The shooting deaths of 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, added to a growing wave of gun deaths and violence that’s hitting American children, a USA TODAY analysis shows.
Including the Uvalde shooting — the second deadliest school shooting in U.S. history — more people have died in mass killings in schools in the past five years than in the prior 12 years combined. That's according to a database of mass killings kept by USA TODAY, the Associated Press and Northeastern University. A mass killing is defined as an incident in which four or more people are killed, not including the perpetrator.
It’s not just mass killings that have increased. Gun violence of all types is on the rise at U.S. schools, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database maintained by the Naval Post Graduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security, which tallied a record number of people killed, wounded or with minor injuries from gunfire at a school in 2021.
At the current rate for 2022, the number of victims appears on track to surpass 2021's total by the end of the year.
Overall, gun violence is rising
Mass killings and school shootings represent a small part of the overall toll gun violence takes on Americans or even children specifically. But gun violence in general is also growing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 45,222 gun deaths in the U.S. in 2020, the highest number recorded since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began tracking firearm deaths in 1968. The data showed the increase in gun deaths from 2019 to 2020 was the largest single-year percentage increase on record, fueled by a record increase in gun homicides. In 2020, guns were involved in 79% of all homicides in the nation, a half-century record according to a Pew Research Center analysis of CDC data.
That rise in firearm deaths extends to children, data from the Gun Violence Archive show.
In 2019, on an average day, fewer than three children died from gunfire. So far this year, the rate is more than four children per day.
USA TODAY examined data from 2019 onward because the Gun Violence Archive expanded the number of news sources used to track incidents starting that year. To compare partial-year data from 2022 to prior years, the analysis examined deaths per day.
Other federal data puts that rise in perspective.
In 2020, the most recent full year for which the CDC has data, gunfire injuries surpassed vehicle crashes as the leading cause of death for Americans ages 1 to 19, according to an analysis of CDC data by University of Michigan researchers published in the New England Journal of Medicine.