On April 20, 1999 the actions of two high school students in Colorado opened a dialogue across the nation on the safety of our communities. The massacre at Columbine High School created an eerie backdrop to the new millennium, at the time being the deadliest school shooting in US history with 13 casualties and 21 injured. For weeks, blame was cast at Marilyn Manson, the video game industry, and the parents while law enforcement came under fire for certain actions they took. We cannot know what drove the students to such lengths—we can only use what we learned to be more prepared in the future.
In response to Columbine and other shootings, the Secret Service and Department of Education created the Safe Schools Initiative which aimed “to identify information that could be obtainable, or ‘knowable,’ prior to an attack.” To do this researchers studied 37 targeted shooting incidents across the country to determine if assailants had notable similarities or predictable signs. The study found that while there is no specific profile for shooters, shootings were planned, usually known about by others in some capacity, and were preceded in most cases by behavior that caused concern.