Emergency Preparedness, Emerging Issues in Security

FBI Report Shows ‘Upward Trend’ in Active Shooting Incidents

In 2021, the FBI designated 61 shootings in the U.S. as active shooter incidents, according to a new report from the federal law enforcement agency.

In these incidents, 103 people were killed and 140 wounded, excluding the shooters. For the period 2017-2021, active shooter incident data reveals an upward trend. The number of active shooter incidents identified in 2021 represents a 52.5% increase from 2020 and a 96.8% increase from 2017.

The FBI defines an “active shooter” as one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area. Implicit in this definition is the shooter’s use of a firearm. The “active” aspect of the definition inherently implies the ongoing nature of an incident and, thus, the potential for the response to affect the outcome, whereas a mass killing is defined as three or more killings in a single incident.  

The new FBI report shows casualty counts are higher for 2021 (243) when compared with 2020 (164), indicating a 48% increase. The casualties in 2021 represents the third-highest total casualty count over the last five years (2017-2021).

2021 saw the highest number of deaths (103) since 2017, a 171.1% increase from 2020 and above the average (92.3) for the period 2017-2020. There was an 11.1% increase in people wounded (140) in 2021 compared with 2020 (126), but below the average (253) for the period 2017-2020.  
 
For 2021, the FBI observed an emerging trend involving roving active shooters; specifically, shooters who shoot in multiple locations, either in one day or in various locations over several days.  
 
The 61 incidents in 2021 were carried out by 61 shooters. Sixty shooters were male, and one was female. Individual shooters carried out all the incidents. The age range of the shooters was 12 years old to 67 years old. Two shooters wore body armor.

Thirty shooters were apprehended by law enforcement, 14 shooters were killed by law enforcement, four shooters were killed by armed citizens, one shooter was killed in a vehicle accident during a law enforcement pursuit, 11 shooters committed suicide, and one shooter remains at large.  
  
The FBI says it remains dedicated to assisting and training law enforcement and citizens in active shooter prevention, response, and recovery efforts. The FBI also supports the Don’t Name Them campaign, which encourages media, law enforcement, and public information officers to shift their focus from the perpetrators of active shooter incidents toward the victims, survivors, and heroes who stopped them, as well as the communities that come together to help in the healing process.

Persons suspected of planning an active shooting should be immediately reported to law enforcement. For additional resources on the active shooter threat, visit Active Shooter Resources.  

Part of an FBI series of related reports published since 2014, the full Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2021 report is available here. The FBI notes these reports are not intended to explore all facets of active shooter incidents but rather intended to provide law enforcement officers, other first responders, corporations, educators, and the public with a baseline understanding of active shooter incidents.