I remember the Columbine massacre. It was before I was a journalist, but I watched as the news came in of the deadly school shooting with disgust and utter bewilderment. I have clearer memories of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School – by then I was a reporter and I spoke to the parents of the young children who were killed. It was the first time in my reporting career that I finished a shift and wept.

I cried again last night. At least 19 children and two adults were killed in another elementary school shooting in the U.S., this time Texas. Columbine was meant to be a watershed, but as criminologists James Densley and Jillian Peterson note, it never was. Instead, the intensity of the school shootings has just gotten worse. Columbine is now only the fourth-worst school shooting – the three above it on the list all occurred in the last decade.

Such is the frequency of this uniquely American problem, that Densley and Peterson have been able to build a database of mass public shootings and with that a profile of the gunmen involved. “Their path to violence involves self-hate and despair turned outward at the world. The key to stopping these tragedies is for society to be alert to these warning signs and act on them immediately,” they write.

Also today:

Matt Williams

Breaking News Editor

The archbishop of San Antonio, Gustavo Garcia-Siller, comforts families following a deadly school shooting at a school in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, 2022. AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills

What we know about mass school shootings in the US – and the gunmen who carry them out

James Densley, Metropolitan State University ; Jillian Peterson, Hamline University

Of the 13 mass school shootings that have taken place in the US, the three most deadly occurred in the last decade. Data from these attacks helped criminologists build a profile of the gunmen.

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