Fall is upon us, and so is another season of school shootings. Since Aug. 1, the U.S. has already seen 122 school incidents that involved guns, resulting in eight fatalities and 12 non-fatal injuries. While many may be shocked and horrified, these numbers are not surprising to those of us counting.

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People comfort each other Feb. 15, 2018, as they sit and mourn at one of 17 crosses after a candlelight vigil for the 17 victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Since Aug. 1, the U.S. has already seen 122 school incidents that involved guns, resulting in eight fatalities and 12 non-fatal injuries. Gerald Herbert/Associated Press, File

In 2021 and 2022, we witnessed the deadliest years on record for our students, teachers and staff. There were at least 385 incidents of gunfire on school grounds, resulting in 115 deaths and 284 injuries. This includes the Uvalde, Texas, shooting in May 2022 when Salvador Rolando Ramos drove to Robb Elementary School and murdered 19 students and two teachers. Their assault ended after being fatally shot by one of the 376 responding officers, more than an hour after the first shot was fired.

This year is on track to be another devastating one. Including those noted above, there have been 91 incidents of gunfire on school grounds, resulting in 28 deaths and 62 injuries since Jan. 1, with attack sites ranging from private elementary schools to large state universities.

With “thoughts and prayers” as their go-to mantra for mass shootings, political leaders continue to propose – and, in some cases, pass – legislation that allows teachers to carry guns. For example, states like Maine want to let any individual with a concealed-carry permit bring a gun into a K-12 school, while Colorado, Montana and Ohio currently allow teachers to be armed when the school district approves it.

The reality is that arming teachers introduces more risks than it reduces. Students will access firearms brought to school, like the gun of high school teacher Jennifer Ellen Paul in Arkansas. The risk of shootings will increase, with research showing that access to a firearm doubles the risk of death by homicide and triples the risk of death by suicide.

Perhaps even more important, however, is that America’s teachers do not want to be armed, with a recent survey showing 73% of teachers oppose school staff being armed, and 58% believe armed staff will actually decrease safety in schools.


Although Maine has historically been opposed to enacting sensible gun laws like raising the minimum age to purchase semi-automatic weapons or closing the gun show loophole, community-based prevention efforts can help mitigate threats of violence until more substantial common sense laws can be passed by the state Legislature.

In 32% of mass shootings with four or more people killed, the shooter exhibited dangerous warning signs before the shooting. And while the pathway to violence is a complicated one and is not the same for every offender, researchers have identified critical warning signs of violence, including sudden withdrawal and social isolation, excessive irritability, persistent thoughts of self-harm, making direct and indirect threats, and cruelty to animals.

Similarly, research conducted by the Secret Service and the federal Department of Education found that in 4 out of 5 school shootings, at least one person had knowledge of a plan but failed to report, and 93% of school shooters planned their attack in advance, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security found almost 60% of attackers had a history of expressing violent rhetoric and posting concerning and problematic content online – like sharing videos of previous mass attacks.

School shootings, like all mass casualty events, are rarely spontaneous and are rarely without warning. This means that peers, families, teachers, and other bystanders can play a pivotal role in violence prevention, which starts with recognizing warning signs and knowing who to contact when concerned for the safety of yourself and others. While I ask Mainers to demand more sensible and evidence-based gun legislation in Augusta, in the meantime, educate yourselves on the risk factors and indicators of violence, and if you see something, please say something.

Rather than put our faith in apprehensive teachers with guns, like some Maine legislators would like us to do (see L.D. 52), let’s put our resources into programs and policies that utilize best practices in managing possible threats, like Maine’s threat assessment team, and prevent school shootings well before they happen. How can we expect one kindergarten teacher to stop an active shooter in Maine when 376 law enforcement officers couldn’t stop one in Texas?

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