The United States has seen record highs in the last couple of years regarding mass shootings. The gun violence archive has counted over 300 mass shootings this year, and that number keeps rising every day. There is no official definition of a mass shooting, but we can concur it is defined as firearm incidents involving four or more victims. Statistics show there were 417 mass shootings in 2019, 611 mass shootings in 2020, and 693 in 2021. These numbers show an obvious incline, making it impossible not to take precautions.
While implementing extra security measures like lockdown door systems, armed security guards, and training can mean the difference between life and death, the safest bet to eliminating an active shooter threat is before they become an active shooter. This includes knowing the signs of someone contemplating violence and being able to recognize the makings of a potential active shooter.
Observable Behaviors of Concern
The FBI conducted a study on the most common observable behaviors in active shooters. While some behaviors are common among everyone, it is the displaying of multiple behaviors at once in the daily lives of these individuals to be concerned with. The study concludes that at least 5 of these behaviors are common in all active shooters, and most, if not all active shooters experience mental stressors in their everyday lives. These mental stressors include depression, anxiety, paranoia, and other factors in their lives that may warrant their violence. Below are a few signs to look out for to recognize a potential active shooter.
An Obsession with Gun and Mass Shootings
Gun violence is a fixture in American society. Since embedded into the Constitution as the Second Amendment, guns have been prevalent in the United States. It is relatively easy to obtain one and even easier to know how to fire one. Consequently, Americans’ obsession with guns has led to a dangerous mindset instilled in us at a young age. Look out for individuals who are overly obsessed with gun violence and mass killings.
Easy Access to Firearms
While it’s one thing to be obsessed with guns, it’s another to be obsessed with owning them. Someone who brags about easy access to firearms or owns one already can become a potential threat. Again, the Second Amendment makes it legal to be a gun owner in the United States, but being openly passionate about guns and their associated violence is a red flag.
Being a Target of Long-Term Bullying
Studies show that being bullied, and also being the bully directly correlate to violence within both parties. 70% of students who have experienced bullying carry a weapon to school. That weapon could very much be a gun and could result in serious violence. When considering factors of a potential threat, bullying should be high on that list.
Extreme Isolation or Withdrawal
Early childhood trauma, like extreme bullying and home violence, is a common denominator among most active shooters. These early childhood traumas can build up to hopelessness, despair, and social isolation. When someone starts activating differently in this sense, take note, and make an effort to find out what caused their social withdrawal, as it can lead to dangerous effects.
Excessively Aggressive Response to Minor Issues
Someone who is experiencing inner turmoil may have an aggressive response to a seemingly minor issue on more than one occurrence. This marks a lack of self-regulation and can lead to serious harm. The inability to regulate strong emotions when faced with a difficult situation is detrimental to them, and others. An aggressive response can result in an aggressive reaction, so being able to spot someone with low self-regulation can be preventative.
Overt Threats of Violence
Studies show that more than half of active shooters communicate their violent nature to their victims or third parties before a mass shooting. This can involve verbal or written threats, as well as leakage of feelings, fantasies, or intentions of harm to a third party. Violent imagery and videos are also another sign of intense aggression and should be watched very closely.
Gun violence and mass shootings are a multi-faced problem, one that needs more solutions than we currently have. Staying prepared and understanding the signs of a potential active shooter can save your life, and theirs. More often than not, people wait until after the mass shooting to identify what could have been the cause of such inner turmoil. If anyone demonstrates a combination of these signs, be cautious and take action.