Studying School Shootings: Challenges and Considerations for Research

Abstract

Studying school shootings can be both a fruitful and challenging endeavor. The random nature of these events provides a number of challenges for studying this phenomenon. This paper explores these concerns as they relate to developing and implementing studies, as well as interpreting related findings by drawing on previous research that examined the effects of the 1999 Columbine High School, the 2007 Virginia Tech, and the 2008 Northern Illinois University shootings. Ways in which these issues may be overcome and, more generally, the research can be moved forward also are discussed.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The 1999 Columbine High School shooting is a notable exception. It has been estimated that the total event lasted just under 50 min (Columbine Review Commission 2001).

  2. 2.

    In a study examining the broader category of rampage shooters following Columbine, Schildkraut (2014) found that 55 % of perpetrators in the study committed suicide.

  3. 3.

    For a complete list of questions included, see Stretesky and Hogan (2001, p. 437).

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Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank the reviewers for their invaluable feedback on this manuscript. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2014 annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology.

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Correspondence to H. Jaymi Elsass.

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Jaymi Elsass, H., Schildkraut, J. & Stafford, M.C. Studying School Shootings: Challenges and Considerations for Research. Am J Crim Just 41, 444–464 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12103-015-9311-9

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Keywords

  • School shootings
  • Research methodologies
  • Theoretical orientation
  • Columbine