One forty-six
people, mostly children and some adults, have died in 13 school shootings since
1989 when a shooter killed five people in Stockton, California. In the United
States, the lone gunman on a shooting spree killing people has turned mind
numbingly common. Schools have been the most popular targets. Crowded,
controlled environments with young, vulnerable children, have made schools among
the favourite haunts of mass murderers.

While no two mass school
shootings are the same, researchers, over time have discovered a pattern. In
four of the 13 school shootings, the shooters always killed a family member at
a residence. In Uvalde, the alleged shooter – Salvador Ramos – shot his
grandmother before setting out for Robb Elementary School.

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The research,
based on a database of mass killings since 1966, is led by James Densley,
professor of criminal justice at the Metropolitan State University and Jillian
Peterson, professor of criminal justice at Hemline University.

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Writing for The
Conversation, they say that quite literally, all gunmen were men. All mass
shootings, barring two, were carried out by a lone gunman. In the Columbine
High School massacre and the 1998 shooting at West Side School in Jonesboro,
two gunmen were involved.

Further, the
researchers found that most shooters have some sort of a connection to the
school they were shooting at. Twelve of the 14 school shooters in the database
prior to the Uvalde attack were either students or alumnus of the schools they
attacked. Salvador Ramos’ connection to Robb Elementary School is yet to be

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Another common pattern
across school shooters is that they leave some form of a message, a warning of
their intent. In doing so, researchers believe the shooters seek a certain
degree of notoriety inspired by previous school shooters. For some, it might
also be a desperate cry for help.  

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One of the
troubles in gathering enough material to understand school shooters is that
most gunmen don’t survive the shooting. Only seven out of the 15 school
shooters in the database were apprehended. The rest died on the scene, mostly
by suicide. Ramos, at Uvalde, was the only one to be gunned down.