On April 20, 1999, two teenage boys fatally shot 13 people and injured 24 others at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. A Mother Jones investigation shows that the nation’s deadliest high school shooting has inspired at least 74 plots or attacks across 30 states. To gauge just how deep the problem goes, we examined scores of news reports and public documents and interviewed multiple law enforcement officials.

The data we have compiled reveals some disturbing patterns. In at least 14 cases, the Columbine copycats aimed to attack on the anniversary of the original massacre. Individuals in 13 cases indicated that their goal was to outdo the Columbine body count. In at least 10 cases, the suspects and attackers referred to the pair who struck in 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, as heroes, idols, martyrs, or God. And at least three plotters made pilgrimages to Columbine High School from other states.

As one longtime security specialist explains in our investigation into a growing national effort to stop mass shooters before they strike, “It’s a cult following unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.”

Mother Jones is not publishing our research on Columbine copycats beyond the numbers and analysis below. Though much of the case-level details we’ve collected are publicly available, we have chosen not to make them easily accessible in one place, where they might potentially be used by would-be copycats searching for inspiration or information. For more of our reporting on the copycat problem stemming from Columbine and other high-profile attacks, read the main investigation here.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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