- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The number of mass shootings in the U.S. has more than doubled since 2000, and the number of fatalities in each incident has risen, the FBI announced Wednesday.

The agency released a report compiling data from 160 “active shooter incidents” since 2000, including shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School and a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, that captured national headlines.

“How do we prevent this?” Assistant Director James F. Yacone asked at a press conference Wednesday. “Are there behavioral indicators that were seen in these 160 incidents. Are there themes?”

By creating a baseline study of such incidents, the FBI can learn what leads people to commit such acts and help get them “off the pathway to violence,” Mr. Yacone said.

The FBI said the number of shooting incidents has increased from 6.4 per year from 2000 to 2006 to 16.4 per year from 2007 to 2013. Since 2000, there have been 486 fatalities and 557 wounded. Officials only counted incidents involving a person who wanted to harm the general public, not incidents that involved drugs or gang violence.

The study also found that nearly half of all shootings take place at private businesses, with schools and universities accounting for one-quarter.

Due to the number of people in schools, they often account for the largest number of casualties. The single greatest loss of life occurred at Virginia Tech in 2007, when 32 people were killed.

Katherine W. Schweit, an FBI expert on active shooter incidents, said part of the purpose of the study was to help state and local police forces — some of them in small communities — prepare for what they might face in such situations.

“Law enforcement needs to be ready, and they need to be thinking before they arrive to make sure they’re ready,” Ms. Schweit said. “Actions by law enforcement and actions by citizens could change the outcome.”

Some police forces are starting to create kits to keep in patrol cars to make sure responding officers have everything they need, officials said. Such kits can include body armor vests and helmets, radio equipment, medical supplies and door rams.

The FBI did not gather data on how shooters were able to obtain the weapons they used, and did not report in much detail any trends in the firearms used. Ms. Schweit said the bureau is open to exploring those areas and gathering more data in the future.

Mr. Yacone, who has been involved in the FBI’s response to shootings, noted that the most common weapons have been pistols, adding that it wasn’t unusual for shooters to carry hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

FBI officials also did not look at whether some shootings may have been motivated by a desire to commit terrorism, but they said that in the coming year they will review data to discover more about shooters’ motives.

Mr. Yacone said that even if an attack is motivated by terrorism, it “doesn’t change the dynamic for law enforcement.” The goal remains the same: protect people’s lives and stop the shooter.

Andre Simons, leader of the FBI’s Behavioral Threat Assessment Center, said his unit will spend the next year doing a “deep dive” into the information gleaned in the study to find better ways to prevent shootings.

“Many active shooters have a real or perceived deeply personal grievance,” he said, adding that most have left messages along the lines of “I had no other choice.”

“It’s our job oftentimes to help them open doors and find alternatives to violence,” said Mr. Simons, whose unit often helps try to resolve situations in which local police have identified a person they fear may take violent action.

But Mr. Simons said law enforcement officials might not always get to see the results of their hard work.

“Success is difficult to quantify in this business, because it’s the absence of an event,” he said.

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