New data shows 70% decline of students carrying guns at California schools since 2001

A new study says despite the rise of school shootings in recent years, violence in California schools has actually dropped in the last two decades. Researchers at UCLA say reports of physical violence, threats and bringing weapons to school has decreased more than 50% since 2001.  

In the last year alone, there was a shooting on an Oakland school campus, a deadly stabbing at a Santa Rosa school, and reports of stabbings on campuses in San Francisco and San Jose. But new research says California schools have seen a dramatic drop of violence over an 18-year period.    

"Kids in 2019 had millions and millions less day-to-day violent victimization experiences than kids in 2001," said Ron Avi Astor, Professor of Social Welfare and Education at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.  

UCLA Professor Ron Avi Astor says he and a team of researchers spent over three years analyzing data collected from the California Healthy Kids survey given every year. The survey was given in 95% of California’s middle and high schools.  

"I myself, have not experienced this, but I do think it could be a very normal experience to have for any of us today, especially the younger generations," said Amina Gaba, a recent high school graduate. 

The behaviors students reported included fighting, kicking, hitting, bringing weapons to school, being threatened with a weapon and verbal abuse.  

"In terms of guns, with like weapons, we had a 70% reduction in 20 years. So in other words, kids are not bringing them," Astor said.  

Over six million students participated in the survey and even with the significant drop in victimization at school, Astor says the need for attention has contributed to deadly schools shootings that continue to happen.  

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"They want to be remembered when they die. They want the media to pick up on who they are, who they were, and they know, just like any terrorist activist would, that if you kill a lot of innocent people, like innocent kids, the media is going to pick up on it," Astor said.   

Young people we spoke to also say the rise of social media plays a role in how students may be victimized.  

"I do think a lot of that instead of it being physical violence, I do think that that still exists, however it’s more online, and in a cyberbullying way. If that makes sense," Gaba said.   

Astor says even with the rise in cyberbullying, California’s investment in resources to help improve campus climate and access to mental health services, have helped to bring down the level of violence.