Most Mass School Shooters Get Guns at Home

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Photo by Rod Waddington via Flickr.

In nearly three decades of mass school shootings, the killers mostly use guns owned by a family member, not purchased on their own, the Wall Street Journal reports. As Congress, states, and school districts debate how to prevent a school shooting after a 19-year-old who legally bought guns left 17 dead in Parkland, Fl., much discussion centers on whether to raise the minimum age for gun purchases.

A lack of gun safety at home also has played a big role in school shootings. Guns in the home “is a very important element that has been lost in the current debate,” said J. Reid Meloy, a forensic psychologist and FBI consultant. He sees the problem in the combination of a troubled adolescent, unsecured firearms, general disorganization at home, and “then you increase the risk, of course, of him being able to easily access a weapon.”

There have been 32 school shootings since 1990 with at least three victims dead or injured.  Most shooters are white male teenagers. In 25 cases, shooters were teens or younger. Of the 20 cases where details were available, 17 guns came from home, with a few shooters getting weapons from relatives. About 42 percent of adults live in households with a gun, says a 2017 Pew Research Center survey. Retired FBI profiler Mary Ellen O’Toole said young shooters are determined to get a gun, making it important for caregivers to see warning signs to intervene.

Signs include preoccupation with guns and violence, isolation, behavior changes, mental-health issues, drugs and alcohol use. Some campaigns promote safe storage of firearms, with a few providing free safe storage devices to gun owners. The National Shooting Sports Foundation’s “Project ChildSafe” has distributed millions of firearm safety kits that include firearm locking devices.

Meanwhile, a descendant of one of the founders of the Smith & Wesson gun manufacturing company, writing in a New York Times op ed, called on firearms makers to use their influence to improve gun safety