Guide That Will Help You Understand an Active Shooter

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When we look at the history of mass shooters, we can determine that some of them had severe mental issues.

According to the FBI, active shooting is the main problem that happens in the USA. In the study from 2014 conducted by the FBI in which they analyzed 160 different incidents, they have analyzed on circumstances such as outcome, duration, and location.

However, they have published the second part of the study in which they focus on 63 shooters and want to answer the questions on why they attacked and what are reasons for what they did.

The general definition of an active shooter states that he/she is an individual that has engaged in a shootout in populated and confined areas with an idea to kill people without following a specific pattern.

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The biggest misconception is the difference between mass and active shootings. Another definition states that mass shooting involves killing four or more people during the incident. However, active shooting is a process that does not have to end up in killing spree necessarily.

The shooter can only wound people around him/her, and still is considered as an active shooter. He/she will not be a mass murderer by following this particular logic.

What Do Active Shooters Have in Common?

The study has suggested and presented numerous exciting facts that could explain to us the mental state of the shooter as well as the reasons why the incident happened in the first place.

Most of the shooters were male; approximately 94% of them, but when it comes to ethnicity and age groups, the number has varied from case to case. For instance, 63% of active shooters were white, and they were intentional with the plan and preparation.

At the same time, most of them have shown concerning behaviors and had a significant stressor including marital difficulties, financial strain, problems at work, conflicts with family and many more.

Even though most common stressors for murdering someone falls under mental health, we have to understand that the most significant percentage of shooters did not have any mental illness prior to the incident.

The FBI could only verify that sixteen shooters were diagnosed with a mental illness by a health professional, while it is challenging to state whether others were too.

Another important consideration is that mental health does not have anything to do with it. Of course, when you tell someone that a person entered a mall and started shooting random people, most of us would agree that the person is mentally ill.

However, that is a common understanding that does not have to be conclusive for all cases and shooters. When we say mental health, we are not talking about mental illness, per se.

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The mental health stressor means that active shooter has been struggling with paranoia, anxiety, depression, and other issues, before the attack. However, these conditions are not the reasons why he/she started killing everyone.

When we analyze everything thoroughly, we can agree that various stressors could interact with each other, so it is not transparent whether moods or behaviors could be affected by general mental illness.

Other psychologists state that starting with a methodology that includes mental illness, as the way to analyze a shooter is not correct since psychological problems are not the root cause.

In 1999, the FBI publicized a wide array of risk factors for school shooters including narcissism, alienation, depression, low frustration tolerance, poor coping skills, fascination with violence, lack of trust, low self-esteem, negative role models, tendency to manipulate others and access to weapons.

However, these signs feature a wide range of traits that cannot help us be specific about the root cause. Of course, most of us have at least one of these issues, and we are not ending as mass shooters.

Therefore, it is simple to make a mistake and create a stigma that surrounds people with mental illnesses, especially since a large portion of the population has some psychological problems.

Guide That Will Help You Understand an Active Shooter

When we look at the history of mass shooters, we can determine that some of them had severe mental issues.

However, the typical shooter is a person that has mild difficulties with social interactions, anxiety, and mood, which is something that we all experience at some point in our lives.

We are not saying that mass shooters are regular and average people and that their reaction wasn’t radical and wrong, but we’re stating that it is challenging to make a distinction as well as a profile that will help us find them before they attack or cause an incident.

The new study suggests that only 25% of studied shooters had confirmed metal diagnosis and illness.

Twelve of them had a mood disorder, three had a psychotic disorder, four had an anxiety disorder, and one of them had autism spectrum disorder while two were diagnosed with a personality disorder.

You should also remember that this particular study does not suggest whether shooters have been consuming medications to treat their issues. Even though the study does not have conclusive proof, we can easily say that it is unlikely that they have addressed these issues.


In general, this particular study concludes by saying that we cannot say that all mass shooters are mentally ill, but since they do not have an official diagnosis, that does not mean that they are mentally healthy.

Remember that in most cases, they are not, but since going to mental health professionals is still stigmatized especially in low-income areas, it is understandable why they avoided going to a doctor.

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This conclusion creates a thin line between the general population and potential shooters since it is almost impossible to developa methodology that will determine who is more likely to become a mass murderer and who is not.

The main idea is to understand that all of us can become that particular someone, and everything depends on the ways we are coping with reality and other factors as well.

Therefore, an active shooter can be your best friend, childhood crush, or that quiet and shy student from the back of the classroom.

It is impossible to point the finger and to say who will become the next mass murderer, which is why it is vital to conduct more of these studies so that we can be proactive in the future.