Does the presence of armed staff at schools deter school shooters?

Wednesday, June 29, 2022
By Jacob Alabab-Moser

Multiple studies have observed that the presence of armed school officers does not deter school shooters.

A 2021 study published by JAMA that examined 133 cases of intended or executed school shootings between 1980 and 2019 found "no association between having an armed officer and deterrence of violence." Authors explained that since "school shooters are actively suicidal, intending to die in the act, ... an armed officer may be an incentive rather than a deterrent." They also noted the "well-documented weapons effect," in which "the presence of a weapon increases aggression." Their research indicated that "an armed officer on the scene was the number one factor associated with increased casualties."

Another 2021 study published by Brown examining national school-level data from 2014 to 2018 found that while school resource officers "reduce some forms of violence in schools, [they] do not prevent school shootings or gun-related incidents." Such officers were also associated with increased suspensions, expulsions, police referrals and arrests of students—particularly Black students.

To deter school shootings, school safety researchers advocate:

  • Raising age the age limit for gun ownership from 18 to 21.
  • Adopting universal background checks.
  • Banning assault rifles.
  • Teaching kids conflict resolution, stress management and empathy.
  • Providing staff and teachers with anti-bullying training.
This fact brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.
Between 2020 and 2022, under close editorial supervision, Gigafact contracted a group of freelance writers and editors to test the concepts for fact briefs and provide inputs to our software development process. We call this effort Gigafact Foundry. Over the course of these two years, Gigafact Foundry writers published over 1500 fact briefs in response to claims they found online. Their important work forms the basis of Gigafact formats and editorial guidelines, and is available to the public on Gigafact.org. Readers should be aware that while there is still a lot of relevant information to be found, not all fact briefs produced by Gigafact Foundry reflect Gigafact's current methods and standards for fact briefs. If you come across any that you feel are out of date and need to be looked at with fresh eyes, don't hesitate to contact us at support@gigafact.org.