The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has recently released an important report indicating the civilian use of firearms in self-defense is much more prevalent than some would have us believe, and far more successful than previously reported. This is actually great news for law enforcement and lawfully armed citizens. Law enforcement officers understand all too well we are rarely at the scene of a violent crime when the critical moments are at hand.
The civilian carry of firearms is guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution but has been a widely divided topic among law enforcement agencies across the nation. Larger cities and the far east and west coast have tended to support stricter firearms restrictions, while much of the southeast, midwest, mountain west, and rural areas have been much more supportive of civilian firearm ownership and carry. Though the arguments for and against civilian carry of firearms are definitely not over, this new FBI report spreads a much clearer image of the ways civilians are using firearms in defense and how successful they are.
Editor’s Note: BlueSheepdog is made up of current and former law enforcement officers from various backgrounds and experience. This author has over 21 years in law enforcement, including Patrol, Traffic, Drug Task Force, Supervisor, and SWAT. For disclosure, the author is a Lifetime Member of the National Rifle Association (NRA). The BlueSheepdog staff are supportive of lawful citizens possessing and carrying firearms for lawful purposes.
The FBI Reports on Firearm Use and Crime
The National Institute of Justice (under the DOJ) has shown the violent crime rate, including crimes with firearms, has dramatically fallen over the last 25 years. According to the NIJ Report the number of firearm incidents within that 25-year period was at a high in 1994 with 1.287 million. Since then the number has fallen to 467,000 in 2011, with only 333,000 in 2008. The firearm crime rate in 1994 was 7.4 per 100,000, while it dropped to 1.8 in 2011. The lowest firearm crime rate in the 25-year period was 2008 at 1.5.
However, in recent years there has arguably been an upsurge in violent crimes with firearms. This includes horrific acts of mass casualties including the Las Vegas massacre, the San Bernardino terrorist attack, and attack on the Pulse nightclub. However, the rise in violence also includes increased attacks on law enforcement officers and businesses. In the video below a committed armed robber continues to fight with the two female clerks (mother and daughter), even after being shot more than once.
The new F.B.I. report has some alarming numbers of victims during mass casualty events in recent years, as repeat killers appear to be dedicated to increasing deaths, casualties, and chaos. However, even in more individualized violent crime, suspects appear they are becoming more violent, more willing to kill, and less concerned about police intervention.
Let’s take a look at this latest report, and the surprising documentation of both recent violent crime, and armed civilian intervention against these criminals.
The F.B.I. Report By The Numbers
During the reporting time period (listed as 2014-2105 in the following graphs) there were 50 reported mass casualty incidents in 21 States throughout the U.S. However, it is extremely important to note only 20 of the 50 incidents met the FBI’s definition of mass murder. This definition was penned by the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit-2 in a report from 2005:
“Generally, mass murder was described as a number of murders (four or more) occurring during the same incident, with no distinctive time period between the murders. These events typically involved a single location, where the killer murdered a number of victims in an ongoing incident (e.g. the 1984 San Ysidro McDonalds incident in San Diego, California; the 1991 Luby’s Restaurant massacre in Killeen, Texas; and the 2007 Virginia Tech murders in Blacksburg, Virginia).”
These incidents resulted in a horrific 943 total casualties, with 221 killed and 722 wounded. The numbers rightfully do not include the killers who died, who too often get the extraordinary coverage by media outlets they do not deserve. The statistics include the 58 killed and astounding 489 wounded during the Las Vegas Route 91 Festival, and the 49 killed and 53 wounded at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. These two horrific events account for over half of all casualties during the latest FBI report’s 2016-2017 timeframe, and more than all casualties in 2014-2015 (in blue below large green numbers).
Another terrible incident with high casualties was the Sutherland Springs, Texas First Baptist church attack with 26 killed and 20 wounded. This attack was particularly shocking as it violated what most consider a sacred sanctuary. Another very important distinction about the First Baptist attack is the response of two civilians in particular, who engaged the killer with an AR-15 rifle, and then chased the suspect in a high-speed pursuit. Ultimately, the killer crashed and shot himself in the head – but not before he had sustained several bullet wounds from the armed civilian.
Within the FBI Report on Mass Killings for 2016-2017 is a map showing the 21 States affected during this report. As the map shows these horrific events span the nation and the spectrum of demographics this great nation comprises. Red and Blue States are affected. Rich and poor States are affected. Large and small States are affected.
Interestingly, the two States most affected during this reporting cycle (California and Texas) are at polar ends on laws pertaining to civilian ownership of firearms. California boasts one of the most restrictive gun ownership laws in the nation, and concealed carry permits are very difficult to obtain in most of the State. However, the Golden State suffered 5 mass killings.
Texas and Florida traditionally favor the right to bear arms, and their laws generally reflect the right of citizens to possess and carry firearms. However, the Lone Star State led the nation with six mass killing incidents during this report, while Florida tied California with five. Restrictive State Washington had three, while more allowable State Ohio had four.
The FBI report numbers include the 13 law enforcement officers killed while responding and attempting to stop these maniacal killers. This is a terrible trend representing four times as many officers killed in these responses as the 2014-2015 reporting. In addition to the 13 law enforcement officers killed, 20 more officers were wounded in response to these mass casualty events – double the number from 2014-2015.
According to the FBI definition of “mass killing,” there were 20 incidents where four or more persons were killed during the same incident. This is not stated lightly, or in any disrespect for those innocent victims lost or wounded, merely to note some sensationalized accounts from media and pundits do not accurately depict the true nature of these events. Both of the last reporting periods had 20 mass killing incidents meeting FBI standards.
Of the 20 mass casualty events in this report, 14 were ended after the exchange of gunfire between law enforcement and the killer. This number is extremely important, as it clearly indicates modern Active Shooter training for law enforcement is having the desired effect in response to these most critical of incidents. Officers are responding as quickly as they can to the report of the attacks, moving with purpose to the threat, and engaging the killers with gunfire effective enough to end the threat.
This does not mean the officers killed the 14 suspects they engaged (officers killed 11), but their direct action of lethal force (gunfire) towards the killers was paramount to ending the killing spree. Over the 50 incidents 13 shooters committed suicide at the conclusion, some after being engaged by law enforcement. Of particular note is the 3 assailants who wore some form of body armor, something law enforcement officers must train for and expect. This was a rise by one from the previous reporting period.
Perhaps an alarming reality is the fact that most of the mass killers have shown a complete willingness to continue killing until someone engages them with lethal force – law enforcement or civilian. This finding contradicts much of what the media and some pundits claim about the merits of gun control laws and “gun free zones.” In fact, these stark statistics seem to merit a considerable review and discussion of the chosen gun-free practices found at many of these targeted locations though the broad discussion warrants an entirely new article.
Though not necessarily surprising, all of the mass murderers in the latest 50 incidents have been male. Only 3 were female during the 2014-2015 reporting period. Though there is currently a clear pattern for the gender of these mass killers, officers cannot let their guard down in their response for these most critical of incidents. The San Bernardino terrorist attack clearly showed the dangerous capability of female mass killers as she fully participated in the original attack, and subsequent assault on law enforcement.
Interestingly, and possibly very concerning, is the fact the numbers of killers committing suicide at the end of their murderous spree has dropped noticeably. In the 2014-2015 reporting cycle, 16 of the 42 mass killing shooters committed suicide (38%) to end their killing spree, while in the most current 2016-2017 reporting cycle only 13 of the 50 mass killing shooters committed suicide (26%).
Whether this indicates these sociopaths want to be captured to continue their perverted infamy, or they simply have not thought out their end game and unravel in the face of confrontation, is unknown. The statistics of the report showed 18 mass shooters were apprehended by police, while only 12 were captured in the previous report.
The final note of importance from the FBI report’s statistics is the intervention of mass killers by armed civilians. Previously we mentioned the two civilians who engaged the Sandy Springs, Texas church killer (one with an AR-15, the other the driver during the pursuit), but this trend appears to be increasing.
It is sometimes a matter of controversy for law enforcement officers to recommend to citizens to use firearms in their defense. This may be based on fears of liability should something go terribly wrong. Perhaps political fears the suggestion would lead to a public decline in the confidence in the police. Sadly, in some cases, it is the errant belief by the few who wear a uniform and do not believe in the individual’s right to be armed and act in self-defense.
However, this latest FBI report shows the number of mass killers killed by police dropped from 14 to 11, while the number of mass killers “stopped” by citizens rose from 6 to 8. In other words, armed civilians stopped nearly as many mass killers as the responding police. This is huge!
There is merit in avoiding an endorsement of any suggestion that could be interpreted to advocate vigilantism, but law enforcement officers must fully understand the clear direction from the Founding Fathers and the U.S. Supreme Court in regards to civilian possession of firearms for self-defense. It is lawful and fully supported by the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Therefore, law enforcement who has sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution must adhere to its tenets, uphold the law, and support citizen’s rights to carry arms and defend themselves.
Civilian Concealed Carry Permits
Interestingly, during the last 3 decades, every State has adopted some form of civilian concealed carry firearms law, and record numbers of citizens have taken advantage of these permits. In fact, 14 States (including mine), have passed “Constitutional Carry” laws eliminating the need for lawful citizens to obtain a permit to carry a firearm concealed.
According to the website Guns to Carry, the number of civilian concealed carry permits rose from 2.7 million in 1999 to over 16 million currently. The current record year for the issuance of concealed carry permits was in 2016 when 1.73 million new permits were issued. Of particular note is the fact women now outnumber men in obtaining concealed carry permits, and currently, represent 36% of all concealed permit holders. According to economist and gun rights author John Lott, from 2007 to 2017 issued concealed carry permits jumped 256%.
What may surprise some is the States with the most concealed carry permits. Florida is by far the state with the highest number of concealed carry permits with 1.78 million. However, the number two State is Pennsylvania (among the northeastern States typically in favor of stricter firearm laws) with an impressive 1.275 million. Texas jumps in at number 3 with 1.2 million. Alaska may be an anomaly as “everyone in Alaska owns a gun,” but only has about 9900 concealed carry permit holders. Then again, everyone in Alaska just open carries, and its no big deal in “The Last Frontier.”
At the bottom of the stack are the highly restrictive firearm States of Hawaii with zero, New Jersey with about 1200, and Rhode Island with about 2500. The District of Columbia has a meager 124 permits despite being the respondent in one of the pivotal firearms rights Supreme Court cases of District of Columbia v. Heller (2008).
Citizen and LE Response to Active Shooters
What is abundantly clear; however, is lawful Americans are buying record numbers of firearms and obtaining concealed carry permits at record numbers as well. American law enforcement needs to understand the U.S. Constitution permits a citizen’s right to own and possess a firearm, and many states recognize citizen’s legal right to carry a firearm concealed, open, or both.
As the numbers in the latest FBI report indicate, Americans are getting fed up with these crazed mass killers, and are much more likely to intervene to stop them. With this in mind, the American law enforcement officer must also consider their arrival at the scene of a mass killing event may cause them to encounter lawful citizens armed and simply trying to help end the killing. This prospect is incredibly fraught with life-and-death danger, as well as legal ramifications as well.
This video shows a legally armed citizen saving an officer’s life, after a brutal attack with the offender on top of the officer.
On one hand officers have a strong legal ground to confront an armed citizen at a mass killing scene and order them to drop their weapon and surrender much like the suspected shooter. Despite the citizen’s desire to help, Courts have been very clear law enforcement officers have the right to protect themselves and secure a crime scene – especially a chaotic mass casualty scene loaded with unknowns.
On the other hand, armed citizens must be fully aware of their introduction of a firearm into a critical incident opens them up to danger from the suspect, other armed citizens, and responding police officers. An armed citizen desiring to end a mass killing or other criminal action must prepare for the inevitable arrival of police and be prepared to fully comply with the officers for their own safety.
Understanding the officers will not have all the information, and will not be able to identify helpful armed citizens from mass killers, should clearly put citizens on notice to be in an act of surrender immediately upon law enforcement arrival.
The FBI report on mass killings can simply be looked at as a dark image of what America is confronting, or the reader can look deeper into the numbers and find some remarkable insight. Though violent crime and crime, in general, are at historic lows, the seeming rise in mass killings and the rise in violence towards police officers is of real concern.
More and more Americans are buying firearms, and many of them are obtaining concealed carry permits. Officers have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitutional rights of their citizens and must be fully aware of what citizens may and may not do with firearms in their jurisdictions. Respectful interactions with lawfully armed citizens are completely attainable, and something BlueSheepdog has posted on before.
Police officers responding to mass killing events should prepare for the inevitability of a lawfully armed citizen being on scene trying to help. This does not mean we sacrifice officer safety, and allow unknown persons to wander around armed. Officers should confront an armed individual with firm and concise orders to disarm and surrender. Those persons should be detained, and quite likely secured in handcuffs until the scene is secured and their identity and intentions can be checked and verified.
Armed citizens must recognize their decision to become involved in a chaotic scene will result in police handling them as any other unknown armed person on the scene. Citizens must prepare themselves to surrender, be handcuffed, have their firearm temporarily confiscated, and allow the investigation to clear them after-the-fact. Anything less would be chaotic, tedious, and extraordinarily dangerous to law enforcement, the armed citizen, and everyone else nearby.
Law enforcement and armed citizens must realize more of these mass killers are no longer opting to commit suicide at the first sign of armed resistance. Instead, these murderers are showing even more willingness to continue violence, and even be captured, rather than end things themselves. Whether for infamy, cowardice, or both this added danger must be realized and preparations made to counter this effort of evil.
In the end, the FBI report shows citizens carrying firearms can be a very beneficial event as it appears more citizens are willing to put themselves at danger to end a horrific event. This is a good thing, and BlueSheepdog supports armed citizens.