60 Percent of “Active” Shootings in U.S. End Before Police Arrive

Friday, September 26, 2014
Police arrive following shooting at Aurora, Colorado movie theater (AP photo)

Law enforcement plays no role in stopping the majority of “active shootings” in America, a new federal report shows.


Active shootings are defined as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.” The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) says that 60% of the time, active shootings end before officers arrive on the scene. In 23% of the incidents studied, the shooter committed suicide before police responded and in 13% of the incidents, unarmed bystanders subdued the shooter. Return fire accounted for few of the resolutions; 3% ended with armed civilians returning fire and in 1% of the cases, armed off-duty law enforcement personnel killed the shooters.


These findings was one of many contained in a new FBI report (pdf) that showed active shootings have increased significantly in number in recent years. While the rate of these shootings from 2000 to 2006 was an average of 6.4 incidents per year, it jumped to 16.4 per year from 2007 to 2013.


Over the past 13 years, active shootings have killed 486 people. But the vast majority, 366 of them, has occurred in just the previous seven years. The FBI also reported that such shootings have occurred in 40 of the 50 states.


The worst in terms of fatalities took place at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007. Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and wounded 17 that day. Cho killed himself as police closed in on him. The shooting with the highest number of casualties overall occurred at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, where 12 were killed and 58 wounded on July 20, 2012. James Eagan Holmes was arrested and charged with the shooting and he is awaiting trial.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

A Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States Between 2000 and 2013 (Federal Bureau of Investigation) (pdf)

FBI Sees Spike in Mass Shootings (by Tim Hull, Courthouse News Service)

F.B.I. Confirms a Sharp Rise in Mass Shootings Since 2000 (by Michael Schmidt, New York Times)

As Mass Shootings Continue, Congress Remains Gun Shy about Enacting New Laws (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Mass Shooters Usually Younger Male Non-Veterans with Semiautomatic Handguns (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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