fact

People Have Prior Knowledge of a Shooter’s Plans in the Vast Majority of Gun Violence Incidents

Attackers are often clear about what they will be doing with family or friends.
December 4, 2020
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People Have Prior Knowledge of a Shooter’s Plans in the Vast Majority of Gun Violence Incidents
The United States Secret Service and the United States Department of Education studied targeted school violence incidents and found that in 81% of incidents, other people, most often the shooter’s peers, had some type of knowledge about the shooter’s plans. These incidents were not impulsive, but plans were often carried out after an incident with a classmate or school administrator. Most of these attacks were done alone but the attacker being bullied, being unable to deal with some failure or loss of a job, status, or relationship and the resulting withdrawal, anger, or depression were often clues to friends and family that something may be in the works. Other times out of the ordinary behavior could have been an indicator like one attacker asking his friends to help him get ammunition for one of his weapons, making modifications to their existing weapons to make it easier to conceal beneath their clothes. One attacker even shopped for a long trench coat with his mother and then cut the pockets out of the coat to make it easier to hold a weapon through the holes. In nearly two-thirds of the incidents, more than one person—usually a friend or sibling—had information about the attack before it happened or at least that something "bad" or "big" would occur. Many even knew the date and time, often telling several other classmates about the plans as well. However, adults knew about the plans to attack in only two of the more than 40 incidents studied. Adults did sometimes know about the attackers' history and experience of weapons, which was often an indicator some sort of plan was in the works.
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The Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative, United States Secret Service and United States Department of Education, July 2004, Bryan Vossekuil et al.

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