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LAS VEGAS, NV: A crowd of people at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gunfire was heard on 1 October 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. An active shooter in a hotel room at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino fired more than 1,000 rounds and killed  60 people. (Photo by David Becker, Getty Images)

Active Assailants Increasingly Seek Open Spaces, FBI Data Finds

Commercial facilities include a wide range of businesses and services to the public—amusement parks, arenas, casinos, convention centers, entertainment venues, hotels, media, outdoor festivals, parks, real estate, shopping centers, and more. These sites often attract large numbers of people, and they are usually built to be resilient under the expectation that these facilities will be subject to crowds, heavy equipment and items, and harsh weather. 

But they have also increasingly attracted attacks, as shooters and extremists seek easier access to a large number of victims, media attention, and damage.

Since 2016, U.S. active shooter incident data has trended upwards, according to an FBI report, Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2020. The number of events involving an active shooter in 2020 increased by 100 percent from 2016—an increase that overall continued in later years.

“For the period 2018-2022, active shooter incident data shows an upward trend despite the decrease between 2021-2022,” according to the latest version of the report, Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2022.

How Many Active Assailant Incidents Were There in Soft Targets?

In 2020, there were 40 shootings that the FBI determined were active shooter events.

  • 60 percent happened in areas of commerce.
    • 19 of the attacks occurred in businesses that were open to the public.
  • 25 percent of the shootings were in open space locations.

In 2021, the FBI designated 61 shootings as active shooter incidents, marking a 52.5 percent increase in such events compared to the year prior and a 96.8 percent increase from 2017.

  • A little more than 52 percent of the incidents occurred in areas of commerce.
  • A little more than 31 percent happened in open spaces.
  • 3 percent of the attacks were at an educational site.
  • 1 percent were in a house of worship site.

In 2022, there were 50 shootings that the FBI categorized as active shooter incidents, a decrease of 18 percent from 2021.

  • 46 percent occurred in open spaces.
  • 28 percent occurred in areas of commerce.
  • 8 percent were in educational or residential sites.
  • 4 percent happened in houses of worship and government.