting. Also, according to James Alan Fox, professor of criminology at Northeastern University, school shooting incidents involving students have been declining since the 1990s.
But rare as they are, we still need a plan to deal with them. To that end, the most important thing a school can do is allow some of its teachers, on a voluntary basis, to be armed. In a report released in April, John Lott, founder of the Crime Prevention Research Center, concludes, “Since at least as far back as January 2000, not a single shooting-related death or injury has occurred during or anywhere near class hours on the property of a school that allows teachers to carry.”