The Active Shooter Crisis in America Essay

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The Active Shooter Crisis in America: Proactive Responses

The term “active shooter” has been in widespread use since the 1999 Columbine school massacre (Fox and Levin 8). Criminal justice agencies and the Department of Homeland Security differentiate active shooters from both mass shooters and domestic terrorists, although these all may share methods and tactics in common. An active shooter is defined as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area,” but with no apparent pattern or logic in their means of targeting victims (United States Department of Homeland Security 2). Active shooters are “active” because they will continue to kill as long as they have access to victims, which makes quick responses critical to saving lives and minimizing casualties. Although active shooter incidents do remain relatively rare, the prevalence of active shooters in America has risen considerably, with more attacks having occurred since 2004 than in the prior three decades (Capellan 406). The proliferation of active shooters in America has led to the conceptualization of the problem as a crisis or epidemic. While the media can often fuel public fears, exacerbating tensions unnecessarily, it is nevertheless important to acknowledge the reality that active shooters present a major threat to national security and to respond accordingly.

Myths abound regarding active shooters, so one of the most important elements of a proactive response strategy is to reduce misinformation.
First, not all active shooters are ideologically driven, but many are. Second, the majority of active shooters over the past several years have shared in common several demographic characteristics including being white males in their 30s, either single or divorced, unemployed, with a low level of education and a history of mental illness (Capellan 407). Yet beyond this, there are potent differentiations between ideologically-driven and non-ideological active shooters. Those motivated by ideology tend to engage in far more planning, and could theoretically be identified prior to carrying out an attack (Capellan 397).

Furthermore, it may be helpful for law enforcement to differentiate between different personality profiles and features to develop improved responses to active shooters. As Capellan points out, some active shooters do a lot more pre-planning than others, and those are the same type that tends to be ideologically motivated (407). Similarly, mass murderers and lone wolves also tend to share characteristics in common even though they may be perceived differently and portrayed differently in the media (Capellan 398). Whether or not a suspect has been ideologically motivated is less important overall than teaching civilians how to respond. Empowered with knowledge, law enforcement has the ability to create evidence-based action plans to guide public policy and practice. Issues like revenge, power, loyalty, terror,….....

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Works Cited

Capellan, Joel A. “Lone Wolf Terrorist or Deranged Shooter? A Study of Ideological Active Shooter Events in the United States, 1970–2014.” Studies in Conflict Terrorism, Vol. 38, No. 6, pp. 395-413.

Ford, Jessica L. & Frei, Seth S. “Training for the Unthinkable.” Communication Studies. Vol. 67, No. 4, Oct. 2016, pp. 438-454.

Fox, James Alan and DeLateur, Monica J. “ Mass Shootings in America: Moving Beyond Newtown.” Homicide Studies, Vol. 18, No. 1, pp. 125-145.

Fox, James Alan and Levin, Jack. “Mass Confusion Concerning Mass Murder.” The Criminologist, Vol. 40, No. 1, Jan-Feb 2015.

United States Department of Homeland Security. Active Shooter: How to Respond.

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