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Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
Two recent issues of the COPS Office’s The Beat podcast focus on preparation for and response to mass shootings and active shooter incidents.
Mass shootings (events in which four or more people, excluding the perpetrator, are shot—whether they are injured or killed—in a single location)1 and active shooter incidents (events in which one or more individuals actively engage in use of firearms to kill or attempt to kill people in a populated area)2 have been increasing in both frequency and number of fatalities since the late 1990s. From 2000–2013 the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) identified at least 160 active shooter incidents—an average of a little more than 11 per year—with an increasing trend (6.4 incidents per year in 2000–2006; 16.4 per year in 2007–2013) finishing with 17 in 2013.3 In 2014–2015, the FBI counted 20 active shooter incidents each in 2014 and 2015,4 20 in 2016 and 30 in 20175 —a 50-percent year-on-year increase—and 27 in 2018.6
In fact there were likely many more such incidents in each year, as the FBI acknowledges a narrow focus in its research; for example, gang- and drug-related shootings were excluded from the FBI’s studies.7 The Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit group that tracks and studies mass shootings with the intention of being as inclusive as possible, reported 269 mass shootings in 2014, 335 in 2015, 382 in 2016, 346 in 2017, and 340 in 2018. Since the beginning of calendar year 2019, the Gun Violence Archive has logged 175 mass shootings, killing 184 people and injuring 673 more.8
The danger in a mass shooting or active shooter incident is not only to the unsuspecting public; these incidents also put a tremendous strain on law enforcement and other first responders, who react within minutes to contain or end the violence and save as many lives as possible. Although many active shooter incidents end (often with the perpetrator dying by suicide) before law enforcement arrives,9 in many others the first responders’ efforts to confront and contain (or neutralize) the shooter draw fire away from the initial victims. In 2018, of the 128 people wounded and 85 killed in the 27 incidents examined by the FBI, six of the wounded and two of the dead were law enforcement officers, and one unarmed security officer was also killed.10 In addition, although 15 of the 27 perpetrators of those active shooter incidents were killed (10 died by suicide while four were killed by law enforcement and one by another community member) and one remains at large, 11 of the 27 were apprehended by law enforcement.11 Among the 673 people wounded in the 175 mass shooting incidents catalogued by the Gun Violence Archive were 14 officers—along with 111 officers wounded and nine killed in non–mass shooting incidents with fewer (apart from suicides, suicide attempts, and accidents).12
Officers and first responders are at elevated personal risk during and immediately following incidents, and the level of effort required for the investigations is substantial and can be expensive. The preparation and training of first responders is essential to limiting the damage done by active shooters and saving lives.
These issues of The Beat feature interviews with John Montes, the National Fire Protection Agency’s Emergency Services specialist, and Kathryn Floyd, the Mass Violence and Terrorism visiting fellow at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime. These experts discuss the NFPA 3000, a Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response, which will provide guidance for law enforcement and other emergency response agencies to be prepared for active shooter incidents and other mass violence events to minimize and prevent casualties, gain control of the situation and end the threat, and help their first responders and communities manage and deal with the trauma afterward.
Sarah Estill and Melissa Fox
1. “General Methodology,” Gun Violence Archive, accessed June 19, 2019, https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/methodology.
2. J. Pete Blair and Katherine W. Schweit, A Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States between 2000 and 2013 (Washington, DC: Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2014), 5, https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/active-shooter-study-2000-2013-1.pdf/view.
4. Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2014 and 2015, 1 (Washington, DC: Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2016), https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/activeshooterincidentsus_2014-2015.pdf/view.
5. Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2016 and 2017, 1 (Washington, DC: Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2018), https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/active-shooter-incidents-us-2016-2017.pdf/view.
6. Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2018, 2 (Washington, DC: Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2019), https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/active-shooter-incidents-in-the-us-2018-041019.pdf/view.
8. “Mass Shootings in 2019,” Gun Violence Archive, accessed June 19, 2019, https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/reports/mass-shooting.
9. Blair and Schweit, A Study of Active Shooter Incidents, 8–9, 11 (see note 2); Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2014 and 2015, 2–4 (see note 4); Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2016 and 2017, 4–5 (see note 5); Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2018, 5–6 (see note 6).
12. “Officer Shot or Killed,” Gun Violence Archive, accessed June 19, 2019, https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/reports/officer-shot-killed.
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