In this post, I’ll be discussing what an active shooter incident is and then provide some of my solutions to countering the issue so that these horrific incidents can be minimized.
Let’s begin by defining exactly what an active shooter incident is. Depending on the definition that you use, the FBI defines these incidents as “one or more individuals that are actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area” where “the primary motive in these incidents appears to be mass murder; that is, the shooting is not a by-product of an attempt to commit another crime” [pg. 12 of Countering the Mass Shooter Threat] or, if you go with the Gun Violence Archive, where they define it as “incidents that involve four or more people – excluding the shooter – are shot or killed”. For simplicity reasons, we’ll be utilizing the FBI’s definition for this post.
According to Active Shooter Events from 2000 to 2013 by Dr. Pete Blair, Hunter Martaindale and Terry Nichols, over 160 active shooter events have occurred in the U.S. since Columbine. Of those events, 48 met the FBI’s definition where they resulted in 448 people killed (not including the shooter) and 369 being wounded.
Furthermore, as horrific as the Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and the other incidents were, the worst school massacre in U.S. history actually happened at Bath Consolidated School in Bath Twp, Michigan where 38 children and 5 adults (not including the perpetrator) were killed on May 18, 1927. While the perpetrator, Andrew Kehoe – who was a handyman and farmer that also served on the school board – had a firearm in his possession, he had used explosives to carry out his heinous act.
Common Target Locations
According to Dr. Blair’s report, the common target locations of active shootings include:
- Businesses (46%)
- Educational Institutions (24%)
- Government Properties (10%)
- Outdoors (9%)
- Residences (4%)
- Houses of Worship (4%)
- Healthcare Facilities (3%)
Some of these areas are broken down further in the report. Just know that, regardless of location, that it’s important to be aware of your surroundings (i.e. Condition Yellow) and to stay vigilant at all times.
With a variety of risk factors and indicators, Dr. Peter Langman simplifies it by stating that these shooters are “very disempowered, not succeeding in life in multiple domains, and we see that with college and adult shooters. They’re typically failing in academics, failing in the world of work, failing in the world of friendship, in romance or sexuality. Nothing is going right in any major domain for them.”
In other words, the top three key areas – these developments must occur over period of time – involve:
- Substance abuse
- Financial issues
95% of the shooters from Dr. Pete Blair’s report were male and the average age being 34.
How do we solve this problem? Is it…
- Reducing magazine capacity?
- Banning AR-15s or other firearms? Parts and components?
- Implementing gun-free zones, red flag laws and/or universal background checks? Mandatory waiting periods? Safe storage laws?
- Adding questionable individuals to the no fly and terror watch lists?
Short answer: none of these options work or will work to solve the problem! I also discuss the gun control debate in more detail in a previous post. One of the things that we must admit is that evil exists and there’s no piece of legislation that can fully eradicate it because we’re not God. Also, we must admit that mental health is an area that needs improvement. With that said, my solution to the active shooter threat involves, but isn’t limited to:
- Never mentioning the shooter’s or shooters name(s) in the media. If one of their motives is fame, by mentioning who they are and what they did will play into their goal when mentioned by the media and politicians, which can also lead to copycats.
- Taking classes with a professional, such as myself, to learn the signs and develop an emergency operations plan. Take any and all threats seriously!
- Incorporating the Department of Homeland Security’s Run, Hide or Fight method, which has been used to save countless lives. As my representative at the USCCA likes to say “When it’s time to fight, you fight like you’re the third monkey on the ramp to Noah’s Ark…and brother, it’s startin’ to rain.”
- Side note: When I spoke with crisis management professional and retired Navy SEAL, Clint Emerson via Zoom in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, in regard to active shooter incidents, he had stated to “trust your eyes, question your ears” (personally, I disagree with so-called “experts” that don’t subscribe to this logic). The reason being that when you see a crowd running in one direction because they think they’re moving away from the shooter, there’s a good chance that they’re actually running towards the shooter’s location instead. As someone who has shot firearms at indoor and outdoor ranges, as well as, previously worked in the music business, sounds travel differently when comparing outdoors vs. indoors; for example, when you’re indoors, you’ll have stairwells, walls, etc so it sounds louder than outdoors. With that said, just because a crowd is running in one direction, they may or may not be moving away from the shooter.
- Eliminating gun-free zones or allow those with valid CCW’s to carry in these locations, including teachers.
- For schools, instead of spending on trying to improve stadiums, use those funds to improve your security (ex: Southwestern High School in Indiana).
In this post, I provided some basic details about active shooters and my solution to the problem. If you’d like to take a class where I dive in the topic in more detail, you can register for any of our active shooter prevention classes here, purchase the Counter the Mass Shooter Threat textbook and/or contact us to schedule a personalized training session at your place of business or school.