Fact to Action: Active Shooters

The Active Shooter has become America's boogieman, and for good reason. That said, it can be tough to sift through the fiction to get to the facts.

December 30, 2019


The last few years have seen the meteoric rise of the active shooter; the Active Shooter has become America's boogieman, and for good reason. That said, it can be tough to sift through the fiction to get to the facts.
Recently, the FBI published it's "Active Shooter Incidence" report for 2016-17, and there are some seriously noteworthy facts that any student of conflict should know. First, here's the FBI's results. Read it and draw your own conclusions. Regardless of what you take from it, we'll work forward from there:

U.S. Department of Justice, FBI: Active Shooter Incidences in the United States in 2016 and 2017

Initial Thoughts

If we detach ourselves from the political rhetoric and check out what the DOJ has to say about active shooters, they actually provide us a great deal of context.

  • Between 2016-17, 221 people were murdered by active shooters. That's a 0.000067% chance, or;
  • Of the shooters who were stopped by force, 11 were stopped by police  (58%), and 8 were stopped by armed citizens (42%).
  • While 221 people were killed, 722 people were injured. That means for every one person killed, 3 were injured.
  • 13 of the 50 assessed shooters committed suicide.

While the entire report is both short and well worth your time, we want to focus on these 4 issues because we believe there are some lessons here that you can actually act on. With that in mind, let's break them down.

  1. The Odds: If you speak to someone about active shootings, you'd get the impression that they were happening every day. The truth is, they're still extremely rare, and your odds of being impacted by one is very low. We've discussed this in the past when discussing the hooplah surround gun politics in the U.S., but let's say it again here: You should be spending time worrying more about your heart health, and watching your driving habits.
  2. 42% of the active shooters were engaged and stopped by citizens. That's a staggeringly high number, and it tells us a few things, and validates some very important things. First, in 6 incidences, armed citizens engaged the shooter. This tells us that armed citizens do play a role in stopping active shooters. Continuing that thinking, if you're a citizen who carries a firearm, you owe it to yourself to get trained as well as possible. Don't take it for granted that having a gun makes you proficient. Second, 4 of these incidences were stopped by unarmed citizens. That's worth thinking about. Finally, it validates that no matter if you're armed or unarmed, your mindset can be the difference between living and dying. Don't weapons fixate; you can still win, even if you're unarmed.
  3. 3:1 Injured to killed: This is a pretty obvious lead-in, guys. Get medical training. It's absolutely essential that you are able to stop bleeding, and resuscitate injured victims. You could literally be the difference between someone living and dying. The training to do so is cheap, available, and approachable.
  4. 26% of the shooters killed themselves. This tells us a couple distinct things: First, they're committed to dying. Do not underestimate this. Can you reason with someone who's completely committed to killing as many people as possible, and who's ready to die himself? Second, suicides often occurred on the tail end of weapons malfunctions, or being engaged by resistance. If you can press the active shooter into believing "it's over", there's opt to kill themselves.

Turning Fact into Action

Given the information produced by the FBI, we can make a plan of development that will help us deal with the threat of active shooters. At this point, you might be asking "If they're so rare, why should we?"

Well, there are actually some good reasons.

Recall "Understanding Emergencies"; we don't worry about the specific emergency, we worry about how it impacts us. Specifically, how does it compromise our access to critical resources? Active shooters are a Type I Emergency: A direct, high-intensity, short duration attack on your life.

The skills we need to build to stop active shooters and the violence they create are essentially the same as for any other Type I.

From the beginning:

  1. Awareness; both of the people around you, the area you're in, and the physical layout of places you find yourself in.
  2. Good physical fitness. No matter if you're inclined to run, hide, or fight, being fit is going to be an asset.
  3. Some hand to hand, edged weapons, and/or pistol training. This doesn't mean get your concealed carry license and call it good, or take a few weeks of Karate. Get some real time under your belt being pressure tested. You won't suddenly get good if you're faced with a lethal threat. It takes mental, physical, tactical, and technical preparedness.
  4. Get some medical skills. Start with 1st Aid/CPR, and work your way to Bleeding Control.

This is just another list without you. Here's how it becomes actionable: Take this list and find out where you can build these skills, how much time it will take, and how much money it will cost. Think of it like taking a trip.

A final note on that, no matter where you're at now, there's some way you can tune your skills up... even if it's just hitting the range and doing some maintenance. There are training tourniquets,Kettlebells, ammunition, and articles to help you. We're just an email away if you'd like recommendations on instructors, private instruction, or advice.


The FBI said the following, and since I can't make this point any stronger, here it is:

"Armed and unarmed citizens engaged the shooter in 10 incidents. They safely and successfully ended the shootings in eight of those incidents. Their selfless actions likely saved many more lives."

All we can add is this: if you count yourself among those who'd fight for the preservation of innocent lives, you have our admiration and respect, no matter what you do for a profession. Together, we can bump that 80% higher. All it takes is skill, dedication, mindset and the will to act.



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