In the wake of mass shootings rocking the United States on a near monthly basis, the FBI has organized a new study that focuses on the psychology of mass shooters. So far, at least 63 case files of mass shooters have been opened for study, and officials on the study have begun important interviews.
After every mass shooting, a debate arises. Are these shooters mentally ill? Were they given every chance to seek help? Does it create a stigma around mentally ill citizens, who are more likely statistically to be victims of crime than perpetrators?
The FBI has conducted similar studies on mass shootings in the past. A 2013 study considered all U.S. active shooter incidents between 2000 and 2013, a total of 160 incidents. While there was an average of 6.4 per year between 2000 and 2007, this raised dramatically to an average of 16.7 incidents per year between 2008 and 2013. In 2017, there were a shocking 30 mass shooting incidents on record.
After concluding that 2013 study, in 2014 the FBI released information gleaned from a new study that explored best practices of mass shooting preparedness and recovery. Now, they’re trying to get to the root of why these shootings are happening.
Some of the findings so far? That a ‘shift’ in shooters’ motivations has occurred since the Columbine shooting incident. FBI profilers have noticed that before Columbine, shooters were young, angry, and impulsive. Post-Columbine, shooters have tended to be older, more concerned with notoriety, more calculated in their approach, and more likely to plan ahead extensively before the incident takes place. The want for notoriety is a key factor, something law enforcement fears can spark copycat shooters when another incident is publicized on news sources.
The intention is to take this information and prevent some of the influencing factors in recent mass shootings from motivating more would-be shooters. Although it will be difficult to eliminate mass shootings entirely from the forefront of American culture, studying the psychology of these perpetrators is a positive step.