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FBI Study Finds 'Active Shooter' Incidents To Be On The Rise


A shooter opening fire on a group of people - the FBI calls that an active shooter incident and today the agency says such cases are on the rise. The FBI's new study shows that between 2000 and 2013, there were 160 active shooter incidents. NPR's Brian Naylor joins us now with more details.

And Brian, tell us how this phrase is defined specifically by the FBI.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Right. The federal law enforcement officials say that an active shooting is one where someone is actively engaged and killing or trying to kill people in a confined or populated area. So it could be a factory, or a shopping mall or a school. And for this study, they didn't look at gang or drug-related shootings, but the kinds of shootings that all too frequently occur. Think of the Navy Yard shooting here in Washington a year ago, or shootings at the Aurora movie theater in Colorado or Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

The FBI says in the first 7 years of its study, it found an average of 6.4 of these shootings a year. But in the last seven years there's been a big jump, up to 16.4 shootings a year, or a little more one a month. And in these shootings, not including the shooters, 486 people were killed and 557 people were wounded.

BLOCK: Why did the FBI conduct this study in the first place? What are they hoping to do with this data?

NAYLOR: Well, the FBI says they want to establish a baseline; that they've never had all this information in one place and they want to know how to best respond to these shootings and of course they want to figure out how to prevent them. So for instance, they found that in those they were able to measure, most ended in minutes - five minutes or less, many in two minutes or less. That's obviously before police are able to respond. So one thing the FBI hopes is to impress upon people, or companies, schools that they need to be prepared for such incidents.

Here's Katherine Schweit, who is with the FBI's Active Shooter Initiative.

KATHERINE SCHWEIT: 21 of the 160 incidents - so that's 13.1 percent - unarmed citizens selflessly stepped in the way to prevent the shooter and the shooting from continuing. And I think that's an amazing thing to think about and how people are taking responsibility - and they need to be prepared for that.

NAYLOR: And these are dangerous situations for law enforcement when they do arrive at the scene. In about half of the cases, they were wounded by the shooter and nine officers were killed.

BLOCK: Brian, what does this report tell us about the shooters themselves and where these incidents occur?

NAYLOR: That they're most often but not always males. They're most often acting alone. About 40 percent commit suicide. Most are using handguns, but sometimes they do use rifles. And the FBI didn't determine whether the weapons were obtained legally or illegally, but an FBI behavioral analyst who spoke today said that shooters tend to have real or perceived grievances and that the shooters - they think the only way they're able to find relief for these grievances is through violence. And some of these are also copycat incidents, where a shooter has been found to have researched previous shootings before acting.

BLOCK: So now the FBI's compiled this information - what happens to it now?

NAYLOR: Well, they're hoping to figure out ways to prevent these shootings using behavioral science to identify people who might be on the edge of a violent act, what are the warning signs and training - again, whether it's businesses or schools to recognize these signs. And also to train law enforcement on how best to respond to them to make sure police have additional body armor, or medical kits or rifles in their cars to deal with these incidents.

BLOCK: OK Brian, thank you.

NAYLOR: Thank you.

BLOCK: That's NPR's Brian Naylor. We were talking about a new FBI study. It shows the number of so-called active shooter incidents in the U.S. has more than doubled in recent years. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.
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