If you would like to support our work, please consider a paid subscription to In His Words, so we can continue the research necessary to bring the male narrative to the public discourse.
I was a high school English teacher at a suburban public high school outside of Philadelphia. Our school went into a practice, active-shooter drill. One of my students had gone to the bathroom before the drill and needed to stay in the bathroom. Instead, he tried to return to the classroom by knocking on the door. I didn’t let him enter because that was the required protocol. Again, that was practice. Most of us have no idea what we would actually do, but I cannot imagine leaving a child to die. Why are we in this same place decades after Columbine?
There is no denying there is an unrelenting sickness. We find ourselves again in prayer and silence, mourning the loss of innocent lives. The 19 children and 3 adults who lost their lives in Uvalde, Texas reminds us of our need to make real changes that address mental health, fatherlessness, education, a disintegration of the nuclear family, and addiction, just to name a few.
School shooters are almost always male, mentally ill, fatherless, and lost souls with little purpose, what Dr. Warren Farrell called, the “purpose void.” Despite our well established knowledge of these things, shooters continue to rear their heads again and again with ever increasing loss of lives. Since 2000, there has been approximately 367 school-shooting, related incidents. One school incident involved a child 6-years-of-age. Another incident involved a woman who accidentally set off her gun in a school gymnasium while reaching into her purse for her cell-phone. Though the later example is truly uncommon, the former is not. The overwhelming majority of school shooters are male, and most of them likely have some form of mental illness and other contributing social dynamics that lead to unconscionable acts of violence that seem to come from some long immoral urge, a sickness of the mind born from illness or excessive suppressed affliction.
In 15 school shooting incidents that involved 4 or more deaths from 2000 to 2022, boys were the shooters in all 15 incidents, resulting in 168 deaths and 137 injuries as well as the trauma experienced by those who lived it.
These incidents are only a small fraction of the past two decades. Comparing the decades 2000-2009 to 2010-2019 reveals an upward trend that seems even more troubling. The second decade (2010-2019) showed a 232% increase in school-shooting incidents, 78% increase in the number of deaths, and a 151% increase in injuries resulting from gun incidents from elementary schools to colleges. Some incidents resulted in no injuries while other shootings have caused devastating losses of life like the one that occurred in Uvalde, Texas.
Even with school lockdowns that kept kids away from schools, the decade beginning in 2020 is starting off in an unprecedented fashion. In 2021, there were 33 school shooting incidents and the nation is already at 22* for the year 2022.
Comparing the first 29 months of each decade beginning in 2000, 2010, and 2020 reveals a startling increase in school shooting incidents and gives us a sense of how the last 2 1/2 years stack up against the two previous decades.
72 school shooting incidents in the first 29 months from Jan. 2020 to May 2022
24 school shooting incidents in the first 29 months from Jan. 2010 to May 2012
14 school shooting incidents in the first 29 months from Jan. 2000 to May 2002
There is no denying the overwhelming number of these shooters are boys and men who are likely suffering from some form of mental illness. As discussed in an article after the Buffalo shooting, at least 70% of mass shooters have some form of mental illness. However, the overwhelming majority of boys and men are not committing any form of violent crime but boys and men are clearly impacted by mental health in very different ways, including suicide, alcohol, and drug overdose deaths. These too are manifestations of a type of self-harm. These are not comparable to school shootings, but many school shooters acting out their rage are often carrying out a form of communal and self harm simultaneously. This in no way excuses the act of the shooter. It does, however, give us pause to consider the ever increasing mental health issues and fractured family structures that allow for boys and men susceptible to violence to actualize it, something we are also witnessing with the increase in homicides. (School shootings are only one portion of the homicide problem as the nation has seen a marked rise in homicide deaths over the last two years.)
While our nation continues to unravel the reasons behind the Uvalde shooter’s state of mind, these incidents can no longer continue and will until a more dedicated effort is made to address the challenges of our nation’s sons and the underlying conditions and circumstances that lead to school shooters and other forms of mass violence.
Index of Graphs
The information below provides more detailed data regarding school shootings in the U.S. from 2000 to 2022. While California has the greatest number of school shooting incidents from 2000 to 2022, it is also the most populace state.
In the graphs below the top 10 states with the most school shootings, there is a thorough look at total incidents, deaths, and injuries by year. The data compiled by GIBM shows a steady rise in all three categories over the course of 20 years.
Thank you for acknowledging what should be (but isn't) self-evident to everyone by now. Boys now grow up in a world that has no room for them specifically as men. They grow up in a world, often without fathers, that offers them no sense whatsoever that being a man is even legitimate, much less honorable. Add that to the long list of other cultural problems that afflict them. After forty years of research, I've come to the startling (!) conclusion that every human being (boys and men no less than girls and women) needs a healthy identity (collective no less than personal). But that's possible only if they can make at least one contribution to society that's (a) distinctive, (b) necessary and (c) publicly valued. Can you think of any way for men to do so in a society that routinely denies all three? In theory, becoming fathers remains a possible way for men, as such, to do what no one else can do. In fact, though, very few people can define fathers as anything other than assistant mothers (at best). It should come as no surprise that a rising number of boys give up, abandoning society through drugs or games--or suicide--and even attacking society through crime.
In short, there are at least two "root causes" of what's going on. One is a rising rate of mental illness, a problem that afflicts people as individuals). The other is a cultural illness. Many factors combine to generate the latter, but the rise and intensification of ideological hostility toward boys and men, per se, over the past half century is surely among them. We ignore this at the peril not only of boys and men with sociopathic tendencies and their victims but also of societal fragmentation and dissolution.
The data is very discouraging, yet we continue to do better than otherwise might have been the case. Some of the implemented policies include single entry buildings, some attention to fatherlessness, and a view to raising awareness of gun accessibility. More needs to be done, specifically with mental health services for boys and men.