In the wake of two devastating attacks in less than two weeks, a new government report provides sobering context on the frequency of such incidents.
The FBI released the 2021 version of its annual report on active shooter incidents on Monday. The report found 61 active shooting incidents in 2021, up from 30 in 2019. It also found America has been experiencing a dramatic increase in attacks over the last several years.
“For the period 2017-2021, active shooter incident data reveals an upward trend,” the report reads. “The number of active shooter incidents identified in 2021 represents a 52.5% increase from 2020, and a 96.8% increase from 2017.”
The report provides data and insight into one of the most horrific phenomena plaguing American society. It comes just over a week after an active shooter killed ten people at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York in a racially-motivated attack. It also arrived just one day before a gunman took the lives of 19 students and two adults at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
In the report, the FBI defines an active shooter incident as “one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.” That is a different standard than the one commonly used for mass shootings, which are incidents where four or more people are killed. The report also excluded specific gun-related incidents if the FBI determined they were the result of self-defense, gang and drug violence, domestic disputes, hostage situations, or crossfire as a byproduct of other ongoing criminal acts.
The FBI found that the overwhelming majority of shooters are male, with only one of the 61 shooters identified in 2021 being female. The shooters ranged in age from 12 to 67, with a plurality being between 25 to 34. Two were identified as wearing body armor during their attacks.
The 61 separate incidents occurred in 30 different states. California experienced the highest occurrence with six incidents, followed by Georgia and Texas with five each. The most common targets for active shooters were commerce-related. Businesses, such as shopping malls, experienced 32 active shooting incidents in 2021. The next most common location was open spaces (19 incidents), including public roads, parks, and beaches.
In terms of outcomes for perpetrators, the report found that 30 shooters were taken into custody by law enforcement, 14 were killed by responding officers, and 11 died by suicide. The report found that armed private citizens shot and killed four different active shooters.
The FBI identified new tactics embraced by certain shooters not encountered in previous years.
“For 2021, the FBI observed an emerging trend involving roving active shooters,” the report reads. “Specifically shooters who shoot in multiple locations, either in one day, or in various locations over several days.”
The report identified 27 of the 61 incidents as falling under the category of roving shooters.