WASHINGTON, D.C. - Our newsfeed is filled again today with details of another deadly shooting. This time, at a high school near Portland, Oregon.
This follows a spate of deadly shootings in the past few weeks – two on or near college campuses and one at a courthouse. DecodeDC thought now would be a good time to check back in with the researchers the FBI trusts to track the nation’s active shooting incidents.
The FBI defines an active shooter as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.” These kinds of incidents have been on the rise in recent years.
Active shootings are tracked by a still relatively new specialized team at the FBI, which sprang up after the school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. On the one-year anniversary of that attack, Scripps landed an exclusive interview with the special agent who heads that team. At the time, the FBI said that by the end of 2013 active shooting incidents had already tripled compared to previous years.
So how is 2014 shaping up? Unfortunately, not so well, according to the most up-to-date stats kept by academic researchers at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas – that’s where the FBI looks to stay on top of the trends.
Their numbers show an average of 5 incidents per year from 2000 to 2008. But by 2011 the incidents had more than doubled, with eleven active shooters trying to murder others that year. In 2012, the number of active shooting events went up again to fifteen. 2013 had sixteen incidents. In 2014, Dr. Pete Blair from Texas State has already logged 9 of these gruesome incidents in the tally, and we’re not even half way into June.
That puts the nation on pace to top last year’s already sizable count and end up with 20 active shooting events by the end of this calendar year.
CLICK ON A RED PIN FOR DETAILS OF A 2014 ACTIVE SHOOTING INCIDENT
In tracking active shooter incidents, the FBI counts any incident where someone shows up on scene with the full intent to kill as many people as possible, even if they don’t succeed in wounding anyone.
In the FBI’s view, studying what works and what doesn’t in responding to someone who very much wants to kill is important because it helps them develop new methods to try and save lives in future incidents.
Now, there is a fairly active debate in criminology circles about these sorts of statistics. Some very respected researchers prefer to study something called “mass shootings,” which differ from “active shootings” because three or more people actually have to get shot for the incident to be counted.
Sadly, our June check-in on the numbers appears to show that both the FBI and the nation’s researchers will once again have plenty to choose from when looking for shooters to study by year’s end.
Scripps has compiled the most comprehensive list ever put together of active shootings events, as defined by the FBI, and we’ve just updated the only interactive and searchable tool around which lets you look for trends yourself closer to where you live. To get a look at our interactive, click here.