School shooting



Despite frequent claims that school shootings are a phenomenon that emerged in the not too distant past, and was only a rare occurrence prior to the 1970s, there is actually no scientific research studying the subject's history, or trying to systematically explore its frequency prior to the establishment of crime statistic databases.

Annecdotal evidence in contemporary newspapers and books, however, casts severe doubt on the assumpition that schools, or universities were not frequently plagued by shootings in the past. In 1843 abolitionist Jonathan Blanchard, for example, replied to a question about the number of colleges in southern US states that accepted coloured students:

"A college is as much out of place in a slave state as a brand of fire in a magazine of powder. A student shot a Professor in a slave state not long since, yet was not brought to justice. The state of Alabama endowed and officered a University, but it could not hold together long, for the law of a slave state is that of the bowie-knife and pistol."[1]

Also the "Vorarlberger Volksblatt", an Austrian newspaper, writes in its issue on November 23, 1866 regarding the desolate condition of the US school system:

"Sad evidence is furthermore given by the immoral, ruffian behaviour in- and outside of so many American school buildings, where not seldomly the punishing teacher is shot dead by the ill-mannered student (...)"[2]

In 1913 Paul Näcke, a German criminologist and psychiatrist, wrote in "Archiv für Kriminologie" regarding the enforcement of tighter gun control:

"Yes, we are even already reading about assassination attempts by students against teachers. Against a teacher I am friend with was made such an assassination attempt at school by a boy without provocation, luckily without success, though due to the shock the teacher got a severe nervous disorder."[3]

Until further research is done on the matter all claims regarding the frequency of school shootings in the past, as well as supposed increases in the last couple of decades must be considered as highly speculative and completely unfounded by empirical data.


  1. Johnson, J. F.: Proceedings of the general antislavery convention, called by the committee of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, and held in London from Tuesday, June 13th, to Tuesday, June 20th, 1843.; London, 1843. (p. 59)
  2. Ein trauriges Zeugniß gibt ferner das unsittliche, raufboldwürdige Gebahren vor und in so vielen amerikanischen Schulpallästen, wo nicht gar selten der strafende Lehrer vom ungezogenen Schüler erschossen wird (...)
    Oesterreich - U., Vorarlberger Volksblatt (November 23, 1866)
  3. Ja, wir lesen sogar bereits von Schülerattentaten auf die Lehrer. Auf einen mir befreundeten Lehrer ward in der Schule ohne weiteres von einem Jungen ein solches Attentat ausgeführt, glücklicherweise ohne Erfolg, doch ward der Lehrer aus Schreck darüber schwer nervenkrank.
    — Näcke, Paul: Kleinere Mitteilungen - 4. Erschwerung des Waffenverkaufs, in Archiv für Kriminologie, Vol. 54; F. C. W. Vogel, 1913. (pp. 364/65)