More Americans Killed in School Shootings Than Military Service This Year

In the wake of yesterday's killing of eight in a Texas high school, WaPo's Philip Bump provides a chilling statistic.

In the wake of yesterday’s killing of ten students in a Texas high school, WaPo’s Philip Bump provides a chilling statistic: “2018 has been deadlier for schoolchildren than service members.”

The school shooting near Houston on Friday bolstered a stunning statistic: More people have been killed at schools this year than have been killed while serving in the military.

Initial estimates put the number killed at Santa Fe High School at eight. (The death toll has since risen to 10.) We can compare that to figures for the military compiled from Defense Department news releases, including both combat and noncombat deaths. Even excluding non-students who died in school shootings (for example, teachers) the total still exceeds military casualties.

It turned out that Bump’s methodology for counting military deaths was flawed:

After this story was originally published, Jared Keller, a senior editor at the site Task & Purpose, noted that the Department of Defense releases offered an incomplete picture of service member fatalities. Separate data compiled by the Navy, including the Marines, adds another seven casualties to the total, excluding motor vehicle accidents. In May, an Air National Guard plane crashed in Georgia killing another nine — an incident not included in the Department of Defense’s reports.

Including those figures (and adjusting the revised figure in Texas), the comparison graph looks like this.


Bump provides the obvious caveat:

The figures for 2018 do not suggest schools are more dangerous than combat zones. After all, there are more than 50 million students in public elementary and high schools and only about 1.3 million members of the armed forces. So far in 2018, a member of the military has been about 40 times as likely to be killed as someone is to die in a school shooting, including Keller’s revised figures.

The 2018 data is skewed because of how deadly the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting was. And, of course, the number of military deaths is down because we’ve steadily wound down our footprint in Afghanistan. But the fact that an activity that should be incredibly safe is comparable to one so inherently dangerous is nonetheless tragic.

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Guns and Gun Control, , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Why do I find this not at all surprising?

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    And do you remember when people were saying our schools were like warzones? Sigh… Those were innocent times.

  3. Hal_10000 says:

    This is the kind of panic-mongering I despise. Despite the two mass shootings this year, schools are still the safest place children can be. For perspective, approximately 700 children have died in car accidents this year so far. Schools are not even remotely comparable to war zones and people who pretend they are are just enabling more “resources officers” to brutalize kids, more kids to be sent to prison for routine chicanery, more traumatizing cosplay “live shooter drills” and more militarized schools in general. You can make the point that this is a problem with engaging in absurd hyperbole.

  4. TM01 says:


  5. Stormy Dragon says:

    The problem with this analysis is that there’s more than 50.7 million school children in the US vs 1.3 million soldiers.

  6. James Joyner says:

    @Hal_10000: It’s simultaneously true that schools are, in the grand scheme of things, safe and that we’ve had an absurd number of school shootings since Columbine.

    @Stormy Dragon: As noted in the OP.

  7. teve tory says:

    Homicides by weapon type

    I was a little surprised, but after thinking about it I shouldn’t have been.

  8. gVOR08 says:

    Completely off topic, but perhaps of interest to the OTB community, Kevin Drum notes that the Atlantic Council, with which Dr. Joyner is associated, is

    partnering with Facebook to expand our #ElectionWatch program to identify, expose, and explain disinformation during elections around the world.

    Or, as the Breibart headline put it, FACEBOOK PARTNERS WITH GLOBALIST ATLANTIC COUNCIL TO INTERFERE IN ELECTIONS AROUND THE WORLD. If Breitbart is pissed, the Atlantic Council must be doing good work.