Absence of Profiles: The Complexity of Understanding Active Shooter Incidents

OTTAWA, Dec. 3, 2015 /CNW/ - Yesterday's shooting in San Bernardino, California, as well as the recent attacks in Paris and Beirut demonstrate that active shooters differ widely in terms of who they are, what motivates them, and how their actions unfold. A new briefing released today by The Conference Board of Canada highlights insights that public and private stakeholders need to be aware of when dealing with active shooter incidents.

"The number of active shooter incidents in Canada is low and there are no indications of an upward trend," said Satyamoorthy Kabilan, Director, National Security and Strategic Foresight, The Conference Board of Canada. "However, the relative lack of exposure to these tragedies also means less experience in responding to them and dealing with their major social impacts. As such, more work can be done to increase awareness of and preparedness against these traumatic events." 

An active shooter is defined as an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area. The majority of active shooters are men, who, although not often mentally ill, obsess about perceived victimization and seek to exact revenge for a perceived wrong. Although, a clearly-defined profile does not exist, the briefing identifies some broad categories and aspects that active shooters may demonstrate:

  • Those who deliberately target their own workplace or school out of a direct grievance or personal problem with their colleagues or peers;
  • Those who act out a psychological issue through the use of violence against a random target;
  • Those who are motivated by terrorist ideology and intend to cause mass casualties to create public fear and draw attention to a political issue.

In addition, the briefing identifies six areas of importance for public and private stakeholders when considering active shooter incidents. They are:

  1. Definitions—There is a need for more clarity around the language we use when responding to active shooter incidents.
  2. Anti-government trend—The specific targeting of uniformed officials is a worrying phenomenon: raising awareness about it and possibly re-evaluating tactics may be useful.  
  3. Impacts—When dealing with active shooter threats and incidents, both the economic and psychological impacts can be significant and need to be carefully considered. 
  4. Resource Tracking and Sustainability—Responding to active shooter events is extremely resource-intensive. Resource tracking can enhance situational awareness among stakeholders and prevent further public confusion.
  5. Communications— Given the speed with which active shooter incidents unfold, the ability to quickly share information between responding agencies as well as the public and private sector is crucial.
  6. Public-Private Collaboration—Since active shooter incidents are often over before law enforcement arrives and frequently unfold in crowded public areas, optimizing public-private sector collaboration is vital to ensuring a timely, coordinated response effort.

The briefing, 6 Key Insights on Active Shooter Incidents is available to the public from our e-Library. Findings from the briefing will be presented at a live webinar on January 19, 2016 at 3:00 pm.


SOURCE Conference Board of Canada

For further information: Yvonne Squires, Media Relations, The Conference Board of Canada, Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext. 221, E-mail: corpcomm@conferenceboard.ca; Sean Burgess, Media relations, The Conference Board of Canada, Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext. 294, E-mail: corpcomm@conferenceboard.ca

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