On Tuesday, 19 children and two teachers were shot and killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas — 85 miles west of San Antonio. According to Lt. Christopher Olivarez of the Texas Department of Public Safety, the 18-year-old gunman was shot and killed by law enforcement.
Following the tragedy, podcaster Brian Tyler Cohen wrote a viral tweet that claimed “more children have been killed in school shootings than police officers have been shot in the line of duty” in 2022. He then claimed, "It's more dangerous to be a student than police officer in America in 2022."
Have more children been killed in school shootings than police officers who were fatally shot in the line of duty so far this year?
- Education Week, a nonprofit that provides research and reporting on K-12 education
- The School Shooting Database Project, run by the FEMA-partnered Center for Homeland Defense and Security
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
- Officer Down Memorial Page, nonprofit dedicated to honoring America’s fallen law enforcement officers
- National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, nonprofit dedicated to memorializing law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty
Yes, as of May 25, more children have been killed in school shootings than police officers who were fatally shot in the line of duty.
WHAT WE FOUND
As of May 25, 24 children have been killed in 27 school shootings in 2022. Between 17 and 21 law enforcement officers have been killed by gunfire in the line of duty during that time. The data on law enforcement officers is preliminary and subject to later revision.
There are two sources for the data on children who have died in school shootings: Education Week, a nonprofit that provides research and reporting on K-12 education, and the School Shooting Database Project, conducted by the Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS), which works in partnership with FEMA.
Some organizations define “school shooting” in different ways. The School Shooting Database begins with a broad definition that’s inclusive of all gun incidents at or near a school, and gives the user options to narrow their search as they need. VERIFY narrowed the criteria in its search through the School Shooting Database Project to a shooting that occurred on school property during school hours in which someone other than the shooter was injured. Shootings in which the only shots were by a law enforcement officer or with a pellet gun were excluded.
Based on that definition, there have been 27 school shootings so far this year, according to Education Week and the School Shooting Database. Both data sources report shooters killed four students and one non-student teenager in school shootings prior to the Robb Elementary School shooting. So far, 19 have died in that shooting, bringing the total to 24 children killed in school shootings this year.
There are three sources for deaths of law enforcement officers who were killed while on the job: the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Officer Down Memorial Page and the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund. Both of the latter two sources are nonprofits that collect their data based on outside submissions that are researched and verified by organization staff.
FBI data found that in the first four months of 2022, 17 law enforcement officers were killed by gunfire in the line of duty. Of those 17 deaths, the FBI defined 16 as “felonious” — meaning the shots came from someone committing a crime or a civilian who accidentally fired a gun. The agency defined the 17th death as “accidental.” The FBI has not posted preliminary data for the month of May.
The Officer Down Memorial Page has recorded 21 on-duty law enforcement officers who died by gunfire this year as of May 25, with one of those deaths being accidental. It has recorded two gunfire deaths in May, neither of which were included in the FBI’s data.
As of May 25, the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Fund has recorded 20 firearms-related officer fatalities in 2022.
That puts on-duty law enforcement officer gunfire deaths between 17 and 21 so far this year. That’s less than the 24 children who died in school shootings this year.