threat management

Are Mass Attacks Domestic Terrorism?

I see a lot of people calling the two most recent mass shootings domestic terror attacks. If a different label gets us to start focusing on preventing these incidents like we have been preventing foreign terror attacks since 9/11 – with intelligence gathering, information sharing, and threat management – then call them whatever you want. Whether attacks are fueled by ideology, hate, or grievances in school, the workplace, or at home, there are opportunities for intervention and prevention.

According to the U.S. Secret Service Mass Attacks in Public Spaces (MAPS) report, ideology was a motive in 7% of the mass attacks in 2018. This was down considerably from 21% the previous year. However, in 78% of the attacks in 2018 and 79% in 2017, the perpetrator exhibited behaviors that caused concern in others.

active shooter mass attacks
U.S. Secret Service report on Mass Attacks in Public Spaces

The behaviors that elicited concerns were similar, regardless of the motives behind the shootings. Had these concerns been reported and investigated, the attacks could have potentially been averted.

The next mass shooting will not be prevented by stricter gun laws, arming more “good guys,” increasing security, or changing the national discourse. The next shooting probably has already been prevented because someone was concerned enough to call the police who then investigated and managed the threat. As the MAPS report recommends, the public needs to “See Something, Say Something,” and law enforcement needs to “Do Something.” Schools, workplaces, places of worship, and police departments must adopt a prevention mindset and have policies and procedures in place to identify, assess, and manage threats.