Why school shootings happen where they ‘can’t’ happen

Santa Fe, Texas, is a small town with a population of about 13,000.

And contrary to the conventional wisdom, that small-town characteristic makes Santa Fe more or less a “typical” setting for a mass shooting.

In the aftermath of Friday’s shootings in Santa Fe — an attack that left 10 students and teachers dead — the Associated Press took a closer look at where school shootings have taken place.

The findings: Nine of the 10 most deadly school shootings in U.S. history have taken place in cities of fewer than 75,000 people. Most took place in communities, such as Santa Fe, with fewer than 50,000 residents.

“Ironically it’s people in small towns and suburbia who think it can’t happen here. And that is exactly the type of place where it does happen,” Peter Langman, a psychologist who has been studying school shootings for years, told the Associated Press. “People tend to think of violence associated with cities, not violence associated with small-town America, but this type of violence is the one associated with small-town America.”

More reading: Five years after the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the small town of Newtown, Conn., is “just seen as this past place of horror and tragedy,” Newtown student Jackson Mittleman told education writers at a conference in Los Angeles last week. See what student activists had to say about school violence — and their stake in the debate.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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