“Active-shooting” incidents, such as deadly mass shootings, are on the rise in the United States. So public awareness of best practices is necessary, according to a new FBI study.
An “active shooter” is defined as one or more individuals with a gun actively trying to kill people in a populated area. The FBI is providing local law enforcement with advanced equipment and training for confronting these attackers.
Between 2000 and 2013, there were 160 active shooting incidents in the U.S.. During the first seven years of the study, an average of 6.4 incidents occurred each year. That average increased to 16.4 attacks in the last seven years.
“We know that the FBI, we’re not going to be the first responders.” said FBI Assistant Director James F. Yacone. “It’s going to be our state, local, college-campus and tribal partners that are going to be those first responders. And these incidents, the large majority of them are over in minutes.”
In fact, in 64 incidents in which the duration of the shooting was determined, 44 shootings (69 percent) were over in five minutes or less.
The report notes that “even when law enforcement was present or able to respond within minutes, civilians often had to make life and death decisions… ”
“We’re trying to push out lessons learned and best practices,” Yacone said. “Not just to law enforcement, who are going to be the first responders to this. But to the citizens, run, hide, fight, being a simple message that resonates with this.”
Although the research did not focus on the motivation of the shooters, the report determined that the shooter acted alone in all but two incidents. In school shootings, the attacker was usually a student or former student. In the 160 total shootings, only six female shooters were identified.
“Many [shooters] have real or perceived personal grievances, and believe that only catastrophic violence can provide them with relief,” said Andre Simons of the FBI’s Behavioral unit.
Researchers report that the 160 active-shooting incidents between 2000 and 2013 have killed 486 people and wounded 557. About 40 percent of the incidents also met the agency’s definition of a “mass killing,” in which three or more people are killed.
In most cases (56 percent) the shooting incident ends when the gunman fled the scene, or killed himself.
According to Simons, the real mission is to stop active-shooting incidents before they begin, and law enforcement needs the public’s help to do that. He said that public awareness of the issue is on the rise. In fact, the FBI has received three to four tips per week regarding potential shooters who have been identified as deeply troubled, and openly talking about violence.