Background Data on the factors associated with school shootings in the USA are limited. The public conversation has often suggested several factors that may be linked to these events, however with little empirical support. Aiming to fill this gap, we describe the characteristics of school shooting incidents in the USA between 2013 and 2015 and explore whether four factors that represent domains of firearm policy, educational policy and epidemiological risk factors for intentional firearm injuries-background check (BC) policies, per capita mental health expenditures (MHE), K-12 education expenditure (KEE) and urbanicity—were associated with school shootings during this period.
Methods We searched LexisNexis, a newspaper and broadcast media databases for school shooting incidents from 1 January 2013 to 31 December 2015. Presence of BC laws was extracted from legal information in LexisNexis. State-level covariates of per capita MHE (2013), KEE (2013) and urbanicity (2010) rates were obtained from publicly available data sources. We used negative binomial regression models accounting for clustering by state to explore unadjusted associations between the BC laws, state-level covariates and school shootings to report IRR and 95% CI.
Results We documented 154 school shootings (35, 55 and 64 each year). In unadjusted models, BC for firearm purchase (IRR=0.55, 95% CI 0.39 to 0.76), ammunition purchase (IRR=0.11, 95% CI 0.05 to 0.27), log per capita MHE (IRR=0.58, 95% CI 0.37 to 0.90), log per-capita KEE (IRR=0.09, 9% CI 0.02 to 0.29) and urbanicity (IRR=0.97, 95% CI 0.96 to 0.99) were associated with school shooting.
Conclusions School shootings are less likely in states with BC laws, higher MHE and KEE, and with greater per cent urban population.