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We Need More Sociological Studies on Active Shooter Incidents

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By Allison G. S. Knox
Edge Contributor

In the past two decades, active shooter incidents have steadily increased in the United States. Incidents with large casualty counts such as those at Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and the Pulse Bar in Orlando remain some of the most disturbing and have fueled the gun control debate again and again and again.

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As recently as Thursday, April 15, “a gunman killed eight people and wounded several others before killing himself in a late-night shooting at a FedEx facility near the Indianapolis airport,” police told the Associated Press.

While gun control is certainly part of this particularly concerning topic, there are numerous aspects that are not only part of the active shooter incidents, but are also part of the potential solution. As with many other issues, it is important to understand how problems are created within society to find the solutions. Thus, when active shooter incidents are concerned, it is imperative that we learn more about their sociological nature to better understand how to solve this issue as a community.

FBI 2013 Study on Active Shooter Incidents

In 2013, the FBI and Texas State University compiled a study of active shooter incidents. The study revealed all sorts of interesting statistics, such as “160 incidents occurred between 2000 and 2013 in the United States.” Also, ”60% of the incidents occurred before police arrived.” In most incidents the shooters were males and “in at least 9 incidents, the shooter first shot and killed a family member in a residence before moving to a more public location to continue shooting.”

The study was not only comprehensive, but its intriguing statistics highlighted different research areas that social scientists should explore.

Research Questions

While the study revealed a number of important points and statistics, it did not ask the question “why?” which is often on the minds of people after an active shooter incident. So more research is certainly needed to understand what motivates active shooters and how to prevent these incidents from occurring.

In the emergency management discipline, there is a lot of discussion about community resilience and how to make communities more resilient. But without a comprehensive sociological examination in the wake of active shooter incidents, it’s really difficult to make communities active-shooter resilient.

Studies like that of the FBI certainly highlight the numerous statistics associated with active shooters. These statistics tell us something about the communities in which we live. But we need more comprehensive sociological research to fill in the gaps and give us more answers why these incidents are taking place and how we can prevent them.

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