FBI Analysis Finds That Only 4% of Active Shooter Incidents Since 2002 Were Perpetrated by Women

A segment from KETV News in Omaha, Nebraska discusses active shooter training exercises held at a local elementary school. Similar training exercises have been held around the country following recent mass shootings.

Public Intelligence

An FBI analysis of active shooter incidents since 2002 found that 96% of the attacks were perpetrated by males, most of which acted alone. The statistic is found in a joint intelligence bulletin released at the end of December by the Department of Homeland Security and FBI titled “Recent Active Shooter Incidents Highlight Need for Continued Vigilance“.  The bulletin provides brief advice on crisis response and long-term protective measures as well as statistics related to past active shooter incidents, which are defined as situations where one or more individuals participates in a “random or systematic killing spree demonstrating their intent to harm others with a firearm.”  Active shooters are distinguished from other “traditional criminal acts, such as robbery or hostage-taking” by their intention to commit “mass murder”. The FBI analyzed 154 active shooter events in the United States between 2002 and 2012 that included three or more individuals being shot.  This analysis found that:

  • 96% of the shooters were males
  • 51% of the shooters were deceased following the attack (43% committed suicide and 8% were shot and killed by responders)
  • 96% of the attacks involved shooters acting alone
  • 37% of the attacks occurred in workplaces and 17% occurred in an academic setting
  • 40% of the attacks were unable to be linked to a clear motivation
  • 21% of the attacks were motivated by workplace retaliation and 14% were motivated by domestic disputes
  • Academic retaliation by a current or former student only accounted for 7% of the attacks

The FBI’s analysis found that active shooters were often described as “social isolates” who “harbored feelings of hate and anger” and had some contact with mental health professionals.  Though mental illness is a common factor among many active shooters, its functional role in causing the massacre is indeterminate according to FBI analysis.  Very few of the shooters in cases analyzed by the FBI had previous arrests for violent crimes, though many had encountered a significant emotional hardship prior to the attack such as “loss of significant relationships, changes in financial status, loss of a job, changes in living arrangements, major adverse changes to life circumstances, and/or feelings of humiliation or rejection on the part of the shooter.”

To help protect against active shooter situations, the DHS-FBI joint bulletin recommends that public facilities update their emergency and crisis management plans and conduct exercises to ensure a rapid response to a large-scale crisis.  Long-term security plans for public facilities should “emphasize physical safeguards, including building enhancements that present a more robust deterrent and provide a more survivable environment.”  Building enhancement can take the form of physical modification, such as the installation of “window and external door protection with quick-release capability”, as well as the establishment of “safe areas within the facility for assembly and refuge during crises.”

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