Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 63, Issue 1–2, pp 91–110 | Cite as

Could it happen here? Moral panic, school shootings, and fear of crime among college students

  • Jaclyn SchildkrautEmail author
  • H. Jaymi Elsass
  • Mark C. Stafford


Originating in the early 1970s, the concept of moral panic has been used to describe the public’s reaction to a real or perceived threat. Moral panic has been linked to well-known social problems, including muggings, drugs, juvenile ‘delinquency, gangs, and terrorism. More recently, researchers have examined school shootings in this context. Notably absent, however, is a quantitative application of Goode and Ben-Yehuda’s (1994a, 1994b) attributional model of moral panic. The present study examines the five key attributes of moral panic—concern, hostility, consensus, disproportionality, and volatility – as they relate to school shootings and fear of crime among college students. The results indicate that respondents’ fear of crime is the best predictor of students’ subscription to moral panic. Directions for future research, as well as limitations of the present study, also are discussed.


Property Crime Moral Panic Defense Measure Personal Victimization School Shooting 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors wish to thank the anonymous reviewers for their feedback on this research. A previous version of this manuscript was presented at the 2013 annual meetings of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jaclyn Schildkraut
    • 1
    Email author
  • H. Jaymi Elsass
    • 2
  • Mark C. Stafford
    • 2
  1. 1.State University of New York at OswegoOswegoUSA
  2. 2.Texas State UniversitySan MarcosUSA

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