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The Secret Service analyzed 173 mass casualty attacks. This is what they found.

Three-quarters of attackers used guns to carry out mass-casualty attacks between 2016 and 2020, according to a study released by the federal government on Wednesday.

More than a third of attackers have encountered precarious housing within two decades of their attack. Nearly a quarter were involved in “ultimate communications” in the lead-up to its release, including calling people to say goodbye, composing suicide notes, and posting statements online.

The 72-page report, compiled by the US Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center, analyzed 173 incidents in which three or more individuals were injured or killed in public or semi-public spaces, including businesses, schools and places of worship. Researchers hope that new insights into the behavior of attackers can prevent future tragedies by informing bystander reports.

The results—spanning across 37 states and Washington, D.C.—come in as a community in Monterey Park, California, grieves 11 people died After a gunman opened fire in a dance hall during the Lunar New Year celebrations, over the weekend. Less than two days later, seven people were killed Mass shootings at two mushroom farms in Half Moon Bay, Northern California.

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It was three people fatal shot In an attack on a convenience store in Yakima, Wash., Wednesday.

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People hold a candlelight vigil to remember the victims of a mass shooting in Monterey Park, California, on January 24, 2023. Eleven people were killed in the shooting.

Frederick J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

“No society is immune from this,” said Dr. Nina Al-Athari, head of the US Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center. “But we see commonalities that will help us in prevention.”

Here are the main points:

(1) Nearly three-quarters of the attacks were carried out using firearms.

In 73% of mass casualty incidents, the attackers used one or more firearms to kill or maim the victims.

“In terms of fatalities when comparing weapon types, more than 80% of firearm incidents are fatal. For other weapons, less than half [the incidents] “It caused deaths,” al-Athari said.

Almost three-quarters of the attackers used a handgun, while almost a third used a long gun.

In one striking example, the report cites a 38-year-old man from Kansas who killed three And 14 others were wounded in a shooting in 2016 while under the influence of methamphetamine. The gunman, who was eventually shot and killed by police, fired first into a series of cars after receiving a civil protection order from his ex-girlfriend. Approximately six months prior to the incident, the attacker obtained the handgun and gun used in his attack from another ex-girlfriend, who bought him the guns after he threatened her with violence.

Almost a quarter of the attacks involved at least one firearm that the attacker had obtained illegally, including those purchased through straw purchases, theft, private sellers, and online parts.

The researchers were only able to track the timing of weapon possession for the 50 attacks. But in 19 of those incidents, the firearm was obtained within one month of the attack. In the case of all three, it was obtained on the same day as the attack.

(2) Farewell: Almost a quarter of the attackers exchanged “final calls.”

Almost a third of the 180 attackers – 28% – issued communications or final acts indicating an imminent attack, including the production of farewell videos, journals or statements detailing their plans and motives. Others made goodbye calls to friends and family, left suicide notes, or wrote cryptic messages to others indicating they would never be seen again.

According to the report, the attackers’ final actions, some of which were part of the planning, included terminating a lease, giving away personal property, stopping buying food for a pet, checking or changing life insurance, and locking up money for family members.

Before detonating an explosive device inside an RV on Christmas Day, 63-year-old Anthony Quinn Warner, who committed suicide and wounded three others in downtown Nashville, gifted his home, telling a customer he was retiring. Days before the bombing, he gave his car to a friend. Just hours before the attack, he broadcasts announcements from his RV warning nearby pedestrians of an impending explosion, finally starting a countdown.

In 33 of the attacks, the attackers made statements or engaged in past behavior that indicated they did not plan to survive the attack. Of these, 18 attackers were killed by suicide, including two who counted their shots, saving the last bullet for themselves.

(3) Almost all attackers have experienced one or more major stressors within five years of the attack.

Nearly 93% of attackers dealt with personal issues ranging from health issues to divorce, domestic violence, car accidents, school expulsions, disciplinary actions at work, and cyberbullying, among a host of other challenges.

For the 139 attackers—77%—the stressors occurred within one year of the mass casualty incident. Seventy-two percent of attackers specifically experienced financial stress at some time prior to their attack.

Of the 180 attackers analyzed, the researchers found that 39% experienced precarious housing within 20 years of their attacks, including 17% who were experiencing homelessness at the time of the attack, and three attackers who targeted other members of the homeless population.

In the United States, the number of homeless people is calculated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The department counts people on the streets and in homeless shelters annually during the month of December. In 2022, that number was 582,462.

Just over a third of attackers have a history of illegal drug use, misuse of prescription drugs, or misuse of substances such as alcohol or marijuana, often resulting in “negative consequences” due to their drug use, including criminal charges, professional or academic failure, and court-ordered programs. and evacuations,” according to the report.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 61.2 million people nationally Those ages 12 or older — 22% of the US population — used illicit drugs in the past year, and 9.2 million people misused opioids.

Nearly one-third of the fired attackers in the Secret Service study had at least one contact with law enforcement that did not result in an arrest, including attackers who engaged in domestic violence (23%), violent crime (23%), and nonviolent crime ( 22%).

(4) More than half of the attackers experienced mental health symptoms before or at the time of the attacks.

The report noted that “the vast majority of individuals in the United States with the mental health problems discussed … do not commit crimes or acts of violence.” “The symptoms described in this section are potential contributing factors and should not be viewed as causal explanations for why the attacks occur.”

Symptoms found by 58% of the attackers included depression, psychotic symptoms, and suicidal thoughts.

“The age of onset of symptoms varies, with some attackers first experiencing symptoms in adolescence while others’ symptoms began later in life,” the report states.

Statistical squares with national estimates. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than half of the US population will be diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point in their lives.

“Mental health symptoms alone have nothing to do with violent behavior,” said Dr. Al-Athari. “Indeed, the vast majority of individuals in this country with mental health issues will never become violent, but it is an important factor to consider in the context of assessing an individual who may come to our attention for anxiety.”

According to the report, nearly a third of the attackers had previously received some form of psychiatric treatment, even though care “was widely varied and often unsustainable.”

(5) More than half of the attackers were motivated by grievances and sought revenge for perceived wrongdoing.

While grievances mostly related to personal stressors related to health or finances, bullying or feeling abused, 17% of grievances were related to issues related to a current or past domestic relationship, and 10% were related to the workplace.

The analysts concluded that “grievances remained the most common element of motivation for mass attackers from 2016 to 2020”.

And while the attackers ranged in age from 14 to 87, with an average age of 34, nearly all of the 180 attackers (96%) in the report were male.

(6) A quarter of the attackers subscribed to conspiracy theories or hate ideologies.

These belief systems included anti-government, anti-Semitic, and misogynist views, among others.

At least 35 attackers (19%) had displayed misogynistic behavior prior to the attacks – such as sexual harassment, threats of sexual violence, and calling women derogatory names.

Conspiracy theories noted among the attackers included false beliefs “that the moon landing was by the government, the Jewish people were trying to take over the world, aliens or lizards were preparing to take over, people of Chinese descent were responsible for the spread of the coronavirus, and the United Nations was planning to exterminate the virus.” American Citizens Weapon.

At least six attackers became radicalized in their beliefs through online participation, although nearly two-thirds of the 180 attackers had a defined online presence, with some posting on blogs or social media.

According to the report, nearly a quarter were found reported about online communications, such as threats of harm to others and posts alluding to suicidal thoughts, past mass shootings, violent content, and hatred towards a particular ethnic group.

(7) Three-quarters of attackers exhibited behavior that drew the attention of family members, friends, neighbors, classmates, co-workers, and others.

NTAC researchers determined that nearly two-thirds of the 180 attackers who displayed “objective or taboo behaviour,” or exchanged communications that were of concern, “should have been met with an immediate response.”

Of these attackers, nearly half – 49% – exhibit behaviors related to disruptive communication and direct threats, including threats of harm to others, threats of domestic violence, references to an imminent attack, and talk about building or acquiring weapons, among other means of communication. .

The study revealed that “half of the attacks involved a commercial website and the attackers often had a previous relationship with the company, either as a current or former employee, or as a customer.”

The analysts stressed that community members should be involved in proactive reporting of bystanders and urged companies to “consider developing workplace violence prevention plans to identify, assess, and intervene with current employees, former employees, and customers who may pose a risk of violence.”

More than 21,000 organizations — including schools, houses of worship, businesses, law enforcement agencies and even sports leagues, like the NBA and MLB — have signed up for virtual training issued by the Secret Service, according to Archaeologist.

While Wednesday’s report does not address this week’s mass shootings, Al-Athari said the events “affect” her team, in part because “we study them day in and day out.”

“We want to make sure that communities have this information that the Secret Service is publishing,” Al-Athari added. “We have the science. We have the guidance. We want people to use it so we can try to prevent horrible acts of violence in the future.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing emotional distress or a suicidal crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

For more information about mental health care resources and support, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) helpline can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264). Or email [email protected]

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