Assange over the years Flying spiders explained Honor all requests?

Why do mass shooters target K-12 schools? Here's what we know after Nashville shooting

CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story omitted some of the partners in the 91影视, Associated Press and Northeastern听University mass killings database

The aftermath of a听mass shooting at听a private Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee, that left three 9-year-olds and听three school workers听dead Monday has renewed debate听about why听shooters target听schools.听

There's no simple answer, but because schools may have limited security听and the deaths of young people draw significant attention, they can be听attractive targets for assailants, experts told 91影视.

Why do shootings happen at schools?

Robin M.听Kowalski, a psychology professor at Clemson University in South Carolina,听听shootings at听K-12 schools and colleges听and other mass killings. She and her colleagues found听the majority of people who attack K-12 schools are white, male,听havea median age of 15, feel marginalized or bullied听and use the events to take their own lives.

And they tend to come from inside the听school community, she said.听

K-12 school听attacks are听"night and day" from college shootings, which are more likely to occur听after听interpersonal conflicts, Kowalski听said. People who attackK-12 schools are more likely tohave a听history of psychological problems, long-term or acute rejection experiences like a听recent breakup, or a fascination with听death,听guns and violence 鈥 including a fascination with school shootings,听she said.听

"The individuals behind the听Sandy Hook听and听Columbine听shootings, among others, had been diagnosed with an assortment of psychological conditions," Kowalski .

Because听most school shootings听are "lone-wolf attacks," an act听committed by one person, one would听have to understand听the mindset of the assailant, including their听history, grievances and mental health status, to truly understand their听motive,听said听Javed Ali, a former top official at the FBI and Department of Homeland Security and an associate professor of practice at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan.听

"Every shooter seems to be driven by different factors," he said.听

Covenant School shooting in Nashville:听3 children, 3 adults dead; victims' names released

Did the Nashville shooter have a motive?

Authorities haven't yet determined a clear motive for the shooting rampage in Nashville. Metro Nashville Police Department Chief John Drake said police officers found "writings" and a detailed听map听of the school听left behind by听suspect听Audrey Elizabeth Hale, 28, which revealed plans听to target the school. The suspect听entered the听school with an AR-style rifle, an听AR-style pistol and another handgun, police said.听

A group prays with a child outside the reunification center at the Woodmont Baptist church after a school shooting, in Nashville, Tenn., this week.

The shooter previously attended The Covenant School, and听Drake听听that Hale might have had听"some resentment for having to go to that school."听Drake also said the suspect听was being treated for an emotional disorder and had legally purchased听seven firearms.听

Police said the suspect听originally planned to target another school in Nashville听but was concerned it would be more difficult because of a higher level of security.听

The听victims are 9-year-olds Evelyn Dieckhaus, William Kinney and Hallie Scruggs and Mike Hill, 61, the school's leader Katherine Koonce, 60, and Cynthia Peak, 61.

"In Nashville, we know the person went to the school, so the听question is: 'What drew them back to that school听decades or so later?'" Ali said. "We鈥檒l never know the answer to that听because that听person is听dead."

Police officers gather near The Covenant School, a private Christian school in Nashville, Tenn., after this week's deadly shooting.

'Suspect down!':Bodycam footage shows police confrontation with Nashville school shooter: Updates

How many mass shootings have there been in 2023?

Including Monday's shooting in Nashville,听there have been 14听mass shootings in 2023.听A听91影视, Associated Press and Northeastern听University database听dating back to 2006听captures any incident in which four听or more people are killed by any means within 24 hours.听

Another database from the Gun Violence Archive shows Monday's attack听is the 130th mass shooting in the United States听this year.听The archive听defines a mass shooting as one in which at least four people are shot, excluding the shooter.

How many mass shootings have occurred at schools?听

There听have been eight mass shootings at K-12 schools since 2006, including this week in Nashville,, Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Monday鈥檚 shooting marks the 89th incident in 2023 in which a firearm was fired or pointed at someone on the grounds of a K-12 school, or when a bullet听hit school property 鈥 an average of one every day 鈥 according to the national听.

Mass killing database:Revealing trends, details and anguish of every US event since 2006

Schools face numerous听shooting threats

Schools across the nation face frequent shooting threats听, and history听shows those threats 听after听mass shootings. In the days after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School, for example, schools in the San Francisco Bay Area听faced听more than a handful of threats.

鈥淭he problem is so bottomless, and we鈥檙e seeing threats of violence at schools almost every day... It鈥檚 so challenging to know which one is going to be the one,"听Marisa McKeown,听Santa Clara County鈥檚听supervising deputy district attorney in the crime strategies unit, told听at the time.听

After Florida shooting:More than 600 copycat threats have targeted schools

Schools听harden buildings in response

Since the mass shooting that left 26 dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School more than a decade ago, groups including the听American Institute of Architects,听the听International Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design Association听and听the听National Rifle Association听have developed a guidance on constructing and reconstructing听schools to prevent such killings.

They recommend education听leaders spend school听funds听on detours to delay听visitors from easily entering schools, floor-to-ceiling windows built with impact-resistant glass that can shield against threats and allow anyone to see who鈥檚 coming onto campus and听surveillance gates,听among other safety features.

As seen from an aerial view, Sandy Hook Elementary stands almost 10 years after the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre on Nov. 20, 2022, in Newtown, Conn. The new school was opened in 2016, four years after the tragedy.

How America's schools have changed:Since deadliest mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary

Ali听said he is听advocating听for 91影视 Department of Homeland Security听authorities to designate听K-12 schools as critical infrastructure.

"We need to raise the bar in terms of security to either deter people from thinking about conducting attacks or minimize the impacts of attacks when one does indeed occur," Ali said. "We need to make moves on school safety since we don鈥檛 seem to make听progress on guns and mental health, or the combination of those two."

'It's sick':Biden again calls for assault weapons ban after school shooting in Nashville

Contributing:听John Bacon,听Jorge L. Ortiz,听Chris Gadd, Terry Collins and Grace Hauck

Contact Kayla Jimenez at kjimenez@usatoday.com. Follow her听on Twitter at @kaylajjimenez.

Featured Weekly Ad