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Indicator 13: Students Carrying Weapons on School Property and Anywhere and Students’ Access to Firearms
(Last Updated: April 2019)

In 2017, about 16 percent of students in grades 9–12 reported that they had carried a weapon anywhere at least 1 day during the previous 30 days and 4 percent reported carrying a weapon on school property at least 1 day during the previous 30 days. The percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported carrying a weapon on school property during the previous 30 days decreased from 6 percent in 2001 to 4 percent in 2017. However, there was no measurable difference between 2001 and 2017 in the percentage of students who reported carrying a weapon anywhere during the previous 30 days.

This indicator uses data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) to examine the percentages of students in grades 9–12 who reported carrying a weapon on school property and anywhere during the previous 30 days, then uses data from the EDFacts data collection to examine by state the numbers of students reported by schools to have possessed firearms at school during the school year. It concludes with a discussion of data from the School Crime Supplement (SCS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey on students ages 12–18 who reported having access to loaded firearms at school or away from school during the school year without adult permission. Readers should take note of the differing data sources and terminology.

In the YRBS, students in grades 9–12 were asked if they had carried a weapon such as a gun, knife, or club61 anywhere during the previous 30 days and if they had carried such a weapon on school property during the same time period.62 In this indicator, the percentage of students carrying a weapon “anywhere”63 is included as a point of comparison with the percentage of students carrying a weapon on school property.

In 2017, about 16 percent of students in grades 9–12 reported that they had carried a weapon anywhere at least 1 day during the previous 30 days: 7 percent reported carrying a weapon anywhere on 6 or more days, 5 percent reported carrying a weapon on 2 to 5 days, and 3 percent reported carrying a weapon on 1 day (tables 13.1 and 13.2). In the same year, 4 percent of students reported carrying a weapon on school property at least 1 day during the previous 30 days. This percentage included 2 percent of students who reported carrying a weapon on 6 or more days, 1 percent of students who reported carrying a weapon on 2 to 5 days, and 1 percent of students who reported carrying a weapon on 1 day during the previous 30 days.

The percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported carrying a weapon on school property during the previous 30 days decreased from 6 percent in 2001 to 4 percent in 2017 (figure 13.1 and table 13.1). However, there was no measurable difference between 2001 and 2017 in the percentage of students who reported carrying a weapon anywhere during the previous 30 days. There were also no measurable differences between 2015 and 2017 in the percentages of students who reported carrying a weapon anywhere and on school property during the previous 30 days.


Figure 13.1. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported carrying a weapon at least 1 day during the previous 30 days, by location and sex: Selected years, 2001 through 2017

Figure 13.1. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported carrying a weapon at least 1 day during the previous 30 days, by location and sex: Selected years, 2001 through 2017

NOTE: Respondents were asked about carrying “a weapon such as a gun, knife, or club.” The term “anywhere” is not used in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) questionnaire; students were simply asked how many days they carried a weapon during the past 30 days. In the question asking students about carrying a weapon at school, “on school property” was not defined for survey respondents.
SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Adolescent and School Health, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), 2001 through 2017.


In every survey year from 2001 to 2017, a higher percentage of male students than of female students in grades 9–12 reported that they had carried a weapon, both anywhere and on school property, during the previous 30 days. In 2017, for example, 24 percent of male students reported carrying a weapon anywhere, compared with 7 percent of female students. Similarly, 6 percent of male students in 2017 reported carrying a weapon on school property, compared with 2 percent of female students.

In 2017, the percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported carrying a weapon anywhere during the previous 30 days was higher for students of all other racial/ethnic groups than for Asian students. Specifically, 21 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native students, 18 percent each of Pacific Islander and White students, 16 percent of students of Two or more races, 13 percent of Hispanic students, and 11 percent of Black students reported carrying a weapon anywhere during the previous 30 days, compared with 6 percent of Asian students (figure 13.2 and table 13.1). Additionally, a higher percentage of White students than of Hispanic students and Black students, and a higher percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native students than of Black students, reported carrying a weapon anywhere. In 2017, there were no measurable differences by race/ethnicity in the percentage of students who reported carrying a weapon on school property during the previous 30 days.


Figure 13.2. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported carrying a weapon at least 1 day during the previous 30 days, by location and race/ethnicity: 2017

Figure 13.2. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported carrying a weapon at least 1 day during the previous 30 days, by location and race/ethnicity: 2017

! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.
NOTE: Respondents were asked about carrying “a weapon such as a gun, knife, or club.” Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. The term “anywhere” is not used in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) questionnaire; students were simply asked how many days they carried a weapon during the past 30 days. In the question asking students about carrying a weapon at school, “on school property” was not defined for survey respondents.
SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Adolescent and School Health, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), 2017.


Since 2015, the YRBS has included a question to identify students’ sexual orientation by asking students in grades 9–12 which of the following best described them—“heterosexual (straight),” “gay or lesbian,” “bisexual,” or “not sure.”64 In 2017, there were no measurable differences by sexual orientation in the percentages of students who reported carrying a weapon anywhere and on school property during the previous 30 days.

There were no measurable differences by grade in the percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported carrying a weapon anywhere during the previous 30 days in 2017 (ranging from 15 to 17 percent in each grade). However, the percentage of students who reported carrying a weapon on school property during the previous 30 days was higher for 11th-graders (5 percent) than for 10th-graders (3 percent) and 9th-graders (2 percent), and this percentage was higher for 12th-graders (4 percent) than for 9th-graders. While the percentage of students who reported carrying a weapon on school property on 1 day was higher for 9th-, 10th-, and 11th-graders than for 12th-graders (1 percent each vs. less than 1 percent), the percentage who reported carrying a weapon on school property on 6 or more days was higher for 11th- and 12th-graders than for 9th- and 10th-graders (3 percent each vs. 1 percent each).

In 2017, data on percentages of public school students in grades 9–12 who reported carrying a weapon anywhere were available for 26 states and the District of Columbia (table 13.3).65 Among these jurisdictions, the percentages of students who reported carrying a weapon anywhere ranged from 11 percent in Massachusetts to 30 percent in Idaho. There were also 35 states that had 2017 data available on the percentages of students reporting that they carried a weapon on school property during the previous 30 days; the percentages ranged from 2 percent in Pennsylvania to 10 percent in Idaho and Alaska.

As part of the EDFacts data collection, state education agencies report the number of public school students from kindergarten to 12th grade who brought firearms to or possessed firearms at school. State education agencies compile these data based on student counts that were reported by their schools and school districts. During the 2016–17 school year, 3,300 students were reported to have brought firearms to or possessed firearms at schools in the United States (table 13.4).66 The number of students varies widely across jurisdictions, due in large part to their differing populations. Therefore, the rate per 100,000 students can provide a more comparable indication of the frequency of students involved in these activities across jurisdictions. During the 2016–17 school year, the overall rate of students who brought firearms to or possessed firearms at school was 6 per 100,000 students in the United States.

In 2016–17, data on the rates of students who brought firearms to or possessed firearms at school during the school year were available for 49 states and the District of Columbia. The majority of jurisdictions (42 states and the District of Columbia) had rates between 1 and 20 per 100,000 students. Two states, New Jersey and Missouri, had rates per 100,000 students below 1, while five states had rates above 20: New Mexico, Louisiana, Wyoming, Arkansas, and West Virginia.

Information about students’ access to firearms can provide context for student reports of carrying a weapon anywhere and on school property. In the SCS survey, students ages 12–18 were asked if they could have obtained a loaded gun without adult permission, either at school or away from school, during the current school year. In 2017, about 3 percent of students ages 12–18 reported having access to a loaded gun without adult permission, either at school or away from school, during the school year (figure 13.3 and table 13.5). This percentage represents a decrease from 7 percent in 2007 (the first year of data collection for this item). Between 2015 and 2017, there was no measurable difference in the percentage of students who reported having such access to a loaded gun.


Figure 13.3. Percentage of students ages 12–18 who reported having access to a loaded gun, without adult permission, at school or away from school during the school year, by sex: Selected years, 2007 through 2017

Figure 13.3. Percentage of students ages 12–18 who reported having access to a loaded gun, without adult permission, at school or away from school during the school year, by sex: Selected years, 2007 through 2017

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, School Crime Supplement (SCS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey, 2007 through 2017.


In every survey year from 2007 to 2017 (except in 2013 when there was no measurable difference between male and female students), a higher percentage of male students than of female students ages 12– 18 reported having access to a loaded gun without adult permission, either at school or away from school during the school year. In 2017, about 4 percent of male students reported having access to a loaded gun without adult permission, compared with 3 percent of female students. The percentages of male and female students who reported having such access to a loaded gun both decreased between 2007 and 2017 (from 8 to 4 percent for males and from 5 to 3 percent for females), but there were no measurable differences between the percentages in 2015 and 2017.

In 2017, higher percentages of students in 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade than of those in 7th grade reported having access to a loaded gun without adult permission, either at school or away from school during the school year. About 6 percent of 12th-graders, 5 percent of 11th-graders, 4 percent of 10th- graders, and 3 percent of 9th-graders reported having access to a loaded gun without adult permission, compared with 1 percent of 7th-graders. In addition, the percentage of students who reported having access to a loaded gun without adult permission was higher for 11th- and 12th-graders than for 8th-graders (2 percent), and this percentage was higher for 12th-graders than for 9th-graders.


This indicator has been updated to include 2017 data on student-reported information and 201617 data on the number of students involved in activities related to weapons possession (instead of data on the number of discipline incidents related to weapons possession as reported in prior editions). For more information: Tables 13.1, 13.2, 13.3, 13.4, and 13.5, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2018), (https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/2017/ss6708.pdf), and https://nces.ed.gov/programs/crime/.


61 The question asked about these weapon types combined. Separate data on each type of weapon were not collected. The question did not specify whether guns carried only for hunting or for a sport should be included.
62 The term “anywhere” is not used in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) questionnaire; students were simply asked how many days they carried a weapon during the past 30 days. In the question asking students about carrying a weapon at school, “on school property” was not defined for survey respondents.
63 “Anywhere” includes on school property.
64 In this indicator, students who identified as “gay or lesbian” or “bisexual” are discussed together as the “gay, lesbian, or bisexual” group. Although there are likely to be differences among students who identify with each of these orientations, small sample sizes preclude analysis for each of these groups separately. Students were not asked whether they identified as transgender on the YRBS.
65 U.S. total data are representative of all public and private school students in grades 9–12 in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. U.S. total data were collected through a separate national survey rather than being aggregated from state-level data.
66 U.S. total includes 50 states and the District of Columbia.