After a man opened fire at Los Angeles’s airport a few months ago, friends and coworkers undoubtedly turned to each other shaking their heads: Could this really be happening again, so soon? Are these things getting more frequent, or am I imagining it?
You’re not imagining it, according to a new study obtained by Yahoo! News on Thursday. The report, which is set for release in a Federal Bureau of Investigations bulletin next week, finds that mass shootings have indeed become more common. They have spiked from five a year between 2000 and 2008 to 16 a year from 2009 to 2012.
The report also sheds some light on who is committing mass shootings, and how: 94 percent of gunmen are men, though they range significantly in age. Forty percent of mass shootings happen at businesses, while 29 percent take place at schools. Fifty-nine percent of the time, the gunmen use handguns, and 26 percent of the time rifles.
They claim, on average, two lives.
“Mass shootings” are defined by the authors of the report, who are from the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center at Texas State University, as incidents where a gunman opens fire in a public place with the motivation of killing many, at least one of whom is “unrelated” to the gunman. This means the data does not include gang violence or crimes where shooting is a byproduct.
This report is actually a follow-up to a study released in 2010, which found 84 active shooter events happened between 2000 and 2010 and predicted an increase. Adding in 2011, 2012, and as much of 2013 as possible, the number rose to 110. And one interesting statistic jumps out: The number of active shooters wearing body armor rose from 4 percent to 7 percent. Report author Terry Nichols warned, however, that while they are certain about the total number of shooting incidents, they are still working to figure out some of the details of each case as court documents become public.
As the FBI takes stock in its approach to dealing with mass shootings post-Newtown — something it has been instructed to do by Vice President Joe Biden — it is changing protocol for how to respond to the growing number of active shooter situations. Previously, police officers were instructed to wait for a SWAT team before apprehending active shooters. Now, the FBI is training police how to most effectively respond themselves.
The training they will be using comes from the institution that put out this report. ALERRT developed classes for law enforcement and first responders after the mass shooting at Columbine high school in 1999.