With a growing media coverage of active shooter incidents, it seems like we are seeing headlines about this topic daily; in our newspapers, on the television, or in our favorite magazines. There have been several major incidents that have occurred over the course of the past several years including, the Orlando Nightclub Shooting, the Las Vegas Concert Shooting, and the Parkland School Shooting. But this raises a few questions.
An Unsettling Upward Trend for Active Shooter Incidents Covered by the Media
Maybe you ask yourself already:
- Are active shooter incidents really increasing?
- Are we really in danger in our everyday lives?
- Also, is all this media attention actually helping prevent these incidents or is it just igniting them?
A recent project by The Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security unveils some unsettling media trends when it come to K-12 school shootings.
- 2018 had the highest number of school shooting incidents since 1970.
- 2018 had the highest number of deaths from school shooting incidents at 51.
The project resulted in a database of 1,300 school shootings since 1970, and included any active shooter incident where, “a gun is wielded, fired, or a bullet hits school property for any reason, regardless of the number of victims, time, day of the week, or reason.”
Upon reviewing the database, the following information about the nature of the school shootings can be discerned:
- The shooter was a student at the school in almost half of the active shooter incidents.
- Despite growing policy restricting the sale of automatic weapons, 889 school shooting incidents involved the use of one handgun by the active shooter, which are easier to obtain.
An article by the American Psychological Association discusses the relationship between media coverage of shootings and the number of mass shootings. It would make sense that there would be more media coverage of active shooter incidents due to the increased number of incidents as described above. However, the article references a study that concludes “media contagion” is actually contributing the the increased number of shootings.
One of the major traits of active shooters is a desire for fame.
Jennifer Johnston, PhD, noted that this desire rose, “In correspondence to the emergence of widespread 24-hour news coverage on cable news programs, and the rise of the internet during the same period”.
The internet and social media have a profound impact in the personal and professional lives of those in westernized cultures. It is imperative that we recognize the detrimental effects of naming and providing celebrity-like coverage to active shooters that potentially leads to the rising trend in active shooter incidents.
The Rise of Social Media
The first Social Media surges occurred in 2002 and 2003. In 2004, Facebook was released, followed by Twitter in 2006, Instagram in 2010, and Snapchat in 2011. While Social Media can be helpful in aiding in every day matters and communication, it is important to be aware of the potential dangers of media contagion in regards to Active Shooter Incidents.
Dangerous Signals on Social Media
In many of the school shootings that have occurred, the shooters have posted threats on their social media accounts, some of which went unreported until it was too late.
These social media threats can range from extremely specific to vague in nature.
On October 27th, the shooter that killed 11 members of a Pittsburgh synagogue posted his threats on social media. His threats included hate speech about religion, and even one specific threat where he wrote, “I’m going in today.”
What Can We Do?
Some may worry that they will be susceptible to being involved in an active shooter incident. Just remember: you are not powerless. There are plenty of things you can do to prevent active shooter incidents.
If You See Something, Say Something
It is important to report suspicious incidents to local law enforcement, even if you are unsure.
Keep in mind that in multiple instances, active shooters have posted about wanting to commit the act, days, weeks, or even years before doing it, on their social media accounts or on other platforms.
Reporting suspicious activity could save many lives.
- It is better to have said something and be wrong then to not say something at all
- Do not be afraid to be wrong
- Reporting suspicious active does not waste the time of police officers
- Being vigilant can prevent future tragedies
Active Shooter Training
Active Shooter Training is the #1 way to mitigate mass casualties during an active shooter incident. Effective training programs give you the tools to respond quickly and effectively to a threat that enters your school, workplace, or place of worship.
At Guardian Defense, our mission is to empower civilians to know how to prepare for, and respond to, these situations. Our team of qualified experts in the field, give you the knowledge while supporting you as you put that knowledge into practice.
Are you Ready to Learn More?