4 Years After Parkland, U.S. School Year's First Half Sets Shootings Record

Valentine's Day will mark the fourth anniversary of the nation's deadliest high school shooting, and the 2021-2022 school year is on track to be the most violent in recent years, despite the efforts of the student-led gun control movement ignited by the 2018 tragedy in Parkland, Florida.

A new analysis from the nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety found that 136 instances of gun violence on school grounds were reported in the first half of this school year—a figure nearly four times the previous average for that period.

Everytown's latest statistics suggest that while many gun control advocates have worked tirelessly over the past four years, gun violence continues to be a troubling and deadly issue for students across America. And the alarming spike in school shootings is a particularly disappointing development for many Parkland survivors, who had hoped their tragedy would be the last of its kind.

"There's not a day that goes by when I don't think about the shooting at my high school," Parkland survivor and student advocate Sari Kaufman told Newsweek. "Whenever I walk into a classroom I always check to see where the door is, who is coming and going, and how I would exit the situation. It shouldn't be okay for students to have these types of experiences."

On February 14, 2018, Nikolas Cruz opened fire at Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, killing 17 people and injuring 17 more. The devastating shooting renewed the national conversation on gun debate and prompted an estimated 1.2 million to 2 million people to join the March for Our Lives demonstration just over a month later.

Everytown's new analysis shows that in the first half of this school year, between August 1, 2021, and December 31, 96 people were shot and wounded, while another 26 were killed. It is the highest number of people shot in that five-month period since Everytown begin tracking gunfire incidents nearly a decade ago in 2013.

Parkland School Shooting Gun Control Everytown Firearms
Four years after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting that killed 17, the nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety reports that 36 instances of gun violence on school grounds were reported in the first half of this school year. Above, people in Parkland visit a memorial at Pine Trails Park on February 17, 2018. Mark Wilson/Getty

"Although four years have passed since the day that changed my life, there's not a moment that goes by that I'm not reminded of what happened," Kaufman said. "Every shooting, every lockdown, and every news story about a new school shooting opens up wounds from my own experiences."

Just over two months ago, another gunman stormed an American high school, killing four students and injuring seven at Oxford High School in Michigan—making it the nation's deadliest school shooting since 2018.

Once again, the shooting sparked another wave of outrage from student advocates, who called on lawmakers to do more to prevent school shootings from happening.

"Whether it's a story about a school shooting, or honestly any shooting – it picks at scars from four years ago, and it hurts," Kaufman said. "But what keeps me going is knowing the feelings and trauma of going through a school shooting and doing whatever I can to ensure no one else has to experience what my community and I have experienced."

"Too often, lawmakers see survivors' pain and trauma and do nothing," Kaufman added. "Thoughts, prayers, and social media posts aren't going to solve the problem—we need action."

Everytown has called on the Biden administration to address the ongoing issue with a list of recommendations, including the promotion of secure firearm storage, which research has shown to be one of the most effective ways to protect children from accessing guns and prevent gun violence in schools.

School districts across the country—in red, blue and purple states—have already begun responding to the recent surge in gunfire by doing just that.

In the past three months alone, at least seven districts in South Carolina, Iowa, Michigan and Maryland have committed to sending students home with more information on secure gun storage.

It is estimated that more than half of gun owners do not lock all of their firearms securely, leaving at least 5.4 million children who live in a home with at least one unlocked and loaded firearm vulnerable to gun violence.

Data from the Department of Homeland Security's National Threat Assessment Center also shows that up to 8 in 10 school shooters obtain their guns from home.

"There's been lots of progress made across the country and across party lines, no doubt—but at the same time, there are far too many politicians who instead of prioritizing our safety, choose politics over our lives," Kaufman said.

"As a high school student, there is already so much we have to worry about. But, gun violence shouldn't be one of those things," she added. "It's disheartening. that more of our lawmakers, who are elected to keep us safe, who are elected to create change, haven't taken more action to stop kids in their communities from dying from preventable gun violence, whether it's in school or not."