HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) – Four hundred school shootings.

That’s the number the United States is on track to hit this year, based on these first three months. As of March 30, there had been 90 incidents in schools across the country in 89 days. 

If it feels like they’re happening more often, from Newport News to Nashville, that’s because they are.

According to the K-12 School Shooting Database, they’ve been trending upward since 2010 – a year that, remarkably, saw just 15. 

“Last year there were 303 shootings,” said David Riedman, a PhD student at the University of Central Florida and the creator of the database. “To put that into perspective, that is double the number from 2018 and ‘19, and almost eight times higher than the average for the previous 40 years.” 

Since 2018, Riedman has tracked school shootings, dating back to 1970. His data-driven approach has given him a unique perspective on this highly polarized issue, and he’s critical of responses, solutions and proposals from both sides of the issue. 

He found that the majority of these incidents aren’t mass shootings like Nashville and Uvalde, but interpersonal conflicts and fights that escalate to the point that someone pulls a gun. 

“What appears to be different than the last 50 years is that there are more teenagers who are armed in schools and minor disputes turn into shootings,” he said. 

Riedman thinks the solution to these kinds of shootings is twofold – first, teenagers have to be prevented from being able to obtain firearms, and second, there needs to be a system to be able to identify dangerous behavior and to intervene. 

“There is a dire need for national infrastructure around crisis intervention,” he told 10 On Your Side. “After 9/11, everyone knew ‘see something, say something,’ and everybody knew how to report suspicious activity related to terrorism. We constantly tell people to look for red flags before a mass shooting or a school shooting, but even when they’re seen, it’s not easy to report them and there’s no centralized place where that data goes.” 

Riedman points to the shooter in the recent Nashville tragedy. He was under medical supervision for an emotional disorder and his parents were worried about the guns he had purchased.  

Democrats introduced a bill to create a “Red Flag” law back in January 2020, but it failed to garner enough support to pass. Such laws allow for concerned people to petition the court to remove firearms from a person if they’re found to pose a threat to themselves or others. The Virginia General Assembly passed one that same year that has since been used hundreds of times

“It’s really demoralizing to see the same types of situations play out over and over,” he said. “In the case of Nashville, it’s a situation where there were many different warning signs. People attempted to take action but the legal framework in that state didn’t prevent somebody from getting weapons who should not have had them.” 

That shooter had legally purchased the firearms used in that incident.

A Washington Post investigation found that in all school shootings in which it could be determined, 86% of the guns used had been taken from a friend, relative or family member. 

“In the cases of fights that escalate to shootings, teenagers should not be able to access weapons – so if a teenager has a gun, it’s because the lawful owner of it didn’t keep it secured,” Riedman said. “There’s an opportunity for somebody to be responsible and for almost every shooting in a school to be prevented by somebody that has the power to do so. 

Riedman suggests that national legislation simply requiring guns and ammunition to be stored separately could be a gamechanger. If a teenager can only manage to obtain one of those components, that would be enough to prevent a shooting. 

Some have argued that the violence that has rocked the country time and time again would still take place even if guns were banned outright or widely restricted. 

Riedman points to history.

The 1990s saw a rash of bombings from abortion clinics to the Oklahoma City Building and the World Trade Center. Legislators passed strict laws limiting the availability of explosives to the general public and the bombings largely subsided. 

“When somebody couldn’t bomb an abortion clinic, they didn’t commit a mass shooting there instead; when a terrorist couldn’t get a truckfull of explosives, they didn’t resort to another means,” he said. “This is very similar to suicide prevention: once the primary means that somebody is thinking about (dying by) suicide with is removed, that person is not likely to (die by) suicide by a second means.” 

Suicides involving guns are also remarkably prevalent in schools. The K-12 database identifies more than 200.  

“They’re very important in the context of discussions to arm school staff members,” he told us. “Last Friday in Indiana, a middle school teacher (died by) suicide with a firearm at school during afternoon classes – and it’s reported that students witnessed that.” 

“So, the introduction of a firearm into a school creates new risks,” he said, “and somebody with a firearm – specifically a man – is significantly more likely to (die by) suicide.”