Kids were caught bringing guns to schools at least 269 times during the 2015-16 academic year, including eight times in Pennsylvania (see map below), according to an analysis of media reports by The Trace, an online news outlet focused on gun issues in America.

The most recent occurrence in the state was May 25 in Philadelphia when a second grader found his father’s loaded Glock in his backpack. The father, a security guard with a license to carry, said he accidentally put it in the bag when readying his son for school and forgot to remove it. There were no charges filed against him.

Other incidents in Pennsylvania include:

  • Bellefonte: On March 18, an 18-year-old was arrested after bringing an AR-15 assault rifle to school with 60 rounds of ammunition. He allegedly told an adult volunteer that he had “enough ammunition to shoot up the school.”
  • Leechburg: On April 28, a 13-year-old was arrested after waving a stolen and loaded semi-automatic handgun at a fellow student.
  • Allentown: A fourth grader brought an inoperable gun to school.

The Trace’s analysis only includes guns found by school officials and points to a 2011 study that showed 5.4 percent of school kids across the country had admitted they had brought a gun to school at least once during the previous month. A 2014 study found that children who had been bullied at school were nearly twice as likely to bring a weapon to school.

From The Trace:

Most of the students who toted guns into school this year brought them from home. A survey published by Pew last year found that a third of Americans with children under 18 at home keep a gun on the premises.

Most of the time when a firearm is found in a school, no one gets hurt. When a gun is fired on school grounds, it is usually an accident — the result of a child playing with the weapon, or showing it off.

The federal government does not require safe storage of firearms and only 14 states (not including Pennsylvania) have gun laws that can hold adults criminally liable if they don’t secure their guns.

Pennsylvania law says you can’t intentionally give a gun to a minor but there is no law in place to criminally charge an adult whose child accidentally gets ahold of their gun.

Social media and the ubiquity of cell phone cameras has helped de-escalate some situations in schools. The Trace found that within the last year, at least six students have been arrested after videos and photos of themselves holding guns on school grounds popped up online.

Reach Natasha Khan at 412-515-0063 or nkhan@publicsource.org. Follow her on Twitter @khantasha.

Incidents of kids getting caught with guns at PA schools in the 2015-16 school year

This fact-based local reporting drives impact and creates change. Help power that impact.

James Baldwin wrote, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” PublicSource exists to help the Pittsburgh region face its realities and create opportunities for change. When we shine a light on inequity in our region, like the “completely unacceptable” conditions in low-income housing in McKeesport, things change. When we ask questions about policymakers’ decisions, like how Allegheny County is handling COVID-19 safety for its employees, things change. When we push for transparency on issues that affect the public, like in the use of facial recognition software by Pittsburgh police, things change.

It takes a lot of time, skill and resources to produce journalism like this. Our stories are always made available for free so that they can benefit the most people, regardless of ability to pay. But as an independent, nonprofit newsroom, we count on donations from our readers to support this crucial work. Can you make a contribution of any amount (or better yet, set up a recurring monthly gift) to help ensure we can continue to report on what matters and tell stories for a better Pittsburgh?

Natasha is PublicSource's creative director. She runs the organizations visuals team, edits and produces interactive graphics, data visualizations and web packages for PublicSource. She manages the website...