Five months into 2018, there have been 16 shootings at US schools that have resulted in injury or death, based on data from campaign group Everytown for Gun Safety.
The shooting in Texas on Friday, where, by mid-morning, the death toll was given by a local sheriff as between eight and 10, now stands as the 16th school shooting of the year, according to the campaign group Everytown for Gun Safety.
At Parkland in Florida in February, 17 people were confirmed killed by an ex-student firing an assault weapon, in the worst school mass shooting of 2018 so far.
The tragedy sparked a new national grassroots movement, led by surviving students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school where the Parkland shooting happened, calling for greater restrictions and background checks on gun ownership.
Donald Trump floated the idea of tighter gun control but also the option of arming teachers, and has not made any substantive changes that affect gun availability in the US.
In January, a 15-year-old student opened fire at a high school in Kentucky, leaving two students dead and 18 injured. Other incidents have been grave, but on a smaller scale.
In early February, one student in Los Angeles was shot in the head, and another in the arm, when a gun concealed in a fellow student’s backpack went off.
Congressman Bill Nelson, a Democrat of Florida, said in the aftermath of the Parkland massacre: “Are we coming to expect these mass shootings to be routine? And then after every one we say ‘enough is enough’ and then it continues to happen?”
Trump on Florida shooting: ‘We hurt for the entire community’ – video
Congress has refused to tighten restrictions on gun ownership, even after 20 children and six educators were massacred in 2012 in Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut.
“We’re lessening the threshold of how crazy someone needs to be to commit a mass shooting,” Austin Eubanks, who survived the 1999 shooting at Columbine high school, told the Guardian last fall.
He was speaking in the wake of catastrophic Las Vegas shooting, where a depressed man took up position high up in a hotel, with a large arsenal of guns and ammunition, and sprayed bullets upon a music concert audience, killing 58 and injuring more than 800. Eubanks said he had watched an increasing pace of mass shootings across the US, in schools and elsewhere, with fear and anxiety.
‘This happens nowhere else’: senator decries gun laws after Florida shooting – video
The fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting last December passed in subdued fashion, with congressional Republicans refusing to pass new gun control laws and instead pushing for a law that would weaken gun restrictions nationwide and make it easier to carry a concealed weapon across state lines. Donald Trump won the White House campaigning on a promise to support the National Rifle Association (NRA), the influential gun rights group, and oppose any limits to Americans’ right to own guns.
Why is the National Rifle Association so powerful?
It’s not (just) about the money. In 2017, the NRA spent at least $4.1m on lobbying – more than the $3.1m it spent in all of 2016. But for comparison, the dairy industry has spent $4.4m in the same period, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP). The National Association of Realtors, one of the biggest spenders, has paid out $32.2m lobbying on housing issues.
The NRA has plenty of cash to spend. It bet big on the 2016 US elections, pouring $14.4m into supporting 44 candidates who won and $34.4m opposing 19 candidates who lost, according to CRP.
But “the real source of its power, I believe, comes from voters,” said Adam Winkler, a UCLA professor of constitutional law.
The 145-year-old organization claims 5 million active members, that number is disputed, but whatever its actual size, membership is a powerful tool, said Robert Spitzer, a professor at the State University of New York at Cortland.
“They have a very powerful ability to mobilize a grassroots support and to engage in politics when most Americans can barely be bothered to vote,” he said. “And because so few Americans do those things, if you get a bunch of people in a locality who are all prepared to go out to a meeting they can have a big effect.” Read more
The repeated tragedies and frightening incidents continue to spark deeply divided political responses, with some Americans urging tighter laws on gun sales and ownership and others advocating for putting more armed guards in schools, or making it easier for teachers and parents to carry their own concealed weapons.
Experts caution that the toll of gun violence on children and teenagers falls heaviest outside of schools. Youngsters are much more likely to be shot in their own homes or neighborhoods than at school, according to research by the school safety expert Dewey Cornell.
But the emotional impact of school shootings has sparked a booming school safety industry. In 2017, the market for security equipment in the education sector was estimated at $2.68bn, according to industry analysts at IHS Markit. Some companies have capitalized on parents’ fears by selling bulletproof backpacks or whiteboards, as well as offering ways to fortify school buildings themselves against attack.
While refusing to pass substantive gun control restrictions, Congress has approved hundreds of millions of dollars in federal spending to help put police officers in public schools, including $45m in 2013, the year after the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting.
Some gun rights advocates have pushed to expand gun-carrying in schools further. Andrew McDaniel, a state legislator in Missouri who introduced legislation last year to make it easier to carry guns in schools, told the Guardian that in rural schools where it might take 20 or 30 minutes for law enforcement to respond to a school shooting in progress, it made sense to have other armed citizens ready to step in.