Updated: Feb 28
Active shooter events in the United States (US) increased 33% in 2020 according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Total casualties, however, decreased 64% from 2019. Active shooter mass killings, experienced a 62% decrease. Apprehension of the attacker was the most common active shooter outcome. In contrast, active shooter death by suicide or shootout comprised a relatively small percentage of outcomes. In this article, we analyze and provide key findings from the 2020 Federal Bureau of Investigation active shooter report.
An “active shooter” is defined by the US government as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area” with the exclusion of events such as drug and gang related violence. For a more detailed explanation of "active shooter", and the full list of exclusions, please see, "What is an Active Shooter?".
What do we know about 2020 Active Shooter events from the FBI?
Law enforcement remains the primary means of apprehending the perpetrator. 23 of 40 Active shooters were apprehended by law enforcement.
No average duration for events was reported. In incidents from 2000 to 2013 where the duration could be determined, 69% ended within five minutes.
Approximately half of active shooter events, around 22 of 40, ended before Law Enforcement arrived at the scene. This is consistent with previous trends spanning 2000-2019. For this article, an event was considered ended if the perpetrator left the scene but was later apprehended by law enforcement at a different location. Law enforcement remains the primary means of apprehending the perpetrator.
Civilian confrontation ended two incidents. In both instances, armed civilians serving as paid security guards engaged and killed the attacker. This 5% civilian intervention rate, representing 2 of 40 events, is below, but generally consistent with the previous 2000-2019 trend of 16% events ending by civilian intervention. Two additional incidents were ended by military personnel. One of these incidents was ended by military security guards shooting the attacker. The second, was ended by an active-duty military member striking the attacker with his vehicle.
Law enforcement casualties decreased 13% during active shooter confrontations. In 2020, 38% of law enforcement confrontations, three of eight, resulted in a law enforcement casualties. These three confrontations resulted in one officer killed and six officers wounded. This is a 13% decrease from the 51% casualty rate, 47 out of 93, averaged from 2000-2019.
Commercial locations experienced the most incidents, 24 of 40. This is slightly higher, but still consistent with the trend from 2000-2019. Open spaces were the second most frequent location for active shooting events, with 10, replacing education facilities. Education facilities experienced no active shooter events in 2020 according to the FBI. This is almost certainly due in part to Covid-19 related school attendance restrictions.
Most active shooters were male, 35 male, 3 female, and 4 unspecified. This is consistent with 2000-2019 averages.
Shootings appear to be most often committed by individuals 25-34 years old. This age group comprised 16 of the 42 active shooters and was consistent with 2000-2019 trends.
Apprehension was the most common, 24 of 42, active shooter outcome, comprising 57% of events. Contrary to popular belief, death by suicide or shootout comprised a relatively small percentage of outcomes, 17% and 14% respectively.
What changed in 2020?
Active shooter events increased 33% from 30 in 2019 to 40 in 2020. However, the total number of casualties decreased 64% from 258 in 2019 to 164 in 2020. These casualties comprised 103 killed, 155 wounded in 2019, and 38 killed and 126 wounded in 2020.
Active shooter mass killings, the killing of three or more people excluding the shooter, decreased by 62% from 13 in 2019 to 5 in 2020. For more information on mass killings, please see, "What is a Mass Shooting?"
The higher number of active shooter events in 2020 means active shooter events in the United States increased at an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 27% a year from 2000 to 2020.
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