Mass Shootings Dramatically on the Rise, FBI Says

Nearly three times as many incidents have occurred annually in the past seven years as in the early part of the 2000s

A customer shops for a gun in Tinley Park, Illinois. Credit: Scott Olson/Getty

A new study by the FBI has found that mass shootings have increased dramatically over the past decade. Nearly three times as many incidents have occurred in the past seven years as in the years between 2000 and 2006, according to the report, which analyzed 160 shootings, including the ones at Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Aurora, Colorado and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, among others. The FBI decided to publish its findings in a 47-page report to help educate both law enforcement and civilians.

Of the shootings the FBI investigated, all of which took place between 2000 and 2013, an average of 6.4 incidents occurred per year between 2000 and 2006, but that number rose to 16.4 annually between 2007 and 2013. An average of 11.4 incidents occurred per year – or roughly one a month – during the entire 14-year period.

Other notable findings in the report include the fact that the majority of incidents took place in commercial environments, with the second most frequent place at educational facilities. All of the shootings were carried out by men, with the exception of six, and a notable number of male shooters targeted women they had been romantic with. More than half of the occurrences ended on the shooter's terms – either by suicide, fleeing the scene or the like. A little over 13 percent of shootings ended with unarmed citizens stopping the shooter. A total of 486 people, excluding shooters, were killed in mass shootings between 2000 and 2013 and 557 were wounded. Sixty percent of the shootings ended before police arrived on the scene.

The study also highlighted just how general and unpredictable most mass shootings are, even when the FBI is attempting to find patterns. The incidents the Bureau studied took place in big cities and small towns, in urban epicenters and rural areas. Mass shootings occurred in 40 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia, with victims of the shootings ranging in age, race, religion and culture. It also found that nearly 70 percent of the shootings where the duration of the incident was able to be measured ended in five minutes or less.

Earlier this year, as part of an investigation into America's gun-violence epidemic unrelated to the FBI report, Rolling Stone created an interactive map, titled "Which Is the Most Dangerous State?" It provides in-depth stats on gun-related deaths and gun murders per state, detailing who has access to guns and where major school shootings have occurred since 2000.

The FBI, which conducted its study with Texas State University's Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center, did not largely focus on shooters' motives in the attacks in its report, though it found some characteristics. By and large, shooters acted alone; only two of the 160 cases the FBI studied had more than one. School shootings were mostly carried out by students of that particular school. Similarly, shootings in places of work were generally carried out by employees or former employees of the business.

Ultimately, the FBI recognized that civilians need training in how to deal with mass shootings just as much as police, though the report did not direct citizens to places to receive such training. But the Bureau did reinforce its commitment to helping areas affected by shootings and to continuing to study these types of incidents with hopes of creating ways to prevent future tragedies.