Study Points to Where Young Mass Shooters Get Guns

AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane

In the wake of any mass shooting, we always have questions. One of those is where the mass shooter got the gun.

Frankly, I wouldn’t care particularly if it weren’t for the fact that some people will use that information to try and justify specific points of gun control. Granted, some don’t wait for that information before calling for anti-gun legislation, but some do.


And what we typically see is a focus on the gun itself. How many rounds could the magazine hold? Was it a so-called assault weapon? How old was the killer? And so on.

This is especially true after we learn the mass shooter was a kid.

But a new study found something interesting. Not shocking, mind you, but interesting.

A new study by researchers at the University of Florida and University of South Carolina found that most school shootings involving adolescents do not result in mass casualty events. The study also suggested that there is likely a parallel between school gun violence and broader community violence.

Researchers analyzed 253 school shootings spanning 26 years. In most cases, the suspect took the weapon from a relative.

The study noted that firearms involved in community violence are similarly deployed in school shootings, which suggests a “potential overlap in the factors driving these violent incidents collectively.”

All but seven of the 253 shootings analyzed involved fewer than four fatalities.

While assault rifles are often the weapon of choice in mass shootings, 85.5% of school shootings analyzed involved handguns. About 9.6% of school shootings studied involved rifles, while shotguns were used in 5.9% of school shootings.


The researchers argue that these findings should “influence discussions around gun control policy, particularly in advocating for secure firearm storage to reduce adolescents’ access to weapons.”

The use of the word “advocating” there suggests they’re not quite saying we should pass mandatory storage laws, either, which is good because I don’t think those are really needed. There are other steps that could be taken that would make far more sense.

Yet the underlying findings here–including that “assault weapons” are not the weapon used by most school mass shooters–is that most of these guns are, essentially, stolen.

Granted, this study only looked at mass shootings involving adolescents. In other words, people who couldn’t buy a gun lawfully even if they wanted to, so the fact that these weapons are stolen isn’t all that surprising.

What we should take away from this, though, is to remind folks that even if they don’t have kids, they should still lock their guns up, especially when family comes to visit. We still need gun safes–the kind that work, versus some unfortunate alternatives–and we need to use them.


While this study doesn’t openly call for gun control measures, it’s up to us to do what we can to reduce these kids’ access to guns. I’m not saying they won’t find a way to get one anyway, but if we do our part right, we shouldn’t see efforts to restrict our own rights.

“If we’re going to do it anyway, why bother worrying about a law?”

Because a law tells you that you must regardless of the situation. You doing it voluntarily allows you to adjust if needed.

Still, this understand of school mass shooters is useful and important, even if not totally shocking.

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