The claim: The US has had 288 school shootings while other countries had two or less
A May 24 massacre at a Texas elementary school that left 19 children and two teachers dead has reignited the debate over guns and focused attention on the uniquely high rate of school shootings in the United States.
“America, you are broken,” reads the caption of a May 25 Facebook post that was shared more than 300 times in less than a day. The post includes a breakdown of school shootings by country, attributing 288 to the U.S., two to France and Canada, one to Germany, China and Russia and zero to several countries including the United Kingdom and Australia.
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The U.S. does have significantly more school shootings than other countries, but the data included in the post actually understates the scope of the problem in the U.S. The tallies reflect one calculation of shootings from 2009 to 2018, so they don't account for U.S. shootings in the last four years or before 2009. Some broader research shows counts nearly 10 times higher.
USA TODAY reached out to the user who shared the claim for comment.
Claim uses 2018 data, ignore other statistics
The statistics in the post line up with a May 2018 CNN article about school shootings since 2009. The network analyzed news reports to compile data on incidents on school grounds in which at least one person was shot other than the shooter.
But counts of the total number of school shootings in the U.S vary widely based on methodology and the time period studied. For example, the K-12 School Shooting Database from the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security includes 2,012 school shootings in the U.S. dating back to 1970.
The CNN research identified 288 school shootings between January 2009 and May 2018 in the U.S. By comparison, CNN found Canada and France each had two, Germany had one, and Japan, Italy and the United Kingdom had none. Based on those numbers, the U.S. had 57 times more school shootings in that time period than the other G7 countries combined.
The story also included data from countries with a higher number of school shootings that were not mentioned in the Facebook post. Mexico, for example, had eight school shootings in the same period, and South Africa had six, according to CNN. India had five while Pakistan and Nigeria each had four. But those were not mentioned in the post.
School shootings have continued to plague the U.S. in the years since the article was published.
Events missing from this tally include a shooting at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte on April 30, 2019, that killed two people and injured four others. One week later, a shooting at a Denver-area STEM school killed one student and injured eight others.
Two people were killed and three others were injured in a 16-second rampage at a high school in Santa Clarita, California, on Nov. 14, 2019.
Two sisters were fatally shot and a 2-year-old was hurt in a Feb. 3, 2020, shooting at Texas A&M University-Commerce.
More recently, four students were killed and seven others were injured in a shooting at a Michigan high school on Nov. 30, 2021. The May 24 shooting in Uvalde, Texas, is the deadliest shooting at a U.S. elementary school since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that left 26 dead.
Our rating: Missing context
Based on our research, we rate MISSING CONTEXT the claim that the U.S. has had 288 school shootings while other countries two or less. The data cited here tallies only shootings from 2009 to 2018, so it doesn't include a vast number of shootings before and after that timeframe. One database pushes the tally past 2,000 school shootings in the U.S.
Our fact-check sources:
Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security, accessed May 26, K-12 School Shooting Database
USA TODAY, Feb. 5, 2020, 'Why is there so much violence': Texas university grapples with two deadly shootings in three months
USA TODAY, Nov. 14, 2019, A day of 'horror' at Santa Clarita high school: 2 dead after student shoots 5, then himself
USA TODAY, May 7, 2019, What we know about the Highlands Ranch STEM school shooting in Colorado
USA TODAY, May 1, 2019, University of North Carolina at Charlotte shooting: What We Know Now
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Claim understates number of school shootings in the US