The country suffered through more than 60 active shooter incidents last year, and in 18 of those attacks, the shooter was killed by a good guy with a gun — four of them by average citizens, according to the FBI.
This week’s horrific mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, has raised new questions about the role of police and citizens in engaging with active gunmen. Residents said police took too long to storm the school and shoot the madman.
Javier Cazares, whose fourth-grade daughter was killed in the attack, said he raised the idea of parents charging the classroom where the shooter was barricaded when police hesitated to breach the building.
“Let’s just rush in because the cops aren’t doing anything like they are supposed to,” he told The Associated Press. “More could have been done.”
The issues Mr. Cazares raised are increasingly important as the U.S. grapples with what FBI statistics suggest is a growing number of active shooter incidents, going to the heart of the gun control debate: Is the answer fewer guns overall, or is it which hands are holding the guns?
“Every time I see a story like this, it makes me want to go out and own a gun, and more and more American people are realizing that every day. It’s a dangerous world out there, and evil is all over, and people want to stand up against it,” said Alan M. Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation.
SEE ALSO: Texas shooter walked into school unimpeded, was in classroom over an hour before cops took him down
He said the FBI’s data was striking, even just for the acknowledgment by the federal government about the role armed citizens can play in stopping active shooters.
“The fact that it was highlighted, it shows it is becoming significant,” Mr. Gottlieb said.
The FBI defines active shootings as when at least one person with a firearm is attempting to kill people in a public place, such as the shootings this week in Uvalde and earlier this month in Buffalo, New York, where authorities say a racist lunatic blasted away at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood.
According to the FBI, there were 61 active shooter incidents in 2021, with 103 people killed and 140 wounded. Twelve of those met the definition of “mass shooting.”
In the 61 shootings, 30 perpetrators were apprehended by law enforcement, 11 shooters killed themselves, one died in a vehicle crash, one is still at large, and 18 were killed by someone else — including four citizens.
One involved a man who began shooting up a gun store in Louisiana, drawing fire from multiple store employees. In Arkansas, a man grabbed his bolt-action rifle and dispatched a gunman who had raked 93 rounds through an apartment complex, saving “a number of lives,” police said.
SEE ALSO: Texas state senator demands answers for parents of Uvalde victims
A fired employee who went on a shooting spree at his workplace was killed by an armed employee in Nebraska.
In Colorado, a civilian ran from a store to engage and kill a shooter last June. But police, mistaking the civilian for the shooter, fatally shot him, too, underscoring one danger of civilians engaging active shooters.
In Texas, the shooter this week was brought down by a tactical unit from the U.S. Border Patrol, which has a heavy presence in Uvalde, a few dozen miles from the U.S.-Mexico boundary.
The Border Patrol unit made the move an hour after the young man entered the school — an hour when desperate parents implored police to rush in and stop the gunman.
Mr. Gottlieb, at the Second Amendment Foundation, said it’s tough to second-guess law enforcement decisions. Still, he said it was “unnerving” how long police seemed to wait before engaging the gunman in the classroom.
“It obviously appeared to me that it took a long time to get to the shooter. I can understand why parents are unhappy about that,” he told The Washington Times.
The Times reached out to several gun control groups, but none commented.
Publicly, however, they have said the answer to shootings like Uvalde is to enact more restrictions on gun sales.
Authorities say the shooter legally bought two firearms, including the AR-15-style rifle he brought into the school, last week, just after he turned 18.
He shot his grandmother, with whom he lived, and then made his way to the school unimpeded, authorities said Thursday.
The school does not have a secure vestibule or buzz-in system to admit visitors but does have a fence around the perimeter to limit access. The shooter jumped that fence.
Teachers are supposed to keep classroom doors locked at all times, but The Associated Press talked to a person whose nephew was in a classroom at the time of the shooting and who said the teacher didn’t have time to lock the door.
Police were on the scene within minutes but didn’t advance on the school for an hour. Authorities said officers were negotiating with the gunman, who was also firing at them. Several officers were hit by gunfire.
The 19 students and two adults killed in the attack put the incident near the top of the all-time worst school massacres, behind the 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. It was worse than the 2018 massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
That shooting prompted a debate over arming teachers. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton backed that idea this week.
As of 2020, more than half the states allowed schools to arm teachers or staff in at least some cases, according to researchers at Rand Corp.
The researchers said there aren’t enough qualified studies to draw conclusions on arming teachers or staff as a response to active shooters.
The National Education Association flatly rejected the idea Thursday.
“We need fewer guns in schools, not more,” said NEA President Becky Pringle.
She said gun-toting staff would make schools themselves “more dangerous” and wouldn’t do anything to protect students when they are not in school.
According to the FBI’s report, two of the 61 active shooter incidents last year were at schools. Both shooters were students.
The 61 total active shooter incidents the FBI recorded marked a significant jump from 40 in 2020 and just 30 a year in 2018 and 2019.
Analysts said 243 people were killed or wounded in the 2021 attacks, up from 164 a year earlier, but roughly the same as the tallies from 2018 and 2019. The worst year in the FBI report was 2017, with 734 casualties — most of them coming from the horrific Las Vegas shooting, when a man fired down at thousands of people gathered for a music festival.
California led the states last year with six of the 61 incidents, followed by Georgia and Texas with five each, and Colorado and Florida with four apiece.
Twelve of the incidents qualified as “mass killings,” meaning they had at least three deaths, the FBI said.