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Photo Credit: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr

It’s Not Your Imagination: Active Shooter Incidents Are on the Rise

It was a typical school day in Dixon, Illinois. Students were gathered for graduation rehearsal by the high school gym when a former student entered the building, pulled out a gun and began shooting. A campus police officer quickly responded, chasing after the gunman before neutralizing him. Fortunately, no one other than the gunman was wounded, but this incident could have easily become the next Parkland or Sandy Hook.

It’s not likely that this aborted mass shooting will gain much attention on the national level; after all, such incidents have become rather unremarkable in the United States. It seems like hardly a week goes by before a major active shooter situation dominates major media outlets.

It certainly feels as if these incidents are becoming more and more common — but surely that’s just because of the 24-hour news cycle and media scaremongering, right?

Not exactly. A new FBI report indicates that both 2016 and 2017 experienced spikes in active shooter incidents, indicating a continuing trend. By the FBI’s definition, there were a total of 50 active shooter incidents over the two-year period — 20 in 2016 and 30 in 2017. Compared to the previous two-year period — 2014 to 2015, which experienced 40 incidents — this represents a 25 percent increase.

The casualty counts have also soared, thanks in large part to three mass shootings: Las Vegas, Orlando and Sutherland Springs, Texas — leaving 221 dead and another 722 wounded.

The obvious and most important question to ask, then, is why are active shooter incidents on the rise?

The answer is not terribly difficult to discern: It comes down primarily to the way gun regulations have been gradually loosened — both on the federal and state levels — over the last decade and a half. Perhaps the most significant and far-reaching example of this came in 2004, when the Bush administration allowed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban to lapse. Thanks to this action — or inaction, rather — military-style semi-automatic weapons and high capacity magazines returned to gun store shelves.

Among those weapons that civilians could purchase legally was the now infamous AR-15, a firearm that has gained notoriety for its use in mass shootings including Sandy Hook, Parkland, Las Vegas, San Bernardino and Orlando. Many of the gunmen behind these shootings also made use of high capacity magazines.

As such, it could be argued that ending the Assault Weapons Ban in 2004 ensured future active shooter incidents had the potential to result in numerous casualties. But why are there more active shooter incidents?

That can be attributed to softened gun ownership restrictions, something that a number of states have gradually done over the past decade. Three of the top four states, in terms of number of active shooter incidents over 2016 and 2017, have lawmakers doing just that: Texas, Florida and Ohio. This includes creating laws which grant greater access to concealed and open carry options, as well as removing barriers to passing background checks and purchasing firearms.

Those who argue that Americans are somehow freer thanks to the end of the assault ban and thanks to states making gun access easier are forgetting that this “freedom” has come at the cost of more active shooters who are able to achieve higher casualty numbers than ever before.

This aricle was originally published on on May 22, 2019.

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