Of the 10 deadliest school shootings in the U.S., all but one took place in a town with fewer than 75,000 residents and the vast majority were in cities with fewer than 50,000 people. The pressures of living in small downs make it harder for disgruntled teens to adjust.
Mass school shootings are most likely to occur in small towns and suburbs, the Associated Press reports. The massacre that killed 10 people at a Texas high school last week was just the latest in a small or suburban city. Of the 10 deadliest school shootings in the U.S., all but one took place in a town with fewer than 75,000 residents and the vast majority were in cities with fewer than 50,000 people. These are places with low crime rates, good schools and a sense of community where everyone seems to know your name. It’s exactly those attributes that are why small rural and suburban towns are a breeding ground for school shooters. “Ironically it’s people in small towns and suburbia who think it can’t happen here. And that is exactly the type of place where it does happen,” said Peter Langman, a psychologist who maintains a database of school gun violence. “People tend to think of violence associated with cities, not violence associated with small-town America, but this type of violence is the one associated with small-town America.”
Factors include easy access to guns and the copycat effect of disturbed suburban and small-town teenagers emulating each other. There also are pressures of living in small towns that make it harder for disgruntled teenagers to adjust. “In small-town America, it’s said everybody knows everybody, and that’s well and good except when you don’t want everybody to know what’s going on with you,” said criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University. “If things are going downhill for you, you did something wrong or someone did something wrong to you and some girl dumps you, everybody knows. So it’s much harder to get away from it. Whereas in the big city, where no one knows your name, that can be a good thing … Being in a small town has its advantages in terms of a network and a sense of community but sometimes that can be a double-edged sword.”