Violent rampages carried out by “active shooters” increased significantly in 2021, with 61 such shootings last year – up from 40 in 2020 and double the number seen before the pandemic, according to an FBI report released Monday.
The report examined a type of violence that has become a bleakly consistent feature of American life. For its analysis, the FBI defined an active shooting attack as one or more people killing or trying to kill people in a populated area; it left out cases deemed to be due to factors including gang violence, self-defense or “contained residential or domestic disputes.”
In 2021, these 61 attacks occurred, on average, about every six days in the United States. There were 30 such shootings in both 2018 and 2019.
The report was released a little more than a week after a gunman stormed a Buffalo grocery store and killed 10 people, joining a grim fraternity of attacks that have cut people down at schools, movie theaters, nightclubs, bars, other workplaces and houses of worship.
Officials have said the Buffalo attack appeared to be a hate crime fueled by bigotry. Investigators believe that the attacker posted a rambling, racist screed online declaring himself a white supremacist before going to the store on May 14 and shooting 13 people, most of them Black.
About 1 in 5 of the active-shooter attacks in the FBI report was also a mass killing, which is federally defined as a single incident with at least three victims. Others killed fewer people – or in some cases, no one at all.
In total, 103 people were killed and 140 wounded in the 61 incidents, a tally that did not include any of the shooters, the FBI said.
The incidents included the attack at a Boulder, Colo., grocery store, in which a gunman killed 10 people; the rampage at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis that killed eight people; the massacres at three Atlanta-area spas that killed eight people; and the shooting at an Oxford, Mich., high school that left four dead.
The report also highlighted what it called “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.”
Nearly half the incidents in the FBI’s count – “approximately 27” of them, it said – involved one person carrying out attacks in multiple places.
About half the attacks took place in what the report described as “commerce-related environments,” which included grocery stores and manufacturing sites. In most of those incidents, the report said, the relationship between the attacker and these locations was “unspecified,” though a handful of shootings involved current or former employees of the businesses.
Shootings also took place at residences, government property, schools, and a number of open locations that included highways and parks.
The FBI report joins other analyses that the bureau and others have published examining mass violence across America. It found that most of the active-shooter attackers were male – of the 61 shooters examined, only one was female.
The report said the attackers ranged in age from a 12-year-old accused of shooting and injuring three people at a middle school to a 67-year-old accused of opening fire at a health clinic and detonating explosive devices there, killing one and injuring four.
Thirty of the 61 attackers were apprehended by law enforcement officials, the report said. Eleven of them took their own lives, while 14 were killed by law enforcement. Two law enforcement officers were killed during the 61 attacks, and five were injured, the report said.
Four attackers “were killed by armed citizens,” while another died in a vehicle crash, the report said. One attacker – who according to the report opened fire at a hookah lounge in Houston, injuring five – remains at large.