FBI Identifies 160 Mass Shooting Incidents Since 2000

Mass shootings are becoming more common and often end in a matter of minutes, the FBI said in a study today.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation identified 160 mass shootings that killed 486 people and injured 557 between 2000 and 2013. The study found that the average number of such incidents increased from 6.4 a year between 2000 and 2006 to 16.4 from 2006 through 2013.

The shootings “are cropping up around the country at an alarming rate,” James F. Yacone, an FBI agent in charge of the bureau’s critical incident response group, said at a news conference today in Washington.

The FBI used the term “active shooter incidents” to describe mass shootings, which it didn't define by the number killed but by the situation: assailants “actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.” Gang or drug violence was excluded.

The bureau conducted its study with J. Pete Blair, an associate professor of criminal justice at Texas State University in San Marcos.

FBI officials said they hope that the data will provide context for local authorities as they grapple with the problem.

The most mass shootings occurred in 2010, when 26 were tallied, according to the study. It excluded instances of gang-or drug-related violence or domestic disputes that didn’t involve bystanders.

The deadliest year was 2012, when 90 people were killed and 118 were wounded in such incidents as the slaying of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and 12 at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.

Responding Quickly

Yacone and other FBI officials said the shootings don’t last long and that officers must respond quickly. Sixty-nine percent of 64 active shooting events in which a timeline could be ascertained were over within 5 minutes.

Of those, 23 were over in 2 minutes or less. In at least 107 of 160 shootings, the violence ended before police arrived. The shootings are also dangerous for officers -- nine officers were killed and 28 wounded.

“Law enforcement needs to be ready and thinking before they arrive,” said FBI agent Katherine Schweit, who worked on the study.

The locations of shootings varied: 46 percent occurred in areas of commerce, such as at malls or businesses, and 24 percent took place at schools and colleges.

The motives for such shootings are complex, though FBI officials said they noticed some similarities among the assailants.

Many “have a real, or perceived, deeply held personal grievance and the only remedy they can perceive for that grievance is an act of catastrophic violence against a person or institution,” said agent Andre Simmons, a supervisor in the FBI’s behavioral unit.

Simmons said such incidents may be on the rise because shooters are finding inspiration in past killings, such as those that occurred in 1999 at Columbine High School in Colorado or the one at Virginia Tech in 2006.

“The copycat phenomenon is real,” Simmons said.

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