If history predicts future events, we must work assiduously to prepare for active shooter incidents and strive to mitigate their effects. If we do not, many of our citizens are destined to fall victim to one of these horrendous incidents.
Active shooter incidents have become more prevalent over the past couple of decades, resulting in changing policies and procedures for law enforcement agencies as well as public and private sector entities. Events in late 2015, such as the attack at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo., and the most recent attack in San Bernardino, Calif., have forced law enforcement in the United States to determine whether their procedures for dealing with active shooting incidents are adequate and effective.
An active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area. In September 2014, the FBI released its report – A Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States Between 2000 and 2013 – which noted that 160 such incidents occurred during this time frame. This equates to 11.4 annually with a nearly 47 percent fatality rate. The study illustrated the drastic increase in these events and the need for preventive measures.
The motivations of active shooters are virtually limitless and can range from a disgruntled employee to an act of terrorism. The US Post Office massacre in Edmond, Okla., in 1986 was potentially precipitated by a poor performance evaluation. Individuals suffering from mental instability and illness have been responsible for attacks, such as the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings in Blacksburg, Va. The proliferation of radical Islamists, the sovereign citizen movement and other anti-government organizations create the potential for an extremely volatile situation.
Implied in the terms “active shooter,” firearms are the weapons of choice. But firearms are not the only weapons an active shooter might use in a given incident. Active shooters also frequently utilize an improvised explosive device (IED) – or multiple devices – to direct people to certain areas or to slow the response of first responders. Secondary IEDs may then be utilized to create additional fatalities once a significant first responder presence is at the scene. Law enforcement and other first responders, as well as individuals involved in the incident, must be conscious of these additional threats and be aware of their surroundings when they enter or fleethe scene.