guns.2 We could, therefore, add the concept of “shootings” to the definition without loss of accuracy.
The committee summarized this definition as “lethal school violence including multiple victimizations.” This has the virtue of being short and easy to understand, and it focuses on a problem that is obviously of great public importance. It is also neutral and objective. The words have precise meaning. Furthermore, the definition itself does not suggest much about the causes of the events, and therefore it does not bias attempts to explain why the events occur. Moreover, the facts that one needs to assign particular incidents to this category of violence are relatively easy to ascertain for any given incident.
The concept of lethal school violence could include incidents in which only one person was killed or injured—a phenomenon that is much more common and may be somewhat differently motivated and executed than incidents in which many were killed or injured all at once. It could also exclude such incidents as the Rockdale County case (Conyers, Georgia) that Congress had identified in the legislation. That incident included multiple injuries but no fatalities. The committee didn’t think it made sense to exclude this incident, since it was certainly more probable than not that someone could have died in this kind of incident.
The committee therefore decided it would be a mistake to apply its operational definition—lethal school violence including multiple victimizations—too rigidly. It seemed clear that any incident in which a student walked into a school and started shooting apparently randomly was of potential interest. This moved us away from defining the violence in terms of its consequences (measured in terms of victimization) and focuses instead on the motivations and behavior of the offender. This operational definition of lethal school violence seemed best to reflect congressional intent in requesting the study.
The next step was to consider what sources to use to develop an understanding of the incidents. We already knew that we would have cases describing some of these incidents in rich, narrative detail—providing much of what we would rely on.
We also thought it was important to put the cases into a broader perspective. We sought to locate this particular kind of lethal school violence in both the country’s overall experience with violence and in our theoretical understanding of violence.
To do so, we needed to construct a new database to identify all the incidents of violence that met the criteria. This would indicate how large this form of violence was compared with other forms, when this form of violence appeared, and how fast it had been growing. It might even allow us to see whether this kind of violence seemed to move independently of