Shootings at Colleges: U.S. Statistics

At least 102 people have been killed in 13 mass shootings at U.S. colleges since the 1960s. Hundreds more have been injured or killed by guns on college campuses.
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Lyss Welding is a higher education analyst and senior editor for BestColleges who specializes in translating massive data sets and finding statistics that matter to students. Lyss has worked in academic research, curriculum design, and program evalua...
Updated on December 8, 2023
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Reece Johnson is the editorial director for news and data. He writes about the future of work and higher education, student political activism, and expanding educational opportunities. Reece holds a master's degree from Columbia University and a bach...
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Note: This data report contains content related to suicide. If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24/7. All calls are confidential, and anyone can use this service.

Data Summary

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    Since 1966, there have been 13 shootings at colleges where more than three people were killed.[1], [2], [3]
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    Outside of mass shootings, there have been over 300 instances of gunfire on college campuses, killing 94 people and injuring 215.[4]
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    Researchers have found that gun access on college campuses may increase the risk of suicide and turn aggressive incidents more deadly.[5]
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    Most college students surveyed say school shootings impact their sense of safety on campus (65%) and favor stricter campus gun policies (63%).[6]

Everytown for Gun Safety estimates that between 2009 and 2020, there were 93 public mass shootings, an average of over eight shootings a year. What's more, 11% of these incidents happened in K-12 schools or colleges.[7]

While state legislatures continue to debate gun policy, there's no denying the frequency of school shootings in the U.S. or the immeasurable toll they take on survivors and victims' families and communities.

This report covers mass shootings that have happened at colleges over the past several decades. It also explores non-mass-shooting incidents involving guns to better understand the scope of gun violence on college campuses. Finally, it examines what college students say about gun policy and campus safety.

Shootings at Colleges, 1966-2023

While the Center for Homeland Defense and Security's K-12 School Shooting Safety Compendium keeps a record of shootings in K-12 schools, no public government database tracks shootings at colleges. For the most part, researchers, journalists, nonprofit organizations, and volunteers track the number of college shootings.

There's also no standard definition of a mass shooting. This list includes college shootings where at least three people were killed. We have mainly relied on data made available by The Violence Project, the nonprofit investigative news organization Mother Jones, and other news reports.

1966: University of Texas at Austin

On Aug. 1, a shooter killed 15 people and injured 31 others from a tower on UT's campus. The earliest recorded university shooting, it's also known as the first modern mass shooting in the U.S.Note Reference [1], [8]

1970: Kent State University

According to Kent State, on May 4, members of the Ohio National Guard fired 61-67 shots into a crowd during a protest at the university in Kent, Ohio. Four students were killed by gunfire, and nine others were wounded.Note Reference [2]

1976: California State University

On July 12, a man shot nine people, killing seven and injuring two, on the Fullerton, California, campus. The shooter used a semi-automatic rifle he had purchased illegally.Note Reference [1]

1991: University of Iowa

On Nov. 1, a man killed five people and wounded one other on the Iowa City campus. He died by suicide during the incident. The shooter had legally purchased the two guns used from a licensed dealer.Note Reference [3]

2007: Virginia Tech

The Virginia Tech Massacre occurred on April 16 on the university's Blacksburg, Virginia, campus. It is the deadliest college shooting on record. Thirty-two people were killed, and at least 23 others were injured. The shooter took his own life during the incident.Note Reference [3]

Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence has pointed out that despite being federally prohibited from purchasing firearms, the shooter obtained guns from two licensed dealers after background checks.[9]

2008: Northern Illinois University

On Feb. 14, a shooter killed five people and injured 16 others in a lecture hall on the Dekalb, Illinois, campus before dying by suicide.Note Reference [1], [10]

2012: Oikos University

On April 2, a man shot 10 people, killing seven and wounding three others, on Oikos University's Oakland, California, campus.Note Reference [1]

2013: Santa Monica College

On June 7, a shooter killed five people and injured three others. The shooting spree occurred throughout Santa Monica, California, ending at the Santa Monica College Campus.Note Reference [1], [11]

2014: University of California Santa Barbara

On May 23, a man shot several people in the college town of Isla Vista, California, in Santa Barbara County, killing three and injuring at least 13 others. He died by suicide after the incident. Right before the shooting, he stabbed three people to death in his apartment.Note Reference [3]

2015: Umpqua Community College

On Oct. 1, a shooter killed nine people and injured nine more on the Umpqua Community College campus in Roseburg, Oregon. He died by suicide during the incident.Note Reference [3]

2022: University of Virginia

On Nov. 13, a shooter opened fire on a bus carrying University Students as it returned to campus in Charlottesville, Virginia. Three students were killed, and at least two more were injured.Note Reference [3]

2023: Michigan State University

On Feb. 13, a shooter opened fire in two buildings at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. He killed three students and wounded at least five others. When confronted by police, the shooter died by suicide.Note Reference [3]

2023: University of Nevada, Las Vegas

On Dec. 6, a shooter killed three faculty members at UNLV and wounded another on the university's campus. The shooter later died in a shootout with police.Note Reference [3]

Recent Events
Morgan State University

On Oct. 3, 2023, five people — including four students — were shot and injured during homecoming week at HBCU Morgan State's Baltimore campus.Note Reference [4]

No one was killed in the shooting at Morgan State. However, the shooting comes at a time when historically Black colleges and universities are experiencing an uptick in violent threats, according to the Department of Homeland Security.[12]

Gun Violence on College Campuses

Mass shootings aren't the only kinds of gun violence on college campuses. Everytown for Gun Safety documented 323 instances of gunfire on college campuses, occurring in 42 states and Washington, D.C., from 2013-2023.Note Reference [4] These incidents include individual attacks, unintentional gunfire, legal interventions, self-harm, and other instances.

According to the Everytown database:Note Reference [4]

  • Excluding mass shootings, gunfire on college campuses has killed 91 people in total and injured another 240 since 2013.
  • Non-mass shooting intentional attacks have killed 71 people and wounded 184 others.
  • Nine people have died by suicide in non-mass shootings on college campuses. Three were injured.
  • Five people have been killed in 10 legal interventions involving guns on college campuses.
  • There have been 46 cases of unintentional gunfire on college campuses, resulting in three deaths and injuring 28 others.

College Campus Gun Policies

College campus gun laws vary from state to state — and campus to campus. According to a BestColleges analysis: At least 16 states allow colleges to decide whether to allow guns on campus. Another 12 states generally allow guns on campus with some regulations unless the college prohibits it.

Most states generally prohibit guns on college campuses, but they may allow exceptions for safety officers, people with written approval from the institution, and/or people storing firearms in vehicles.

That said, these laws are subject to change relatively quickly. Take Montana, for example. In 2021, Montana prohibited colleges from banning guns on campus. The following year, the Montana Supreme Court decided the law was unconstitutional, so Montana schools can now decide their own gun policies.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University studied the link between state gun laws and gun violence on college campuses. They found that policies allowing guns on campus don't reduce mass shootings. And gun access substantially increases the risk of suicide among young adults. The presence of guns could make aggressive or reckless behaviors more deadly.Note Reference [5]

College Students' Opinions on Gun Policy and Control

College students care about gun laws and their campus safety. They show it in various ways, from student activism to survey responses to how they vote in elections.

In a BestColleges survey, 65% of students said school shootings, in particular, made them concerned for their safety on campus. A majority (63%) said stricter gun laws would make them feel safer.

Additionally, gun policy and control were among the top three voting issues for college students in the recent 2022 midterm election, especially for Gen Z voters.