Student conducts research on school mass shootings

Kathryn Bartels
September 5, 2018

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — This summer, Kathryn Bartels, a senior criminal justice and history major at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville from Franklin, Wisconsin, conducted in-depth research and historical analysis on America’s school mass shootings and what impact laws can have on reducing gun-related deaths.

The objective of Bartels’ project, “Addressing America’s Mass Shooting Crisis: A Comparative Historical Analysis of Ten Other Nations’ Gun Laws with a Proposed U.S. Solution,” was to develop a preventative plan that provided legislative solutions to reduce mass shootings in America. Bartels focused her research on mass shootings that occurred in schools.

Bartels’ research was made possible thanks to UW-Platteville’s new Summer Undergraduate Scholars Program, whose goal is to provide students with an intensive summer scholarly experience that prepares them for graduate studies as well as helps enhance the culture of scholarship among students and faculty at UW-Platteville.

Bartels’ first step was to begin gathering data on all school mass shootings from 1970 to present day using the U.S. Congress’s definition of mass killing, which states “three or more people are killed in a single incident and in a public place” (Public Law 112-265). She then gathered data on the gun laws of 10 other countries, including Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Spain and Switzerland. Four of the countries – Australia, Germany, New Zealand and Switzerland – had changed their gun laws in response to a mass shooting.

Based on analysis of those countries’ laws, Bartels developed a preventative, three-part plan to be implemented on the federal level in the United States. The plan recommended more thorough background investigations, storage requirements for weapons, and requiring all private sales of firearms to undergo the same background investigation needed to purchase a gun from a store and/or dealer. Bartels is planning on sending her research results and three-part plan to federal legislators later this year when the plan is complete.

The coolest part of the project was actually finding out specifically what the problem was and having a clear idea of what I wanted to do to fix the issue,” said Bartels. “After that, it was relatively easy to look at the other nations’ laws to see what worked there and if it could be done in the United States.”

Bartels was mentored by Kyle Reimann, J.D., a lecturer of criminal justice at UW-Platteville and a criminal defense attorney in Lancaster, Wisconsin, who provided guidance, support and insight that helped her facilitate all aspects of the research study, including helping her find and interpret laws.

“Working with Kyle Reimann was great, as he really helped me narrow my focus and provided clarity on many laws and if they could realistically be used in the United States,” said Bartels.

Bartels, who is a gunowner, is hopeful that her research and three-part plan will be examined and hopefully implemented by legislators and others who are concerned about issues related to gun violence. “Ideally, the research would be taken into consideration by law makers when looking for a solution to the mass shooting crisis in America,” she said. “The end goal is less people being killed by firearms.”

Reimann said that he and Bartels had many thoughtful discussions about her research and where it was leading them in the project. “In a country where statutory law is king and firearms are everywhere, researching what impact laws can have on reducing gun-related deaths, specifically in a culture of mass shootings, is very important. The United States is not the only country dealing with this problem – the problem is just more prevalent here. Legislation might not be the solution to every gun-related problem; however, looking at what legislation other countries have passed in response, and whether those solutions might also work in the United States, is very crucial as we move forward.”

This experience exceeded all of my expectations. Not only did the Summer Undergraduate Scholars Program grow my knowledge and challenge me academically in my field of study, but it also resulted in friendships within the research community."

                                                                                                        –Kathryn Bartels

Reimann also said that Bartels’ drive and attention to detail enabled her to be very successful at research. “I believe that the detailed, grueling nature of finding the information that was needed for this project has given Kathryn new perspective on research,” he said. “We also found that some of the information she was collecting had not been compiled before, or at least published, by anyone else. A university is the place to engage in deeper thinking and to really tackle the difficult issues in both the academic and real world.  The research project that Kathryn is working on does just that.”

After she graduates from UW-Platteville in December 2018, Bartels hopes to pursue either a Juris Doctor degree in criminal law or a Ph.D. in history, with the hope of becoming a professor.

Bartels noted that the research experience helped prepare her for the future, whether she decides to pursue a career in law or history. “Regardless of the path I choose, I believe this experience benefited me greatly and what I learned will be incredibly useful in the future,” she said. “I spent a great deal of my time reading and compiling information, something that would be done in either law school or a Ph.D. program in history.”

Dr. Chris Underwood, assistant professor of geography at UW-Platteville and director of the Summer Undergraduate Scholars Program, agreed, adding, “Kathryn took a class with me back in spring 2016, so I knew the quality of work she is capable of producing. Her research is incredibly compelling, important and timely, and she contributed so much to the dynamic of our research community this summer.”

This experience exceeded all of my expectations,” added Bartels. “Not only did the Summer Undergraduate Scholars Program grow my knowledge and challenge me academically in my field of study, but it also resulted in friendships within the research community. I feel honored to have worked with Kyle Reimann, as he was a great mentor, and also with Dr. Chris Underwood for doing a stellar job of heading up the program this summer. This project challenged me in many ways, and the perseverance I demonstrated with this research will be instrumental in the future.” 

Bartels will present her research findings at a university seminar series this fall.

The Summer Undergraduate Scholars Program is made possible with funding support from UW-Platteville’s Student Research and Engagement fund (formerly PACCE), a UW-Platteville initiative and funding source for community-based scholarship of engagement and undergraduate research projects that involve students, faculty, staff and community partners, and Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.


Written by: Laurie A. Hamer, University Relations Specialist, College of Liberal Arts and Education, 608-342-6191,



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