Institutions of Higher Education Rank High in the FBI's Study of Active Shooter Incidents

February 22, 2015

By: John Gaal

university-building5At the end of 2014, the FBI issued its Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States between 2000-2013 (“Study”).  This first of its kind study found 160 active shooter incidents in the United States during this time period. An active shooter incident, for purposes of the study, is defined as “one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.” There were 1,043 casualties (killed and wounded, but not counting the shooters) in these 160 incidents. The Study broke down the location of these events into 11 categories, including schools (pre-k through 12) and institutions of higher education. 24.4% of these incidents occurred in an educational setting, with 16.9% (27 incidents) occurring in a pre-k to 12th grade settling (the second highest of all 11 categories) and 7.5% (12 incidents) occurring at an institution of higher education (the fifth highest of the 11 categories). In the 12 incidents at higher education institutions:

  • 60 deaths resulted and 60 individuals were wounded;
  • ages of involved shooters ranged from 18 to 62, with the shooters consisting of 5 former students, 4 current students, 2 employees, and 1 patient visiting a medical center;
  • 2 of the shooters were female and 10 were male;
  • 5 of the 12 incidents occurred on a Friday, with 2 each on Thursdays and Mondays; and
  • 4 of the shooters committed suicide at the scene, while 2 were killed by police at the scene.

The institutions involved covered the gamut, including Appalachian School of Law, Case Western Reserve University, Virginia Tech, Louisiana Technical College, Northern Illinois University, Hampton University, University of Alabama, The Ohio State University, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Oikos University, New River Community College and Santa Monica College. Unfortunately, these statistics highlight the importance of institutions taking steps to address this threat, including:

  • developing and testing, as required by the Clery Act’s emergency notification provisions, an effective communication system so that students and staff can be alerted to an active situation;
  • developing and communicating protocols, in compliance with the Clery Act and in accordance with emergency management best practices, to be followed in the event of an incident, including protocols developed in conjunction with local law enforcement for a coordinated response;
  • training appropriate personnel on identification of risk factors and appropriate responses, and developing an appropriate threat assessment process to identify and evaluate persons of potential risk within the institutional community.