The number of “active shooter” situations recorded by the government remained steady in recent years until 2017 when it spiked. Experts told BuzzFeed News they hope it was just an anomaly.
But if it wasn’t, the experts know exactly who to blame for the uptick in “active shooter” incidents: sensationalized media coverage.
What are the details?
Between 2014 and 2016, the FBI recorded 20 active shooter incidents per year with 175 people murdered, a new FBI report shows. But that number spiked to 30 documented incidents in 2017 with nearly 140 people murdered.
The reason for the spike? Experts told BuzzFeed that excessive coverage of incidents in the mainstream media are encouraging copycat killers to act. They also said “inadequate” and “poorly enforced” laws are behind the spike.
“These shooters get great satisfaction in doing this, and the media attention they get afterwards puts them in a place of history,” Greg Shaffer, a 20-year FBI veteran and terrorism expert, told BuzzFeed.
“We are also trying to use normal rational thoughts to define an irrational act, which is why we focus on them so much. But we will never understand why people like the Las Vegas gunman do what they do,” he added.
Jaclyn Schildkraut, an assistant professor at the State University of New York who is an expert on mass incidents, told BuzzFeed that copycat killers will only become more frequent in the future due to recent sensationalized media coverage of the Parkland and Las Vegas mass killings.
“With the amount of coverage Parkland received, you probably will see an uptick. Copycatters are becoming a public safety issue,” she explained.
What can turn the tide?
So far in 2018, fewer mass incidents have been recorded than during the same period in 2017, highlighting experts’ view that 2017 may have just been an anomaly. But Schildkraut warned American culture at-large has become OK with applying “band-aids” where needed — and that is not OK.
“We are putting a lot of Band-Aids on issues that need tourniquets to make people feel better, but at the end of the day, this will continue to be our reality until we fix and enforce the laws we already have,” she explained.