U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Preventing School Shootings: A Summary of a U.S. Secret Service Safe School Initiative Report

NCJ Number
National Institute of Justice Journal Issue: 248 Dated: March 2002 Pages: 10-15
Date Published
March 2002
6 pages
Publication Series
This article summarizes the findings of the "USSS Safe School Initiative: An Interim Report on the Prevention of Targeted Violence in Schools," which involved the U.S. Secret Service's research on the characteristics of school shooters, with a view toward developing prevention policies.
The Secret Service found that when youth plan targeted violence, they often tell at least one person about their plans, offer specifics before the event, and obtain weapons they need, usually from their own home or a relatives' home. An important prevention effort may be to ensure that youth have opportunities to talk and connect with caring adults. The study also found that in almost all the incidents examined, the attacker harbored the wish to harm the target before the attack. Thus, targeted violence is typically the end result of a discernible process of thinking and behavior. The study further concluded that there is no accurate or useful profile of "the school shooter." The personalities and social characteristics of the shooters examined varied substantially. Other findings were that most attackers had used guns previously and had access to guns; school staff were often the first responders to the shootings; attackers were often encouraged by other students; bullying played a key role in the decision to attack in a number of cases; and most attackers engaged in some behavior prior to the incident that caused concern or indicated a need for help. Overall, the study indicates the importance of giving attention to students who are having difficulty coping with major losses or perceived failures, particularly when feelings of desperation and hopelessness are involved. 5 resources and 3 notes

Date Published: March 1, 2002