One day after a Florida teen carried out one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history, at least seven other teens across the U.S. walked into school with a gun. The firearms were seized without harm in Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Missouri and Texas. Such incidents fuel the widespread fear that students often bring guns to school. There’s no way to tell if this is true because there are no good data, Stateline reports. Because of lax reporting by schools and lax oversight by state and federal authorities — and despite federal law — it’s nearly impossible to say just how many students get caught taking firearms into public schools. When a student is caught with a gun at school, the 1994 federal Gun-Free Schools Act requires schools to report it to the school district, which is supposed to pass the information along to state education officials, who are supposed to send it to the U.S. Department of Education.
The idea behind the reporting requirement is to make it possible to detect trends and inform policymakers as they seek to address the problem. Much of the information on the Education Department’s website is either outdated or inconsistent with state data. The department did not answer several requests from Stateline for new data. In the past few years, school and state officials have not properly tracked deadly school shootings in Arizona and Colorado, and firearm-related school incidents in Maine. State officials say that while they collect statistics, they don’t enforce the reporting requirement. U.S. students were caught with a firearm at school at least 1,576 times during the 2015-16 school year, according to a federal database. The federal numbers are lower than the numbers recorded by at least five states — Iowa, New Jersey, Maine, Maryland and Washington — in recent years.