The violence last year helped break two grim records when it comes to active shooters: the most incidents and the most people killed in any one year since at least 2000, the first year the FBI has data on the subject.
The 17-year high was revealed in a new report released by the bureau that delves into active shootings throughout 2016 and 2017, the gunmen and the carnage that’s left behind. In 2017, there were 30 active shooting incidents throughout the nation. A total of 138 were killed in the shootings, the first time a death toll has risen above 90 for a single year.
“Am I surprised by the increase? No,” said former FBI Agent James Gagliano. He added the rise could be blamed on a number of things, including video games, accessibility to guns, copycats, the news cycle and the Web.
“Part of it is these individuals who see one gunman on the news and the think, ‘Wow, if they did this, I can do it, too,'” he said. “It’s a vicious circle and for the most part after these incidents, nothing changes. We all retreat to our corners and bicker.”
An active shooter is defined by the FBI as someone actively killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area. This data is not just mass shootings, which is the killing of three or more people. The data also doesn’t include drug and gang-related shootings that appeared targeted.
Last year had a dramatically higher death toll primarily due to attacks at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas and the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
Fifty-eight were killed and hundreds more were hurt in Las Vegas. Twenty-six were killed and another 20 were hurt in Texas.
Over the years, the statistics have shifted in both the number of attacks and the death tolls. In 2016, there were 20 active shooters that left 83 people dead. The highest death toll recorded before last year was in 2012 when 90 people were killed.
The 183 deaths and 30 active shooters, while the highest recorded by the FBI, may just be an outlier, said Ron Hosko, a former assistant FBI director.
He said active shooters are relatively rare, so since the numbers are small, they tend to fluctuate.
“I think—and hope—this is just a statistical anomaly,” Hosko said. “The more time that goes by, the more we’ll be able to tell if this is a rise or just simply the numbers fluctuating.”
He added, while it’s always good to examine these events and try to figure out ways to reduce them, “there’s a risk of making too much out of spikes and valleys” when it comes to data.
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Among the findings from the two-year report:
– There were 30 active shootings last year and 20 in 2016. The only year that came close to topping 2017 for active gunmen was 2010, which had 26 incidents.
– There were 138 people killed and 593 wounded in 2017 during active shootings, topping all years since 2000. The number of killed has fluctuated greatly each year.
– All 50 shooters in 2016 and 2017 were men, all of whom worked alone. In the FBI’s previous report, which examined 2014 and 2015, there were 42 shooters, three of whom were women.
– The attacks in 2016 and 2017 were stopped in a variety of ways. Thirteen of the gunmen committed suicide, 11 were killed by police, eight were stopped by citizens and 18 were taken into custody by officers.
– Throughout the attacks in 2016 and 2017, 21 states reported an active shooter situation. Six happened in Texas. Five happened in both California and Florida.
– Shooters don’t discriminate on the locations of their attacks: One happened in a mall, seven in schools, three in government buildings, two in churches and more than a dozen happened in a variety of open spaces, businesses, workplaces, several incidents even happened while a gunman was driving a car.