Armed Citizens Are Successful 94% Of The Time At Active Shooter Events [FBI]
UPDATE 10/28/18: In the original publishing of this report we rounded several numbers poorly or in a way that didn't portray the data as accurately as possible. For example, 75.8% was rounded to 75% and other similar issues. Further, the pie charts displayed in the graphics were not proportionally accurate and were designed more with visibility in mind as opposed to an accurate representation. These issues have all been corrected below. If you would like to download the original data you can still do so via the link below.
After seeing John Lott from the Crime Prevention Research Center publish a rebuttal to a recent FBI report on Active Shooter events I decided to dive deeper into the data and do some analysis of my own. WARNING, this is a long article/report with a lot of images but I am confident it is worth your time!
The Original FBI Data Source
The FBI has published 3 reports that collectively detail active shooter events from 2000-2017. The first report covered events from 2000 to 2013, the second covered 2014-2015, and the third and most recent covered 2016-2017.
It is important to note that the FBI has no specific system in place for finding and cataloging active shooter events. They manually search for and include them in their reports the same way anyone else might Google it which of course means there is room for error particularly in missing events that should have been included.
The FBI definition of an Active Shooter event is: “One or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.”
A few important distinctions about the FBI definition of Active Shooter include:
- A firearm must be used by the attacker. This then means they have not included incidents like the armed citizen who saved a woman outside the GM building in Detroit from a stabber or the man who was stopped by a CCWer in a Smiths Grocery store in Salt Lake City when he was stabbing shoppers at random.
- Domestic incidents are not included. The FBI feels that an Active Shooter event has to be one in which the attacker is endangering strangers not only their own family members.
- Gang-related violence is excluded also.
- For the FBI to define an incident as an Active Shooter incident both law enforcement personnel and citizens have to have the potential to affect the outcome of the event based upon their responses to the situation.
So Is The FBI Data Complete?
Within the Active Shooter definition used by the FBI, it is broad enough that there are likely a large number of incidents that are being missed by the FBI. The Crime Prevention Research Center has taken the lead after each report has been published to identify events that should have been included that were missed. In some of those cases, the FBI has acknowledged their error but still never updated the list of events.
Lott found that there was a greater tendency to miss events from the first decade (2000 to 2010) than in more recent years. This is at least in part to the changes in technology and news reporting. In 2014 when the FBI did their first report it would have been difficult to search for and find Active Shooter events from the early 2000s. Lott suggests there may also have been some intentional bias in not reporting on some earlier events in order to show a greater increase in incidents over time.
So, for our own report that follows, we have included all of the FBI data but have also added a number of incidents that the FBI missed which were identified by the CPRC. Of the 283 Active Shooter events in our data pool; 248 of them come from the FBI's original reports while an additional 35 identified by the CPRC have been added. I carefully reviewed each of those 35 incidents to make sure they meet all the FBI Active Shooter criteria.
So What Does the Data Show?
This first chart simply shows the number of active shooter events over time. We believe the first 10 years or so reported are likely under-reported by the nature of how the data was compiled, but regardless one could arguably suggest that Active Shooter events are increasing.
Part of the gun-control political debate is the argument that semi-automatic rifles and high capacity magazines somehow increase the potential death rate in Active Shooter Events. In order to really draw any conclusions, one would have to know, for each incident, if a semi-automatic rifle and/or high capacity magazine was used. That information isn't available in the FBI's report or publicly available for our own research team to find.
So we encourage you to not draw any strong conclusion but as you can see from the below chart there doesn't appear to be any particular pattern or trend over this 18 year period despite the Assault Rifle ban of 1994 expiring in 2004 or the other various bans on AR-15s and high capacity magazines in a number of states.
We thought it would be interesting to see if the overall percentage of events at which an armed citizen was present was increasing given the rise in concealed carry permit holders and gun owners nationwide. The data set is low enough that it is hard to draw any strong conclusions when you are looking at 33 incidents out of 283 over an 18 year period.
It is worth noting that there may be more than 33 incidents in which an armed citizen was present given that we have no way of knowing if an armed citizen chose NOT to engage and run the other way. That may not even be known to law enforcement. Our objective here is to look at incidents in which an armed citizen was clearly present and to some degree engaged the active shooter.
The blue line below shows the average by year which looks very up and down. The yellow line is a three-year moving average which does paint a bit of a picture that the likelihood of an Armed Citizen being present is increasing; especially in the last 3-4 years.
Looking at the 283 total Active Shooter events in our data pool, an Armed Citizen was Present and Engaged the Active Shooter in 33 total incidents (11.7%). This is all inclusive regardless of who the armed citizen was or their direct potential for stopping the shooter.
In a few examples, the armed citizen was at their home near the event when they heard shots fired and rushed to the scene to intervene and thus despite not being present when the incident began those Active Shooter events are included in the 11.7% below.
In one other example, the victims of the attack were hunters that were effectively ambushed by their killer. We are assuming the hunters possessed firearms and thus that incident is included in the 11.7% below even though the armed citizen wasn't attempting to intervene to save others but was, in fact, the targeted victim.
We decided to take a look at one specific metric that John Lott and the FBI didn't really consider. The success rate of armed citizens. John Lott's team did talk about the overall success rate of armed citizens against all Active Shooter incidents in the US but they failed to consider the most important variable. OPPORTUNITY.
If we were to look at 100 active shooter events and an armed citizen was present at 1 of them and succeeded at stopping the active shooter then certainly we can say that armed citizens stop active shooters 1% of the time but in doing so we imply that armed citizens failed to stop 99% of active shooters.
This is an inaccurate implication since no armed citizen was available to stop the active shooter in the other 99 incidents. More helpful when considering the effectiveness of armed citizens in stopping active shooters would be to accurately state that Armed Citizens stopped 100% of active shooters at incidents at which an armed citizen was available to do so.
So the below graphic does just that. Of all the active shooter events there were 33 at which an armed citizen was present. Of those, Armed Citizens were successful at stopping the Active shooter 75.8% of the time (25 incidents) and were successful in reducing the loss of life in an additional 18.2% (6) of incidents. In only 2 of the 33 incidents (6.1%) was the Armed Citizen(s) not helpful in any way in stopping the active shooter or reducing the loss of life.
Thus the headline of our report that Armed Citizens Are Successful 94% Of The Time At Active Shooter Events.
In the 2 incidents at which the armed citizen “failed” to stop or slow the active shooter, one is the previously mentioned incident with hunters. The other is an incident in which the CCWer was shot in the back in a Las Vegas Walmart when he failed to identify that there were 2 Active Shooters involved in the attack. He neglected to identify the one that shot him in the back while he was trying to ambush the other perpetrator.
We also decided to look at the breakdown of events that took place in gun free zones and the relative death toll from events in gun free zones vs non-gun-free zones.
Of the 283 incidents in our data pool, we were unable to identify if the event took place in a gun-free zone in a large number (41%) of the events. Most of the events took place at a business, church, home, or other places at which as a rule of law it is not a gun free zone but potentially could have been declared one by the property owner. Without any information in the FBI study or any indication one way or the other from the news reports, we have indicated that event with a question mark.
If you look at all of the Active Shooter events (pie chart on the top) you see that for those which we have the information, almost twice as many took place in gun free zones than not; but realistically the vast majority of those for which we have no information (indicated as ?) are probably NOT gun free zones.
If you isolate just the events at which 8 or more people were killed the data paints a different picture (pie chart on the bottom). In these incidents, 77.8% took place in a gun-free zone suggesting that gun free zones lead to a higher death rate vs active shooter events in general.
I was curious if there would be any significant trend in looking at where these events took place. We defined a total of 12 location categories and categorized each event based on where the incident BEGAN. In many Active Shooter events, there are multiple locations where the attacker acts but for the purpose of this report we looked only at where the incident first started.
Since gun laws vary from state to state a common part of the political discussion is the effectiveness of state laws in stopping or slowing the instances of Active Shooter events. I don't think it particularly wise to draw conclusions from the below chart for a few reasons.
First, the data pool isn't big enough. 283 total events equate to about 5 1/2 per state on average … over an 18 year period. For example, North Dakota had 1 incident with a population of fewer than 1 million people. Its possible another 10 years could go by without any more incidents so calling it a high probability Active Shooter State is logically unsound.
One of the final metrics we thought was important to consider is the potential tendency for armed citizens to injure or kill innocent people in their attempt to “save the day.” A common point in political discussions is to point out the lack of training of most armed citizens and the decrease in safety inherent in their presence during violent encounters.
As you can see below, however, at the 33 incidents at which Armed Citizens were present, there were zero situations at which the Armed Citizen injured or killed an innocent person. It never happened.
That concludes our reporting. I have a few requests of anyone who reviews this.
First, share this on all your social media profiles so that accurate information can debunk the myths and propaganda shared by both sides of the political debate.
Second, if you have an interest in a downloadable PDF version of this report AND a copy of the raw data used please click here and we will provide both files to you.
Third, you can use the comments below to let us know what thoughts or questions you have about the report.
Fourth if you would like to listen to our analysis of this data, use the below audio player to tune into Episode 266 of The Concealed Carry Podcast.
Lastly, below is a complete infographic. For those of you who have an interest in embedding this on your site, you can find the embed code below as well.
- FBI 2000-2013 Report
- FBI 2014-2015 Report
- FBI 2016-2017 Report
- Lott's Analysis of the FBI 2000-2013 Report
- Lott's Analysis of the FBI 2015-2017 Report
Hopefully, this gets you thinking about the importance of having responsibly armed, concealed carriers on the scene of a violent incident. But what goes into a strong defensive concealed carrier's mindset? If you care to know, check out this blog post.
Embed This Image On Your Site (copy code below):
People who carry have stopped a crime about 1 MILLION plus times a year. When a shooting occurs: criminals hit their target 20% of the time, Gestapo about 45%, civilians about 90%, these are FBI numbers.
As much as I detest bad cops, “Gestapo” is an unfair term for the whole.
I agree. WAY out of line !
Thank you. That term adds NOTHING constructive OR accurate to the discussion.
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is not part of Wisconsin…. yet here it is color coded as if it was part of Wisconsin ?.
The next time you need help, I suggest you call a vegetarian.
I moved from a gun free state to a state with no restrictions for conceal carry 12+ years ago.
Eleven years of due diligence about the laws, firearm safety and range observations.
Only when I had the discipline and education in my mind, did I even considering the purchase of a side arm last year.
It comes down to being honest with oneself that makes a responsible gun owner.
And that in itself prevents you, as well, as instigating some that may have a firearm and using it not as originally intended.
There is no such thing as the Gestapo here in the US. You are far far more likely to be murdered by a relative or friend next-door neighbor coworker or some criminal. And that’s a fact.
Plus when there must be a way to prove that the mere presence of armed people is in itself a significant deterrent. They need to figure out how to prove that the mass shootings are a reflection of the true violent tendencies in a society and therefore show mow much more violence there would be IF we could measure deterrence by an armed populace.
Seems that is somewhat shown in the graphic showing shootings on gun-free zones vs gun welcome zones.
How about the very simple fact that majority of these shootings occur in gun control states, specifically the instances that have high death tolls. I think it’s pretty obvious citizens w/ firearms are a deterrent not just for the incidents alone but the attacker feeling comfortable enough to stick around and continue to kill. By the way, the citizens who step in and engage these “active shooters” should be declared heroes. The young man ambushed from behind at the Vegas Walmart should have an expressway named after him and hopefully the next person in Nevada considering an act like this will here his name every day. That man was standing at the exit when the shooters walked in and instead of fleeing to safety he pursued the attacker and passed up his girlfriend trailing behind when he was ambushed and shot in the back of the head. He was undoubtedly trying to save other lives, his was already safe when he made the decision to intervene.
If that is the respect you have for Law Enforcement, I hope you do not carry. It sounds like you might be a danger to everyone!
I wish we could get real numbers but include ALL legal CITIZEN shootings in ALL PLACES that will tell the real story !
What’s not real about the stats that were presented?
We’re all upset when law officers under perform or are outright abusive or their position.
The term “gestapo” is offensive to those of us who have served and love this country
( not serving and loving government necessarily). Please folks, we served for YOU and
our communities. It’s not a walk in the park. I guess being disliked is just part of our
job. Sorry to rant.
Thank you for your dedication to keeping us safe. The police in my area, including county sheriff and deputies, are great. Almost to a man (and woman) they are staunch 2A supporters. Last time I was stopped by an officer he asked me if I had any firearms with me. I answered yes, and described its location and condition. We ended up talking about guns and ammo, and our favorite ranges, for 20 minutes.
If you want to be liked become a firefighter
Are we living in the upside down? When did heroes become evil and criminals become victims? And when and why did our news media start pushing this bullsh*t narrative?
Its been quite a while now. Yes there are bad cops and yes there are stupid ones but nation wide the percentage is very small. Without law officers there would be chaos.Thinking otherwise is ridiculous. Back the blue when they are right and condem and prosecute when they are wrong.
The biggest issue is the leftest teachers and politicians who teach the constitution doesn’t mean what it says!
Yeah, “mafia goons” is more accurate than “gestapo”
this is why cops NEED those 20 rd mags. They can’t hit crap.
I carry a gov. mod 70 colt .45 acp (6+1rnds). I carry 2 back up mags.
this is less than what 1 cop carries.
Ever been in a firefight?
Do you run to gunfire, is it your job? I carry one spare mag because it’s not my job but it does allow me to swap mags if i have a mag issue. Depending on where it would be and if I was a street cop I would carry as much as I thought I needed because I would be running to the gunfire!
Why wouldn’t your 6+1 be enough, if your the crack shot your making your self out to be leave the other mags at home.
Totally agree. It is best to not only know your weapon, but also understanding how well you perform with it. That being said knowing that the threat is imminent and analyzing the situation to come up with a solution is best to stop active shooters.
I would love to see the documentation on that.
He has the link that you can download all the raw data yourself
Talk to the FBI they would have to give it to you under the freedom of information act it’s a matter of public record
If you hate cops your brain has been manipulated by the media and academic Psycho Bullies (CNN, NYT, MSNBC, leftist professors….). The war against cops is a communist tactic to turn the US into a socialist hell hole where “equality” is forced down the citizens’ throats.
1.Tell some of Handgun Mfgs to moved out of the U.S.A. too. As soon as posable too . To ForeignNations don’t have Gun Mfg too. It Time to sell them one of those mfgs too. South Afferica Nations too. I do agree.Fo drilling oil too. Trade too. For oil shipped back to the U.S. too. Agree! SIR. ORDoyou agree?mam?
We need CCW in 50 states-Nation Wide and all states recognize any and all states rights.
A United States of America CCW right.
Unfortunately that is one promise I don’t think he will fulfill. He could sign it in as a presidential order now and see where it goes in the Supreme Court later if he wanted to. And then any president thereafter I think would be committing political suicide if they said they would withdraw that order.
Thank you, I believe the same way as you.
Its called reciprocity, and President Trump is in favor of making it law…too much obstruction by the dems right now, maybe after the midterms.
It looks like the Dem control of the House will put an end to that for at least 2 years.
I agree 199%!
Agreed, no issues crossing state lines with carrying
All the pie chart except the last one are inaccurate. The pie sections aren’t even close to representing the accurate percentage they are supposed to show. Please fix your charts. How do you expect people to take your statistics seriously when you can’t get something as simple as a pie chart right.
Thank you for your feedback. The pie charts are designed to be easy to read all the data points. They are not perfectly representative of the values. Good feedback!
Bar/Line charts are better than pie charts.
That’s a matter of opinion bud
He included links to the source of the material. The official estimate of guns stopping crime is between one and two million times per year rather than the oft quoted 100,000 and it’s usually without a shot being fired. If no shots were fired does that even get reported? IOW, no injuries.
The usual scenario is even the armed criminal flees when the victim or nearby person produces a gun. Not always, but usually
As to rounding errors: I prefer the more accurate BUT for the general public, reports should stick to whole numbers with the caveat “about” preceding the number, or “see below” and as has been suggested, but the accurate numbers at the bottom.
I have been in the position 2 times of having a gun in my hand and having two groups of 4 druggies banging on my door in the middle of the night, within 6 months of each other about 12 years ago. And one time of one weirdo at a rest area last November. Never had to even point at them.
Several of your numbers are incorrect. The biggest mistake is the one in the title. It should be 93.9%, or 94% rounded off, not 95%. When rounding statistics you should not be rounding the the nearest 5, especially since you are using numbers rounded to the nearest tenths like 11.7% and 4.6% in your article and charts.
The numbers for armed citizen success rate are all wrong. Again you round these to the nearest 5. If rounded accurately the numbers are:
25/33 = 75.8% or 76%, not 75%
6/33 = 18.2% or 18% not 20%
2/33 = 6.1% or 6% not 5%
Four of the numbers in the last chart are wrong. 3/282 is 1.1% not 1%
27/282 is 9.6% not 9.5%
14/282 is 5.0% not 4.9%
31/282 is 11.0% not 10.9%
Please correct your article and charts to accurately reflect the statistics.
Most people dont’t like numbers at all.
If you make a chart with numbers, simple ones are preferred. So 75% is helpful, 75,8% is not!
But it would be good to write the correct numbers below each chart.
I agree, although if it is 75.8% (almost 76%) then it’d be best to accurately show the real data, regardless of the people’s understanding
I appreciate the work you put into this article and the facts they show. I feel it is necessary to be as accurate as possible when using statistics and visual charts representing those charts. As shown they are not accurate enough for me to be comfortable in sharing this article. If corrected they would be.
Verpalorian, thank you for calling us out. I agree about the need to be as accurate as possible and clearly we screwed up on this. We are working on a revision/correction.
Verpalorian, just wanted to reply one more time here to say thank you for pointing out the poor rounding errors. Everything has been corrected as of today.
I agree with Verpalorian. I really appreciate you guys pulling this together. I heard about this article through the podcast and was eager to share, but cannot due to the statistics issues aforementioned. Hope you can revise so we can get the word out. Thanks!
Please review the update made today.
I researched the study of 2000-2013. I looked into the details (with links) of the 34 active shooting incidents which the FBI listed as stopped by resistance of armed and unarmed off-duty officers, security guards and civilians.
Average deaths when armed civilians, off-duty or guards intervened: 0,9
Average deaths when unarmed civilians or unarmed guards intervened: 1,2
Average deaths when police arrived: 3,8
Average deaths when shooter committed suicide before police arrived: 3,6
Average deaths when shooter fled the scene before police arrived: 2,0
? What do the commas signify in the numbers? They usually indicate thousands.
It depends on the language. Many switch the use of commas and periods in numbers from what is the convention in the US.
Commas and periods are used in the reverse manner of ours in some countries. Awkward but you should get used to it after seeing it a few times.
When will the article be updated so e can forward it?
Hey Bill, thanks for the question. We are working on it as we speak. It hopefully won’t be too much longer.
Bill, the article and graphics are now updated and 100% correct. Thanks for your patience!!
“Incidents by state per 1 million people” needs more analysis or explanation. Seeing the worst states, which have very relaxed gun laws, and the best states, which seem to have the strictest, suggests that tighter gun laws work, for someone trying to draw that conclusion. More explanations about that chart would help.
That isn’t a consistent conclusion even if that data were viable at scale. For example, DC has a high rate of incidents and very strict gun laws. Illinois is the same. Also Wyoming, Utah, Montana, and New Hampshire have very relaxed laws and very low rate of Active Shooters. The point is that the data doesn’t draw any conclusion about anything as it relates to state gun laws because FIRST, there isn’t enough data to matter, and SECOND because it isn’t consistent in correlating with state gun laws.
First, Jacob, thank you for the good work.
The western-tier states (North Dakota and Montana, and everything south) have low populations, which make the results not statistically significant. I’m a Process Engineer (but not an Actuary and don’t know the word), but the numbers are just too low to draw a statistically-significant conclusion. I also grew up in North Dakota – last I checked, there are about 700,000 people, and a few bad apples can upset the apple cart.
If the statistical sample size cannot predict future results, then it may be best to declare those states as “not enough data”. We’re dealing with bad apples in the 1:5,000,000 range, after all.
Perry, I said as much above in the article and used North Dakota as a specific example of why the map shouldn’t be taken seriously. If we had a category where we placed states that don’t have enough data I think I would put every state in that category.
BUT! Wyoming has the highest gun to population rate in the US, you can check the statistics and correct if need be. The last dust up we had here was a collage proseffer was shot (at range) with a CROSSBOW!
First off, I wanted to thank you for doing a phenomenal job with graphing this data!
One part of it was unclear to me:
“Of all the active shooter events there were 33 at which an armed citizen was present. Of those, Armed Citizens were successful at stopping the Active shooter 75% of the time (25 incidents) and were successful in reducing the loss of life in an additional 20% (6) of incidents. In only 2 of the 33 incidents (5%) was the Armed Citizen(s) not helpful in any way in stopping the active shooter or reducing the loss of life.”
I don’t understand what “reducing the loss of life” means. It seems that any time an active shooter is stopped that reduces the loss of life, so while I’m sure you meant something very specific with that phrase, it’s unclear to me.
This is something the FBI looks at in their data. If the Armed Citizen isn’t successful in clearly stopping the active shooter, were their actions helpful in doing anything that helped reduce the loss of life. It is a bit of an arbitrary definition as it relates to the analysis.
@Jacob, your 28oct0938 posting:
hello sir – excellent work on this report, and your graphic distillation.
Regarding the arbitrary definition of “reducing loss of life” – perhaps the following can help. Larry Correia, in 2012 post-Sandy Hook, wrote an excellent essay (URL: https://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/an-opinion-on-gun-control/) in which he described his findings in stark manner:
“…The average number of people shot in a mass shooting event when the shooter is stopped by law enforcement: 14. The average number of people shot in a mass shooting event when the shooter is stopped by civilians: 2.5. The reason is simple. The armed civilians are there when it started…”
As we all know, when seconds count, the Police are only minutes away. Not a knock on our LEOs, just a simple fact.
A well and properly Armed American Citizen is the best Defense.
Good enough for Yamato (“a rifle behind every blade of grass”)… and demonstrably proven to save lives against any nutjob looking to shine up his satanic resume at the expense of our innocents.
It is hard to trust the numbers when the pie charts are off, it makes all the other numbers questionable.
JJS, we’ve updated the charts. Thank you for taking the time to review. Using the above link you can also download all the data for yourself.
WOW, great work ConcealedCarry.com. Just listened to the corresponding podcast and I’m really proud of the study you did — congratulations and thanks for the hard work.
I agree on chart accuracy: even people who are bad at math know what 75% looks like in a pie chart. This is especially egregious on the “money” chart, which is:
“The Success of Armed Citizens in Stopping Active Shooters or Reducing Loss of Life.”
…wherein the 75% “Stopped” shows up as *way* less than 75% of the graph, and the 5% “Didn’t make a difference is represented by almost triple the amount of “pie” than it deserves.
I won’t share this article based on these graphs alone. I really appreciate the author taking the time to do the analysis. The visuals don’t match the quality of the effort, and are in danger of making the author look either stupid or unprofessional.
Bruno, we appreciate your input and today we published an update with new charts and graphics that remove all rounding.
I have Question of the total number of CCW you list do you by chance have training backgrounds. I am willing to bet that most have training of some kind.and alot are Military trained and that number will continue to grow.
We do not have any data suggesting that the armed citizens in those 31 incidents had any training or if so how much training. We don’t even know if they had concealed carry permits in most cases.
I found your article very interesting. (The number rounding to nearest 5 although less than accurate is still close enough to give an accurate picture). The FBI stats show what gun owners, NRA and CCW people have been saying for years. The premiss is a simple one, when you are shooting at unarmed people you have lots of time to aim and reload. When you are dealing with people that are able to defend themselves, well then we see how cowardly these “Active Shooters” are. Most stop and run.
Craig, today we updated all the data to remove the rounding of any stats. Thank you.
Thank you CC for doing this detailed analysis of the information available. Several things i especially appreciate. First, you provide all the raw data and indicate the sources for it. Second, you provide an analysis that appears unbiased, pointing out the weaknesses in data itself, and in the lack of sufficientcy, where appropriate, to be able to draw conclusions. Refreshing!
I think the various questions you attempted to answer were very appropriate. Again, you qualified in at least two cases where the data is insufficient to draw any conclusions. My one suggestion has to do with charting those questions without sufficient data. Either don’t make charts ((that can be distributed without the article) or boldly state on them that no conclusions should be drawn from them due validity.
We did try to state where no conclusions should be drawn but chose to chart some of those things regardless primarily because we would prefer to address the topic head up then leave it up to an open and fruitless discussion and debate. Thank you for your input!
I think the point Dick was trying to make is that on the charts where conclusions shouldn’t be drawn, you should put that in the graphic somewhere. Leaving it out runs the risk of people blindly copying the image to further a potentially invalid hypothesis. Great article, well thought out and we’ll presented on the whole.
Great article, heard about it on your podcast. Sorry to see some errors still exist after you already noticed them.
On the other hand, it’s still GREAT and I’d love to print this to pdf to save it and share with others, but the floating “social app” links ruin all printing attempts. Can you create a PDF version or drop the floating links?
Evan, we addressed the data concerns in today’s update. If you click on the provided link above to access the raw data you will also be emailed the pdf report
Interesting article and one I enjoyed reading! Well worth the read and a share once the corrections are made. One other minor correction, the Upper Peninsula is part of Michigan, not Wisconsin… No one really seems to know what to do with that little piece of land, haha 🙂
Thank you, the update published today addressed that correction.
I think your numbers are fine for what you are using them for and for the majority of your audiance.
They make me want to get a cc permit. Not that I want to be that citizen that could help in an active shooter event, but because all of your numbers show these events are increasing and they could, one day, come to my town.
I have a question, the answer to which is probably unknowable.
What about events where an armed citizen was present but chose to do nothing or at least nothing significant like simply taking a self defensive position but never confronting or being confronted by the shooter?
We will never know as the armed citizen may or may have even shared with law enforcement or the news that they were present.
While we won’t know if a concealed carrier was present who did nothing, very possibly because the tactical situation was not in his favor, we can be sure that this person also did not make the situation worse which is often alleged by the grabbers.
I feel one reason for the increase in mass shootings is the media making the shooter famous by running the reports over and over for extended periods. I think this leads to copy cat incidents by mentally deranged individuals with low self esteem as they feel they can gain their moments of fame.
What criteria differentiates “stopping the active shooter” vs “saving lives”? I would think the two would be synonymous, can you clarify the difference between those two categories?
Stopping the active shooter means the armed citizen’s actions prevented the active shooter from continuing at all, generally because the armed citizen shot the active shooter. Those incidents in which the armed citizen is listed as saving lives are incidents in which the armed citizen did NOT stop the active shooter fully but their actions slowed down or delayed or otherwise in some way caused the active shooter to not be able to inflict as much harm as he/she otherwise would have had the armed citizen not intervened. Put differently, yes if the armed citizen stopped the active shooter they did in fact save life but for the purpose of this report we classify the incident in the “Saved lives” category if the armed shooter saved lives but did NOT fully stop the attacker.
So the data doesn’t capture armed citizens who stop a potential mass shooting–say where a gunman producing a weapon, has the ammo capacity/multiple weapons, takes aim, goes into a rant, begins a robbery with multiple present, etc. because a non injury/single victim is below the threshold for this study? Do you have any work in progress to quantify that type of situation?
A non injury / single victim is very much so within the scope of this study. No injuries or deaths are required to qualify as an active shooter per the FBI definition. On the other hand a Mass shooting (which is defined differently by different groups) generally requires a minimum of 3 or 4 deaths.
Thank you for the effort you put into this, but I feel the 94% number is misleading. If you were to study suicide, for, example, you would see that while firearms are used in less than 6 percent of suicide attempts, over half of suicide deaths are with firearms. So your headline would read “55% of suicides from guns”. This field is will documented since police maintain databases, across states, and use more-or-less uniform data collection method. There are also twice as many gun deaths from suicide 22,000/yr as from other gun violence, so it’s a rich & significant dataset that the NRA cannot quash.
Hypothesis: increased gun availability, due to CCW, might drive this number.
Gregg, thank you for your comment and for continuing to bring light to suicide and the role that firearms are playing. I don’t follow how your example applies to this report or how it explains that 94% is misleading.
Your hypothesis is flawed. Gun availability has no correlation to CCW. Many States like, NJ, NY, CA, have all but eliminated CCW permitting, but not gun ownership. Correlation does not indicate causation. In other words, people aren’t killing themselves because they can buy/own a gun. People also don’t commit murder because they can buy/own a gun. They do it because they want to.
What I get from your suicide “stats” is that firearms are a 94% effective means of suicide. When talking about suicide, you have to take into account that if one truly wants to commit suicide, one would choose the most effective and sure fire method to do so. You wouldn’t want to use a method that has proven ineffective, would you?
I have never seen the NRA attempt to “quash” any true data. Perhaps you could provide an example of the claim you make here.
Your headline “55% of suicides from gun” would be an accurate headline and not misleading.
However, CCW permits do not drive up the number of guns available. Otherwise, places like Maryland, Illinois, and DC that make it very difficult to impossible to get a CCW (Illinois has recently gotten better with regards to permits) would not have the highest crime rates in the country.
The 94% is not misleading and is accurate, assuming the data is accurate. The reason more shootings are not stopped is due to the prevalence of mass shootings in gun free zones, very likely chosen in part because no one would be there to stop them.
I would be interested in how many of the events with armed citizens present involved open carry, both successful & unsuccessful.
That would be very interesting but difficult to do. First, about 1/2 of those incidents leave us unsure if the armed citizen was carrying open or concealed. Second, there are a number where the answer is some sort of hybrid or 3rd situation. For example, the armed citizen who responded to (and failed) the Walmart shooters was carrying concealed but drew his firearm when he was pursuing the suspect(s) through the Walmart. I can also think of 2 of these off the top of my head where the armed citizen was in their home when the shots broke out and they retrieved the firearm and ran toward the gunfire. I agree it would be great data to analyze and include but I don’t think it’s an option given those constraints.
Two problems stick out to me upon first read, here.
First, you keep using the phrase, “armed citizens were *present*” during an active shooter event. But, what you are actually reporting is “armed citizens who *engaged* an active shooter. And there’s a huge difference. Unfortunately, its impossible to know how many citizens may actually have been *armed* in these situations, but did not engage and instead froze in place, fled, were too far away, or for whatever other reason chose not to *engage*.
Second, your analysis identifies the difficulty in identifying what NON gun free zones may actually have individual policies against guns, effectively making them “gun free” zones. However, it fails to identify the converse problem – “gun free” zones that aren’t actually gun free because they are protected by law enforcement or other armed personnel, such as federal buildings, airports, court houses, many schools, many churches, etc.
Unfortunately, Congress continually fails to provide funding or initiate policies to help us better collect and analyze this data, as do states and local municipalities, many of which actively discourage the collection of such data for fear of what conclusions the data may lend itself to. So, the data will continue to be inadequate, as will the analysis and, by extension, the policies and training regiments employed to address gun violence.
Ivan, great points. We don’t know about armed citizens who didn’t engage or otherwise make themselves known. We never will know. And correct, we don’t know which gun free zones had some form of security measures in place. We can only do the best with the data and information we can gather and hopefully it still provides some insights for those interested in at very least knowing more about Active Shooter Events. I would hope that the FBI could dig deeper than we have, given their resources, and perhaps take into account the concerns you have but their analysis of the data is even more shallow than what we have done here.
Ivan, you’re nit-picking. They stated in the article that they DID NOT have information about armed persons who CHOSE NOT TO get involved. Yet that is beside THE POINT: When an armed person involved they HELPED, not hindered, the situation. These are the very real facts that need to be considered by politicians wanting to take away a person’s right to bear arms and protect themselves and others. So what if some people are unable to act when the time comes. That’s neither here nor there in this argument.
I am sharing this immediately. I appreciate the ‘fixing’ of the graphs. Love it.
Your numbers may be off a bit. There was a CCW permittee at the Co. Springs PP Clinic who failed/refused to engage because he said he feared being shot by first responders. Is he the only one?
Doug, I just went and read about 20 news stories about the PP attack and can’t find any mention of a citizen on site who was armed and refused to engage. I found one news story that said an armed citizen approached responding officers after they were on scene and offered to help but that is all I can find. I even tried searching for terms that would specifically find that. That said, it could very well be true and it highlights two important notes about this report. First, we are limited in this case by what the news reports say. We don’t have access to investigative reports and police reports etc. In many cases, I would assume those things would be public but in our case, we have to the best of our ability created our data from the news reports we can find and read readily. All of the incidents included in our data along with all our data points, and links to source news articles are available for download from the above link. Second, we can’t possibly know every active shooter incident at which there was an armed citizen present in which that armed citizen chose not to engage. Even law enforcement may not be aware if an armed citizen chose to run the other way and frankly I don’t feel that invalidates this report or data. The objective here is to measure the success rate of citizens who choose to engage in the fight. In fact, the reality that armed citizens sometimes choose not to engage for whatever reason only suggests they are more prudent then otherwise accused by many. The ability to exercise judgment in the decision to engage or not is a good thing and something that an armed citizen has the moral and legal right to do. Thank you for your comment.
Is the category of “active shooter” even useful? The word alone is idiotic–with words having their normal meaning, an “active shooter” would be someone who goes to a competition every weekend. The idiocy of the term leads to the difficulty of sensible definitions and responses. For example, why would one want to exclude gang-related shootouts, which appear to be a large share of incidents where a large number of bullets go in the directions of uninvolved people?
What most people seem to think of with the term “active shooter” is a person committing extended suicide out of some mixture of psychopathy and grievances, with no aim but causing death to others and eventually himself, no flight plan, no demands. I would propose that these incidents are first and foremost a problem of the perpetrators getting exactly the infamy they’re seeking and have relatively little to do with the weapon used. We know, for example, that a stolen truck was as effective as a firearm would have been or more so in several such incidents. With things like train suicides, the media have arrived at understanding that to a large share these are copycat deeds, with sensationalist reporting leading to more of the same. That seems to be even more true of extended suicides seeking infamy. I don’t want to gut the First Amendment any more than the Second, but what about we recognize that sensationalist reporting is very likely a leading cause of many of these incidents?
Jacob, while I appreciate the above folks who took you to task on the decimal points and other “presentation issues” in their comments, I more appreciate the work you did just to get to this report at all. I will share with my circle (church secuity team, CHP students, etc). Kudos!
What a great resource! Thanks!
Thank you good citizens for your heroic actions!
Thank you concealedcarry.com for this news.
Congratz from Instituto DEFESA Brasil.
From Canada where there is discussion of a HANDGUN ban, this is top-notch investigating. How many journalists have taken the time to do this sort of research before writing their opinion pieces? None. I don’t think we’ll ever get CCW or even open in Canada, but it would be a good idea.
ps: Somebody tag Jimmy Kimmel.
I would like to make a few comments.
First, I would like to point out that the abovementioned statistics seems to have been derived from someone with very little training in the field statistics or behavioral analytics.
Second, I would like to make two points related to the “Armed Citizen Present” and “Success of Armed Citizen…” claims.
Armed Citizen Present:
There is a major assumption that is being made here. “Engaged” and “present” are two very separate claims that are being falsely equated. There may have been people present who were concealed carrying but did not engage. For example, we do know that (IF engaged, THEN present), but we cannot claim (IF present, THEN engaged). Since this cannot be fairly teased apart, the language should be changed to accurately represent that variable “engage”. It is important to operationally define the variables that you are investigating. Engaged and present cannot be equated.
Success of Armed Citizen in Stopping Active Shooters &/or Reducing the Loss of Life:
THIS IS A HUGE PROBLEM. The claim that you are making in this comparison is an inferential (or casual) claim. However, you are supporting this claim with simple frequency data which is incredibly misleading and wrong. I would argue that this is evidence that you are executing an ecological fallacy. The effect could disappear when examined under the correct statistical model with multiple (logical) predictors present. Please investigate the Yule-Simson effect before extrapolating these outcome-claim relationships.
Also, you used the word likelihood incorrectly. In statistics, likelihood “is a function of the parameters of a statistical model given data.”
Lastly, you should also report instances where armed citizens did result in negative situations:
For example, there have been many “stand-your-ground” cases that have resulted in the prosecution and conviction of the armed citizen.
Jason. On your first point, correct. I don’t have any training in those fields and I in the future maybe we will try to involve people or organizations who do to help us with these reports. Of course, if you think our data and reporting is lacking I would love to hear your conclusions on the FBI reports that led to this report of ours.
Second, relating the uniqueness of Armed & Engaged I did clarify that above. I made it clear that we are looking at situations where we KNOW an armed citizen was present and know they chose to engage. Perhaps I could have done more above to communicate that but I did communicate it. I don’t think it changes the overall point which is that when an armed citizen is present the odds of them positively affecting the outcome are very high and the odds of them jeopardizing the lives of others are zero.
Third, as it relates to a citizen being successful this is a claim and judgment call made by the FBI in their data. I agree it isn’t the best way to analyze the data but without significantly more work and data points, there isn’t much more that can be done in my opinion. Certainly if a real research team independently or on the errand of a government request/contract wants to go deeper they can and should but here we are limited by the data we have and the assets my team has to analyze that data and despite our lack of training we did the very best job we could and we made the raw data available to anyone who wants to look closer. If you want to remove that ambiguous part of the data and just look at the number/percent of the time when armed citizens clearly stop the active shooter I would say you can do that and the percent is still north of 3/4 of the time.
Lastly, of the active shooter incidents in the FBI data, and in our data there are NO incidents in which armed citizens did anything that resulted in harming others. I’m not saying that armed citizens have never made mistakes or hurt others on accident but it did NOT happen in any of the active shooter events during that 18 year period. Lastly, you should probably research and better understand what “stand your ground” law really means as it is generally used wrong by news media and the population at large. Stand your ground law means only that the defending and otherwise innocent person does not have a legal duty to retreat when they face a deadly and imminent threat. If one lives in one of the 37 states that have stand your ground laws then you simply don’t have a duty to retreat but still are bound to only engage in the use of deadly force when you are the innocent party who is facing a deadly and imminent threat. When armed citizens don’t stay within those legal boundaries they should be prosecuted but that has nothing to do with Stand Your Ground Law and of course none of that has any bearing on the 33 incidents listed herein which armed citizens were present and attempted to engage the active shooter.
Jacob, most importantly, you need to change the causal language in this article. You are tricking people into believing that there is a causal relationship based on data, but the data and statistics do not support that. That is misleading the public. You have 97K+ shares of this that is promoting CAUSAL language, when this is, at best, frequency data (this is known as lying). That mean you cannot make claims like “odds of positively affecting” like you used in your response to my post. That is casual language. Your statistics do not allow the use of causal language. I would like to note that these are interesting frequency data that can work toward telling a story (e.g., x1 happens at a greater rate than x2 at location z3)…just not a casual one (as of yet). I’m being serious when I make this offer, if you would like me to edit this article to remove the causal language while also maintaining the story, I will do that.
Lastly, when I was discussing stand-your-ground, I was indicating (and correctly, I might add), that there have been many incidences that were first evaluated under the stand-your-ground law, that ultimately lead to the prosecution and conviction of the SYG shooter. My post did not connect this point with the Zero Innocent Persons Injured During an Active Shooter -which I think is mightily interesting – as you connected it in your response. I point this out as a stand-alone (pun intended) point that should be addressed to your constituency.
You’re all wackjobs
Dino, Thanks for the comment and sharing the link. I don’t think it is a very credible argument to suggest that armed citizens can’t do any good by referencing a situation when the armed citizen was too late to the fight. Based on the comments of the local law enforcement they feel strongly that despite not being there when the shooting began, he did save lives and reduce death.
That VOX article is so full of holes. Their own graphs show Finland as owning half as many guns per person as USA yet they have a way lower homicide rate. Correlation between them and USA, pretty much nonexistent because the demographics and cultures are so different. To think that one fix, banning guns, would magically make our homicide rate lass than Finland’s is in the unicorns and rainbows region of fiction. Then we have this heading: “For every criminal killed in self-defense, there are dozens more murders”, which totally misses the point. TOTALLY. Most self-defense situations avoid anyone getting killed. When an “out of control” person sees that you have a gun, they suddenly get control of themselves and usually leave the premises pronto. All that VOX article proves is that people who want gun control will read any poorly written liberal trash about the subject and believe it without the least bit of objective thinking. Funny, but that it the spin liberals take concerning all gun rights articles.
How about we stop acting like the other side has nothing to offer and really talk like reasonable adults? Nah, it will never work.
First, I appreciate you working to add data to the conversation about the impact of “good guys with guns” on active shooter situations. Perhaps I missed it, but do you have the data on the locations of the specific 33 events where armed citizens were present? I see the locations and gun free/guns allowed data for the entire list of active shooter situations but not the specific 33. Second, I also appreciate you acknowledging the limited trend data with such a small sample of the total US shootings annually. With over 300 “mass shootings” annually it would be interesting to see how armed civilians impact that number; there must have been a lot of cc folks in those situations too. I know the data on mass shootings is fragmented before 2013 so is hard to use, but in just the past five years over 1500 mass shootings have occurred, and that does seem to be a statistically significant figure from which to mine relative data. Maybe it will be your next project. By the way, I am a left leaning person just trying to learn from “both sides”. Thanks.
Mike, of the 33 incidents at which an armed citizen was present and engaged, 4 of them took place in gun free zones. The rest were either not gun free zones or we are unable to determine of they are gun free zones. I would love to see the source for your 300 mass shootings in a year number. Based on the definition used by the FBI for Active Shooter and the definition they use for mass shooting, I have a hard time believing that number. It directly conflicts with the data I see from the FBI.
It is interesting to see how they segregate mass vs active shootings- it is all about definitions. Here is a site that may or may not be biased:
And this one is a better more comparative list of shootings definitions:
Your “moving average” chart of events at which an armed citizen was present is fallacious and misleading: it uses a value of zero for the first 2 years to represent years for which no data was used or available. The chart should either start at 2003 and use an average of one year, or start in 2005. In either case, there would not be any evident trend of increase.
What is the % of crimes that private citizens have to intervene ?? I don’t heard about a large % – how often did you have this happen to you? If it is 1% and that person hit someone that would make the % very high percentage for civilian. Now
compare this to law enforcement intervention every hour of every day…is like comparing apples to oranges….
Betty, if I understand your comment you are suggesting that compared to law enforcement, armed citizens are much more likely to injure or kill innocent people. That just isn’t true. Looking at this data set we have 283 active shooter events that fully encompass an 18 year period and not a single example of an armed citizen intervening and injuring a 3rd party. Does it happen (outside of active shooter events)? I’m sure it does/has. But it happens to law enforcement also. Just in the last 2 weeks, we have seen law enforcement officers responding to active shooter events shoot and kill innocent people. One outside a club and another in a mall. I don’t have that data but I don’t think it is a fair comparison. To your point, however, the comparison wouldn’t be worth looking at anyway as it is apples to oranges.
“248 of them come from the FBI’s original reports while an additional 35 identified by the CPRC have been added. I carefully reviewed each of those 35 incidents to make sure they meet all the FBI Active Shooter criteria.”
Would be interested in knowing which 35 you added.
Clara, if you follow the link in the article to download the raw data you will find your answer. In the raw data the source is cited.
can anyone shed some light on the almost 20 active shooter events in 2013 and the 0 armed citizen responses? other than that I love this information thank you very much.
Jordan, I suggest using the link above in the article to download the full list of all the incidents included in the study. I’m sure that will provide you the info you need to answer whatever questions you have about the 2013 events.
BUT! Wyoming has the highest gun to population rate in the US, you can check the statistics and correct if need be. The last dust up we had here was a collage professor was shot (at range) with a CROSSBOW!
And the comments quickly devolved into insulting each respondent. Sometimes gun owners aren’t the best advocates for guns.
There are a lot more than 283 Active Shooter events in the last 18 years so I am confused why so few are listed.
Diane, per the FBI definition of an Active Shooter event those are the number we were able to identify. If you have others that you feel meet that definition please email them to us! [email protected]
Excellent work. Supplying the raw data is fantastic. One caveat, supplying the raw data in PDF form rather than, say, .csv makes it more difficult to do any manipulation of the data. Yeah, I can move it with some work, but I *know* you already have it in a manipulable form.
Greg, send us an email via our contact page and I’ll send you the CSV file. Cheers.
It’s possible I missed it, but what is the definition of armed citizen? Does it include law enforcement?
No it does not include law enforcement. It could include a security guard but not anyone with a badge.
I thought the report was great however an activist friend of mine wanted to start an argument. She stated that this is great and all however blacks don’t have the same 2a rights and whites and this isn’t really great until we can all protect our families with the same rights. Do we by chance have this data down to the race of the shooter and the armed citizen?
No we do not.
I don’t believe the numbers involved in many of these charts are statistically significant. That isn’t to say the conclusions are wrong, but they don’t appear to be conclusive, either, given the low numbers.
Combine this with recent research that shows CCW license holders are 1/3 as likely to commit a crime as . . . wait for it. . . a police officer, and it’s makes a powerful argument that anywhere a cop can carry, a licensed CCW holder should be able to carry as well.
So-called GFZs should be eliminated for licensed CCW holders.
Another variable, although probably very difficult to factor, would be those law abiding citizens who are armed but do not have a CCW permit. These armed citizens could also be responding to crime within their areas of occupancy. Not to mention that criminals are not commuting crimes 100% of the time and may in fact be a deterrent to violent crime because they themselves are armed.
Kevin good observation, though our data doesn’t in any way rely on or report on permit status or possession. We don’t know which armed citizens in the data do or do not have a permit. Also, most violent crime in a home would fall out of the scope of “active shooter” events per the FBI definition so it may not impact this study much but if the data were available somewhere/somehow I would love to look at home invasion stats and look at the success of armed homeowners vs non-armed homeowners.
Odd….the actual source shows that civilians are only successful 16% of the time. Someone likes to skew their data
John, we take publicly available data from the FBI and we analyze it. We make available our data and findings for free download. There is nothing skewed about this and if you feel otherwise you are going to have to be specific and back up your claim.
“Active Shooter Events Over Time” – This graphic might be more useful if you were to adjust for (or simply graph it along side) the population growth. The number of incidents is obviously growing, but is it growing on pace with the population growth? I think we’ll see a much flatter trajectory (couldn’t resist the dad joke/pun there) than the graph is implying.
Great article. Great acknowledgment of unknowns. Thank you for all this work!
Great point, something I didn’t take into consideration. Based on some quick searching it looks like the US has had a fairly consistent increase in the population of about .85% per year since the year 2000. If we adjusted for population growth I think the number of events per year would still be climbing but perhaps not as much. Cheers and thanks for reading!
The active shooter is an armed citizen too.
So technically, that number is 100%
Very good, thanks from France !
“The white line below shows the average by year which looks very up and down. The yellow line is a three-year moving average which does paint a bit of a picture that the likelihood of an Armed Citizen being present is increasing; especially in the last 3-4 years.” There is no white line.What the heck?
T.Jones good catch. White in that paragraph should read blue. I’ve fixed it. Hopefully, the legend in the referenced chart helped clarify.
Does the new data include the recent incident (Alabama?) where a CCW was misidentified at a mall shooting as the active shooter and shot/killed by LEO?
I believe he was a soldier also, engineer.
No. The data set here goes through 2017.
what is the average lives saved when a armed civilian is present compared to when one is not?
Is it possible to get this updated to include more recent incidents seeing that there are about four more years of data available now?
-thanks great article by the way!
Thanks for the message Seth. We may revisit this topic. The limiting factor is that gathering the data is labor intensive for a small business. I know that sounds like an excuse, but I guess I wanted to say the reason we haven’t done it again with new data isn’t because we don’t want to. Stay tuned, maybe we can make it happen. Thanks again!