MASS SHOOTINGS IN AMERICA: The Common Denominators

First Tuesday | TAL Global Monthly Newsletter

Each month, our newsletter provides information to help you, your staff, and your facility stay safe.

By coincidence, and within days of two mass shootings in California that left 18 people dead, the U.S. Secret Service released its first-ever report on mass shootings in the United States.

To identify similarities between these mass shootings, the Secret Service analyzed 173 incidents from 2016-2020.

Here are some of their key findings:

Location.  The most common sites for these mass shootings were businesses, including restaurants and retail facilities.

Weapons Used. Seventy-three percent involved using one or more firearms. The guns were acquired illegally in a quarter of all incidents.

Individuals. Most of the mass shootings, 96 percent, were committed by males. Of these, 57 percent were white, and 34 percent were black.

Criminal History. Most of the mass shooters, 64 percent, had a prior criminal history. More than 40 percent had a history of domestic violence, but only 16 percent faced domestic violence charges.

Social Media. Most mass shooters had an online presence; however, which platforms were most often used was not mentioned. Further, 25 percent had conveyed “concerning communications” on these social media platforms.

Concerning Communications. Looking deeper, some of the communications the mass shooters posted were threats, thoughts about suicide, or discussions of previous mass shootings. Some included violent content in their postings, along with their hatred of certain ethnic groups.

Traumas. Nearly all mass shooters experienced one significant stressor or trauma in their lives within the past five years. These included family and romantic issues, unresolved childhood trauma, physical or sexual abuse, or financial stressors such as bankruptcy, eviction, foreclosure, or loss of income.

Homelessness. 40 percent of the attackers said they experienced unstable housing situations within the past 20 years, including homelessness.

Mass Shootings and Mental Health Issues

This deserves a special discussion.

The Secret Service found that nearly 60 percent of the attackers experienced mental health problems before their attack. These included suicidal thoughts, depression, paranoia, and delusions. However, the report made clear that mental health issues should not be used to explain away the attacks.

“Mental illness is not a barometer for dangerousness, and it is not a correlation for mass attacks,” said Lina Alathari, chief of the National Threat Assessment Center.

“The vast majority of individuals with mental illnesses in this country will never be violent. In fact, they are often the victims of violence.”

What Can You Do?

Our advice is to always be prepared and consider creating and implementing a workplace violence prevention program for your organization.

Further, have a professionally conducted physical security assessment of your facilities conducted to determine the level of security you currently have and to identify any gaps requiring attention.

This assessment identifies what steps are in place to secure your people, operations, and facility, and what risks and vulnerabilities you should be concerned about today and in the future.

Many organizations believe this is a one-time activity. It is not, and assuming this can have serious repercussions.

Risks of all kinds are ever evolving. A physical security assessment should be conducted periodically (yearly is recommended) to help ensure your safety and the safety of the people using your facility.

TAL Global | Trusted Expert Solutions

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