Digging Into the FBI Report on Active Shooters

A surprising number of times, citizens stop the killer, and an increasing percentage of those citizens are armed.

he United States has a growing problem with actual or attempted spree killers. And second, armed and alert citizens can be part of the solution.
"Two things are increasingly clear," writes David French of the National Review. "First, the United States has a growing problem with actual or attempted spree killers. And second, armed and alert citizens can be part of the solution."photo from fbi.gov

If you haven’t read the FBI’s recently released report entitled “Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2016 and 2017,” and you care about gun rights, you should do so](https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/active-shooter-incidents-us-2016-2017.pdf/view).

This opening line from a story on nationalreview.com sums it up well:

“After reading the FBI’s latest report on active-shooter incidents in the United States, two things are increasingly clear. First, the United States has a growing problem with actual or attempted spree killers. And second, armed and alert citizens can be part of the solution.”

First let’s get this out of the way: The FBI defends an “active shooter” as “one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.”

While gun violence overall is down since the 1990s, active shooter incidents are on the rise.

Between 200 and 2013, there were an average of 11.4 incidents each year. There was just one in 2000 and a high of 26 in 2010. There were 50 incidents in the past two years alone, 20 in 2016 and 30 in 2017, resulting 221 deaths.

While gun ownership has been steadily on the rise in the past 20 years, it doesn’t seem to correlate to the number of these types of incidents in any given year.

For a potential sociological reason for the increase in these types of spree killings, check out our post last week on the writings of Malcolm Gladwell, who likens the trend to a slow-motion version of the riot effect.

“Let’s not kid ourselves that if we passed the strictest gun control in the world that we would end this particular kind of behavior,” Gladwell wrote in 2015.

But here’s the most interesting part of the FBI report’s findings: the most common ways these shooting end are with the shooter killing themselves or fleeing, or the police exchanging gunfire with the shooter or apprehending them—but a surprising number of times, citizens stop the attack, and an increasing percentage of those citizens are armed.

From 2000 to 2013, only five active shooter incidents were stopped by an armed citizen (not a police officer) who exchanged fire with the shooter. In three of those incidents, the shooter was killed, one committed suicide, and in the other, the shooter was wounded and apprehended.

In the time period between 2016 and 2017, just two years, six armed citizens confronted active shooters. They stopped four of the shootings. In one case, the shooter fled to another location, and in the other, the armed citizens was wounded before he could stop the shooter.

Additionally, there certainly is nothing in the FBI report that indicated the increasing number of people with concealed carry permits all across the nation are making things worse.

In fact, the data seems to indicate that more armed citizens are making a difference, even as the frequency of these types of attacks increase.