Saturday April 20, 2013 marks the fourteenth anniversay of one of the most traumatising shootings in American history.
On that day teenage students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot and killed 13 people and injured 27 others at Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colorado.
The event sparked gun law debates that are still raging today. The Columbine shootings remain the deadliest in an American high school.
April 20, 1999
Harris and Klebold plant a bomb some distance away from the school in an attempt to divert attention away from the real attack.
They arrive at school at 11am and equip themselves with weapons in the car park. They then place two bombs in the cafeteria of the school and position themselves facing the exits, with the intention of shooting students who attempt to escape.
When the two devices fail to explode the two teenagers walk to the building and begin shooting at groups of people on the campus. An injured teacher takes refuge in the library where she manages to call the police.
At this point the first police officer arrives on the scene but runs out of ammunition before he is able to neutralise the two.
Harris and Klebold go to the cafeteria where they begin shooting indiscriminately at people. They then move on to the library where they order the students hiding under tables to get up. The mock and toy with people, shooting some and letting other escape. Within 7 minutes 10 students die in the library.
Survivors remember hearing “Maybe we should start knifing people. That might be more fun”.
An hour after the attack started, Harris and Klebold exchange gunfire with police outside. Soon after, they turn their guns on themselves and commit suicide, as outlined in their plans.
In the evening, as the bomb squad finished its work, a final device explodes in Klebold’s car, there were no further injuries.
- 18/05/1927 : Bath Consolidated School – A man carrying up to 10kg of dynamite targets a school in Michigan, killing 45 people and injuring 58. The man, a farmer, was protesting against a new tax.
- 17/01/1989 : Cleveland Elementary School – A man with a long criminal history kills 5 children and wounds 30 others at a nursery school in Stockton, California. His victims were mostly Asian.
- 24/03/1998 : Jonesboro – Two children aged 11 and 13 kill 4 students and a teacher in a school shooting, 11 others were injured. The police seize the children who were carrying new rifles and pistols.
- 21/05/1998 : Thurston, Springfield – A 16 year old student goes to school loaded with 5 guns. He kills 2 students and wounds 25.
- 21/03/2005 : Red Lake High School – A student returns to his former high school in Minnesota. He murders 9 people and wounds 12. Surrounded by police he then commits suicide in a class room.
- 2/10/2006 : Bart, Pennsylvania – A bus driver takes a class at an Amish school hostage, 5 girls aged 6-13 are killed before the man commits suicide.
- 16/04/2007 : Virginia Tech University – A South Korean student kills 32 people and injures 17 in two separate attacks. He commits suicide the following day. The tragedy remains the deadliest shooting in a US school or university.
- 14/02/2008 : Northern Illinois University – A former student shoots dead 5 and wounds 16, he later kills himself.
- 16/10/2008 : Detroit, Michigan – A high school student of 16 is killed and three more injured on the lawn of a primary school. The attacker has never been caught.
- 2/04/2012 : University of Oikos – A 43 year old Korean man kills 7 and wounds 3 others. He is caught by police and brought to court. He has since been declared mentally unfit to stand trial by medical professionals and is currently held at a secure facility.
- 14/12/2012 : Newton – After killing his mother, a 20 year old student enters Sandy Hook primary school where he kills 27 people, 20 of which are children. He commits suicide after the attack.
History of US school killings
Watch a video about the Newton tragedy.
Where is the gun debate now?
After each of these tragic shootings shock and emotion helped refuel the gun-control debate in the US. Backed by the families of victims and survivors, President Obama is strongly committed to curbing gun violence. The Senate is still to be convinced.
On Thursday, Obama’s plan to introduce new legislation that expands background checks on gun buyers was blocked 54-46 in the Senate, just 6 short of the 60 votes needed.
Obama called the vote “shameful” saying: “All that happened today was the preservation of the loophole that let’s dangerous criminals buy guns without a background check, it did not make our kids safer. So all in all this was a pretty shameful day for America.”
The powerful gun lobby group, the National Rifle Association, are celebrating a victory. They ran a large-scale advertising campaign against the new legislation that targeted states where senators were still on the fence. The campaign is thought to have cost more than $12 million.
According to some polls, up to 90% of Americans support the new checks.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid set aside the plan for now but said it was “only a matter of time before we bring this anti-gun violence measure back to the floor for a vote.”