Arizona has had 19 school shootings since the ‘70s, data show

Study says state has seen four non-school mass shootings so far in 2022

By: - June 1, 2022 4:23 pm
Memorial at Arizona mass shooting site

TUCSON, AZ – JAN. 15, 2011: A shopper passes in front of a memorial set up at the site of a mass shooting in front of the Safeway grocery store in the La Toscana Village parking lot on Jan. 8, 2011 that killed six and wounded 19 more, including then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Data compiled by researchers show that Arizona has had 19 school shootings since the 1970s and four non-school mass shootings since the start of 2022.

Discussions around gun-control laws have been re-ignited after the shootings in Texas and New York, with Democratic leaders in Arizona and nationally pushing for gun control legislation.

The Arizona Mirror analyzed data compiled by the Center for Homeland Defense and Security Naval Postgraduate School of school shootings across the United States to better understand Arizona’s history of gun violence in schools.

The data document any time a gun is brandished, fired or if a bullet hits school property, however, the Mirror made sure to only include incidents in which a firearm was discharged. There were no incidents in Arizona schools where a weapon was just brandished in the dataset.

Of the 19 incidents, only one was a “preplanned” incident and the vast majority of them involved handguns of varying calibers.

The preplanned incident took place in 1987, when 17-year-old Jarod Huskey stole a pistol and a shotgun and killed the headmaster of his school before heading to the library to attempt to kill the computer science teacher, seemingly over being angry for being suspended from school, according to a New York Times report at the time.

Prior to Huskey, Arizona hadn’t seen a school shooter like him. Only a kid who brought a pistol to school that then discharged and struck another kid and a security guard who was shot by a person taking pot-shots at a school during the night.

 

Much of Arizona’s history of gun violence in schools from the 1990s onward relates to disputes between students or mishaps involving firearms, according to the data.

Seven of the incidents involve either an accident or a dispute, including one in which a roof worker accidentally fatally shot himself at a Tucson high school.

Four of the cases involve suicide, one of which made local and national headlines in 2016 when two teenage girls were found with a handgun nearby along with a suicide note in the early morning hours before classes at a Glendale high school.

Six people have been killed in school shootings in Arizona with nine others receiving injuries of some sort, according to the dataset. But shootings of another kind are already outpacing Arizona’s school shootings, mass shootings as a whole.

According to data compiled by researchers at the non-profit Gun Violence Archive, there have been four mass shootings in Arizona this year so far that have injured 21 people and killed four.

Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as any shooting that injures or kills more than four people. That definition is generally accepted within the law and among law enforcement agencies. Another group often cited in the media and by politicians, Mass Shooting Tracker, defines a mass shooting as an incident that kills or injures five or more people.

Everyday, Gun Violence Archive’s team of researchers scour news and crime reports for shootings that fit the definition of a mass shooting, even if they are not what might be considered a mass shooting by the general public.

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One of those mass shootings was when nine Phoenix police officers were shot in an ambush in February and another happened over Memorial Day weekend, when five were injured and another killed at a shooting at a house party in Phoenix.

Firearm deaths in Arizona have been slowly on the rise, as well.

From 2014 to 2017, firearm deaths in Arizona saw a 22 percent increase, according to the Center for Disease Control.

In 2017, 1,134 people were killed by firearms in Arizona, only about 400 less than the number of people who died of drug overdoses that year. Firearm deaths were the tenth-biggest killer of Arizonans, only three less than liver disease.

Arizona ranks 18th in the nation for its firearm death rate of 15.8 of every 100,000 deaths. The firearm death rate ranges from 2.5 in Hawaii and to 24.5 in Alaska.

So far in 2022, nationally 256 people have died in mass shootings and more than 1,000 people have been injured, according to the Gun Violence Archive’s data.

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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joins the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. Jerod has also won awards for his documentary films which have covered issues such as religious tolerance and surveillance technology used by police. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.

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