Please note that this is an opinion piece by Lord Gøn.
Over the years the FBI has released a number of studies researching so-called "active shooter incidents." This review, should it ever be finished, is supposed to explore their research method, their source data, and the conclusions drawn from them, to test their validity, and to compare them with the results of an analysis of the information available here on the amok wiki.
Following the killing of twenty children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012 a public outrage over the seemingly endless string of rampage shootings swept across the United States, and even though it was not the worst, and certainly not the first of such incidents the death of so many young children at the hands of a single individual expectedly stirred up stronger emotions among the general populace than all the other cases preceding it.
In the wake of this heated discussion, which frequently lost the track of objectivity, degenerated into a primitive word brawl, and more than once jumped the rails of common sense and good taste, followed a wave of scientific studies and publications dealing with the topic of rampage killings, mass shootings, and active shooter incidents in an attempt to dissect and understand a rare, but nontheless quite complex issue of human behaviour.
The FBI, as an agency put on the frontline of fighting criminal activities, obviously could not stand impassively at the wayside when a problem arose that was tangent to its field of responsibility, and consequentially they released three studies in the time from 2013 to 2014 that tried to shed some light on a supposedly growing menace that threatened the very fabric of American society, namely:
- Blair, J. Pete & Martaindale, M. Hunter: United States Active Shooter Events from 2000 to 2010: Training and Equipment Implications; Texas State University, 2013.
- Blair, J. Pete, Martaindale, M. Hunter & Nichols, Terry: Active Shooter Events from 2000 to 2012; in FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin; (01/2014).
- Blair, J. Pete & Schweit, Katherine W.: A Study of Active Shooter Incidents, 2000 - 2013; Texas State University and Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington D.C. 2014.
As you can see all three of these publications were co-authored by J. Pete Blair, an associate professor of criminal justice at Texas State University and director of research for the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center (ALERRT), an institution created in 2002 to train law enforcement personnel in how to respond to active shooter incidents, and it is quite obvious that each of these studies is merely an updated version of the previous one. For precisions sake it should probably be noted that the first of the three studies was not published by the FBI, but the Texas State University and ALERRT, but we should't be too picky in this regard, especially since the FBI has started a partnership with ALERRT in 2013, and made it their standard for active shooter response training.
After the release of the last of the three studies the American media seized the opportunity and widely reported, mostly unchallenged, its conclusion that active shooter incidents in the United States are on the increase, thus catering to a pervasive feeling that things are getting worse in this regard. But as it is, feelings are deceptive and often do not coincide with reality, especially when it comes to occurrences that leave only a fleeting impression on those not affected directly, such as mass murder, or crime in general. Despite all the headlines some of these cases make, most of them never become more than a short note in the newspaper and are forgotten by the common reader the following day, especially if the murderer has committed suicide and there will be no trial to revive the memories of his deed every now and then.
Hence a cluster of mass shootings can incite a feeling among the uninformed that matters are getting out of hand, that this type of crime was unheard of in the past, even though it was just as common then as it is now, and it may very well be that the people thirty years ago have with equal fervor brought forth the same argument in similar situations, as man is prone to fall victim to the same fallacies again and again – and the "good old times"-claim surely is one of them.
This situation is aggravated even more by the fact that even twenty years ago mass murders were not granted as much room in the media as they are today, where seemingly every minor public shooting is ruminated over and over again in the major news channels. Therefore, the probability that a person would have heard of a mass murder in the 70s, 80s, or 90s was a lot smaller than today, where large swaths of the population are exposed to a 24 hour news broadcast from every corner of the country thanks to the internet. A study of old newspapers however uncovers that multiple murders were far from unheard of in the past, that the occassional madman randomly shooting at people is not a new phenomenon, and that certain types of mass murder, such as familicide, may have even been more common a hundred years ago, than they are today.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I do have my qualms with these studies and I intend to demonstrate where I think they misrepresent the actual situation, but also where they make valid points.
Scope of the studies
- Blair, J. Pete & Schweit, Katherine W.: A Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States between 2000 and 2013; Texas State University and Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington D.C. 2014.
- Blair, J. Pete, et al.: Active Shooter Events from 2000 to 2012, FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin (January 2014)
- Active Shooter/Mass Casualty Incidents
- A new round of shootings in the US
- Lott, John R.: The FBI’s Misinterpretation of the Change in Mass Public Shooting, ACJS Today (March 2015)
- Blair, J. Pete & Martaindale, M. Hunter: Misrepresenting the FBI Active Shooter Report: A Response to Lott, ACJS Today (May 2015)