New FBI report claims that 8% of active shooter attacks during 2014-17 were stopped or mitigated by concealed handgun permit holders, but misses at least half the cases.

Sep 12, 2018 | Featured

Originally posted on May 31, 2018. With the media giving news coverage to a study based on this politically biased data, it seemed useful to again point out the flaws in the FBI’s data.

Original Post: The FBI has now released its third report on active shooters.  The first report covered 2000-2013, and we found 20 missing cases where at least 2 people had been killed.  FBI reports for 2014-15 and 2016-17 also missed cases.

The latest report received widespread coverage in USA TodayABC NewsChicago Sun-Times, and dozens of other local media across the country.

The FBI’s two latest reports state that there were 40 active shooter cases from 2014-15 and 50 cases from 2016-17.  During these two periods, the FBI reports that two and five shootings, respectively, were stopped by individuals with concealed handgun permits.  The two reports each describe an additional case where a permit holder was involved but wounded or killed by the attacker.

For four years, the CPRC has been collecting cases of concealed handgun permit holders stopping mass public shootings. As we will show below, permit holders saved lives in between 13 and 16 cases from 2014-17.  This includes the seven cases that the FBI lists, seven cases that should have been included (one of the seven is debatable), and two cases that the FBI had on its list but doesn’t include as instances of permit holders saving lives.  Thus, concealed handgun permit holders saved lives in 13.5% to 16.5% of 97 cases. We only started collecting these cases were permit holders stopped attacks in 2014, so a comparison is limited to the last two active shooting reports put out by the FBI.

It is entirely possible that in the two cases where a permit holder was wounded or killed by the attacker that the permit holder’s actions allowed others to escape the scene. But even assuming that was not the case, permit holders were successful between 87% and 89% of the time that they intervened.

The first report claimed that permit holders had stopped one out of 160 active shooter cases from 2000-2013. We don’t believe that we have found all of the cases in which permit holders saved lives during that period, so we aren’t going to focus on those errors here. But we did find 14 other cases. Adding together all the cases from 2000 to 2017, we know of a total of at least 31 out of 270 cases, or 11.5%, being stopped by permit holders.

The first report provides the most detailed definition of active shooter incidents:

  • An “active” shooter case may possibly occur any time a gun is fired, even if no one is injured or killed.
  • The FBI only includes shootings in “public places” such as commercial areas (malls, stores, and other businesses); schools and colleges; open spaces; government properties (including military bases and civilian offices); houses of worship; and healthcare facilities.
  • The FBI excludes “shootings that resulted from gang or drug violence,” occurred in the commission of another ongoing crime such as robbery, or arose primarily from self-defense — primarily a domestic dispute or barricade/hostage situation.

In the most recent report, the FBI defines an active shooter as (p. 2):

One or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area. Implicit in this definition is the shooter’s use of one or more firearms. The active aspect of the definition inherently implies that both law enforcement personnel and citizens have the potential to affect the outcome of the event based upon their responses to the situation. . . .

We contacted the FBI about its classification of these cases.  We will discuss the objections that the FBI made in its response to us and our counter responses.  When we pointed out that there were a number of cases included in their reports that were the same in type as the ones that they excluded, the FBI wrote us back:

The selection of cases for inclusion in these reports is the result of a consensus vote of analysts and Law Enforcement professionals using the methodology stated in the original 2013 study.  In some cases, a level of interpretation is required with which all may not agree.  The FBI notes your differing opinion in the stated cases.

But first, here are the seven active shooter cases that the FBI acknowledges were stopped by permit holders:

1. Schlenker Automotive (Commerce)
On November 17, 2017, at 4:30 p.m., Robert Lorenzo Bailey, Jr., 28, armed with a handgun, allegedly began shooting in the parking lot of Schlenker Automotive in Rockledge, Florida. The manager of the auto repair shop and an employee, both possessing valid firearms permits, exchanged gunfire with the shooter. One person was killed; one was wounded. The shooter, shot twice during the exchange, was held at gunpoint by the manager until law enforcement arrived and took him into custody.

2. First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas (House of Worship)
On November 5, 2017, at 11:20 a.m., Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, armed with a rifle, exited his vehicle and began shooting outside the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. He then entered the church and continued shooting at members of the congregation. The shooter exited the church and was confronted by a citizen who possessed a valid firearms permit. The citizen shot the shooter twice, causing the shooter to drop his rifle and flee the scene in his vehicle. The armed citizen, together with the owner of a pickup truck, pursued the shooter. The chase ended when the shooter’s vehicle struck a road sign and overturned. Twenty-six people were killed; 20 were wounded. The shooter committed suicide with a handgun he had in his vehicle before police arrived.

3. Townville Elementary School (Education)
On September 28, 2016, at 1:45 p.m., Jesse Dewitt Osborne, 14, armed with a handgun, allegedly began shooting at the Townville Elementary School playground in Townville, South Carolina. Prior to the shooting, the shooter, a former student, killed his father at their home. Two people were killed, including one student; three were wounded, one teacher and two students. A volunteer firefighter, who possessed a valid firearms permit, restrained the shooter until law enforcement officers arrived and apprehended him.

4. Burnette Chapel Church of Christ (House of Worship)
On September 24, 2017, at 11:15 a.m., Emanuel Kidega Samson, 25, armed with two handguns, allegedly began shooting in the parking lot of the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennes- see. After killing one person, the shooter entered the church and shot six people. A citizen who attempted to subdue the shooter was pistol-whipped. During the altercation, the shooter accidently shot himself. While the shooter was preoccupied, the citizen, who possessed a valid firearms permit, retrieved a handgun from his car and held the shooter at gunpoint until law enforcement arrived. One person was killed; seven were wounded. The shooter was apprehended by law enforcement.

5. Multiple Locations in Clearlake Oaks, California (Commerce)
On October 23, 2017, at 11:23 a.m., Alan Ashmore, 61, armed with a shotgun and a handgun, allegedly began firing into several homes and a vehicle in Clearlake Oaks, California, killing two people, including his father, and wounding one. Another person was wounded while fleeing out of a residence window. The shooter then shot and wounded a responding law enforcement officer before fleeing in his vehicle. The shooter drove to a nearby gas station and exchanged gunfire with the vendor, who possessed a valid firearms permit. The shooter fled the scene in his vehicle and drove to another gas station where he fired more shots.

6. Sister Marie Lenahan Wellness Center (Health Care)
On July 24, 2014, at 2:20 p.m., Richard Steven Plotts, 49, armed with a handgun entered his psychiatrist’s office at Sister Marie Lenahan Wellness Center in Darby, Pennsylvania, and began shooting, killing his caseworker and wounding his doctor. The doctor, who possessed a valid firearms permit, returned fire. One person was killed; 1 was wounded. Employeesrestrained the wounded shooter until law enforcement arrived.

7. North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago (Open Space)
On April 19, 2015, at 11:50 p.m., Everardo Custodio, 21, armed with a handgun, began shooting into a crowd of people on North Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. No one was killed or wounded. A citizen with a valid firearms permit shot the suspect and restrained him until law enforcement arrived and took him into custody.

Case that the FBI agrees was missed

1. Conyers, Georgia, Sunday, May 31, 2015, The Rockdale Citizen

If a permit holder intervenes and prevents any loss of life from occurring, a shooting may not get much news coverage.  But in this case, two people were killed before the permit holder was able to stop the attack.

A customer who fired back at the suspect who killed two people in a Ga. Highway 20 liquor store Sunday afternoon is being hailed as a hero.

Rockdale County Sheriff Eric Levett said at a press conference Monday that Todd C. Scott, 44, a resident of Covington, very likely prevented other customers in the store from losing their lives.

Levett said store video from Magnet Bottle Shop showed that the suspect, Jeffrey Scott Pitts, 36, came in the store Sunday afternoon firing a handgun.

“I believe that if Mr. Scott did not return fire at the suspect then more of those customers would have hit by a gun,” said [Rockdale County Sheriff Eric Levett]. “It didn’t appear that he cared who he shot or where he was shooting until someone was shooting back at him. So in my opinion he saved other lives in that store.”

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Pitts fled after another patron, Todd C. Scott, of Covington, opened fire with his own hand gun. It is still unclear whether Aikens died before or after Scott returned fire with Pitts, but the sheriff credited Scott with saving lives.

I consider him to be a hero,” [Rockdale County Sheriff Eric Levett] said.

FBI response:

The FBI did not come across this incident during its research back in 2015, but it does meet the FBI’s active shooter definition.  As stated in the 2013 Study Methodology, FBI active Shooter reports do not encompass all mass killings or shootings in public places and therefore are limited in their scope.  Nonetheless, these reports are undertaken to provide clarity and data of value to both law enforcement and citizens as they seek to stop these threats and save lives during active shooter incidents.  There is no reporting requirement for Law Enforcement agencies to report    potential  active shooter incidents to the FBI, so some cases will be missed.

Other cases:

Here are five more cases that we believe that the FBI missed, and we have also included the FBI’s responses to us after we brought these cases to their attention.

1. Arlington, Texas, May 3, 2017 (Dallas Morning News)

This attack was stopped before more than one person could be killed.  The police spokesman made clear that the concealed handgun permit holder “prevented further loss of life” by taking out the killer, who was “shooting at the front door . . . [as] people were trying to escape.”  The headline on the Dallas Morning News story read: “‘Hero’ stopped mass murder by a crazed bar patron who was armed to the teeth, police say.”  Emphasis added in bold below.

A concealed carry holder is being heralded as a “hero” by Arlington police for preventing mass murder by killing an “incoherent” gunman at a bar Wednesday evening.

Before he was shot about 6:15 p.m., the gunman killed the manager of Zona Caliente in the 6500 block of South Cooper Street, police spokesman Christopher Cook said.

Police later identified the gunman as 48-year-old James Jones of Grand Prairie and the victim as 37-year-old Cesar Perez of Duncanville. The man who killed Jones has not been identified.

Authorities later found two loaded guns and two knives on Jones, Cook said Thursday.

“We do believe he had the capacity to do much greater harm,” Cook said.

“After he was struck once, the suspect started shooting at the front door,” Cook told the Arlington Voice. “We know people were trying to escape, but we’re not sure if he was just trying to harm others.”

More than a dozen customers and a handful of employees were in the sports bar at the time of the shooting.

Cook said the customer, who was dining with his wife, “prevented further loss of life.” . . .

Another story in the Arlington Voice mentioned this:

“Had the Good Samaritan not intervened, there could have further loss of life,” Cook said.

Jones did not have a license to carry. . . .

From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

because he engaged the shooter there was no further loss of life.

Other stories are available here and here.

FBI response:

Does not meet the FBI definition.  The shooter had previously complained about the manager to his cousin.  Subject knew the manager prior and only shot the manager, no one else.
Our response: There are plenty of similar cases in the FBI’s list of active shooters where an attacker had a grudge against someone.  Take the shooting at the Crawford County Courthouse in Girard, Kansas on September 13, 2011.  Jesse Ray Palmer, the killer, “inquired about the location of a specific judge, who was not in the building, and then shot and wounded the judge’s secretary. No one was killed; one person was wounded.” It wasn’t even necessary that others be shot at for that case to be included in the list.  Or take a shooting at another bar — the Sandbar Sports Grill in Vail, Colorado, on November 7, 2009. “Before the attack, Moreau had an argument inside the bar and was escorted out by security.” He returned to the bar and killed the person who he had the argument with.
Nor is it obvious why it matters that the attacker “only shot the manager, no one else.”  In the Courthouse example above, only one person was shot.  There are also many examples in the FBI’s list of active shooters where no one was either killed or wounded. Here are are a few:
— Memorial Middle School in Joplin, Missouri, October 9, 2006
— Larose-Cut Off Middle School in Cut Off, Louisiana, May 18, 2009
— Farm King Store in Macomb, Illinois, February 3, 2010
— School board meeting in the Nelson Administrative Building in Panama City, Florida, December 14, 2010
In the case we point to, the killer not only shot at the manager, Zona Caliente, but also at the front door as people were trying to escape.  The manager was not near the front door.  The police spokesman said that the permit holder’s quick actions prevented “further loss of life.”

2. Lyman, South Carolina, June 30, 2016 (Fox Carolina)

Just a couple of weeks after the infamous Orlando massacre, a man, 32-year-old Jody Ray Thompson, started shooting at another nightclub in South Carolina.  Fortunately, unlike in Florida, permitted concealed handguns were allowed in bars.  Before the attacker could shoot a fourth person, a permit holder was able to shoot back, wounding Thompson in the leg.

“His rounds struck 3 victims, and almost struck a fourth victim, who in self-defense, pulled his own weapon and fired, striking Thompson in the leg,” Lt. Kevin Bobo said.

Bobo said the man who shot Thompson has a valid concealed weapons permit, cooperated with investigators, and won’t be facing any charges. . . . .

Also this

and at least one South Carolina sheriff [is] crediting a man with a concealed carry permit  with preventing further violence at a nightclub . . .

FBI response:

Does not meet FBI definition. Was the result of an altercation. (The shooter got into an argument with someone then fired indiscriminately into the crowd.)

Our response: There are cases in the previous FBI reports on active shooters that involve altercations or arguments.  For example, the Perry Hall High School shooting in Baltimore, Maryland on August 27, 2012.  The first FBI report states (p.39): “The shooter had an altercation with another student before the shooting began. He left the cafeteria and returned with a gun.”  In this case, only the person that the attacker was arguing with was injured, and no one was killed.
As to firing indiscriminately into a crowd, there is nothing in the FBI definition of active shooters that makes this a disqualifying characteristic. Indeed, the FBI original report acknowledges the frequent “apparent randomness” (p. 44) of civilian deaths in active shooter cases.per

3. Winton, Ohio, Sunday, July 26, 2015, Fox News and Fox 19 in Cincinnati

The shooter in this case directly fired at four different people. Fortunately, because of the permit holder’s quick actions, no one was seriously injured.

[Thomas] McCary [62-years-old] was arguing with a woman around 8 p.m. Sunday night and, when the woman’s brother, Patrick Ewing, approached, McCary pulled out a .38-caliber handgun and fired three shots at him, Cincinnati police said.

Ewing didn’t get hit, but he did get his own gun and returned fire, wounding McCary in the leg. Ewing had a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Injured, McCary went into his house to get a second gun and, holding a weapon in each hand, he fired three shots in the direction of the woman, Jeaneta Walker, her 1-year-old son and a third man.

Ewing fired at McCary again to try to distract him as the victims fled indoors. McCary squeezed off a few more rounds, hitting no one, before withdrawing into his apartment, reported. . . .

FBI response:

Does not meet our definition. Domestic dispute.

Our response: This was not a domestic dispute. It was an interaction between neighbors on a public street.  It was not “contained” in a residence.  Multiple people were shot at.
— October 31, 2015: Noah Jacob Harpham “began shooting people as he walked down the street in a Colorado Springs, Colorado, neighborhood.”  Harpham lived in the neighborhood and just walked down the street shooting at people.  Two of the women who were killed were sitting on their front porch.

4. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, March 22, 2015, NBC Channel 10:

A 40-year-old man was inside Falah Barber Shop Inc. on the 600 block of Preston Street shortly before 3 p.m. Sunday when police say he began fighting with another person inside. . . .

The fight quickly escalated and the 40-year-old man took out his gun and opened fire on customers and barbers, police said. , , ,

As he was shooting, another man outside heard the gunfire, ran into the shop and took out his own gun, according to investigators. He then opened fire, striking the 40-year-old man once in the chest. . . .

“The person who responded was a legal gun permit carrier,” said Philadelphia Police Captain Frank Llewellyn. “He responded and I guess he saved a lot of people in there.

FBI response:

Does not meet FBI definition. Result of an altercation. The shooter got into an argument with another person inside the shop. The shooter took out his gun and opened fire on the barber.

Our response: Again, there are many similar cases in the previous FBI reports that involved altercations or arguments.  For example, take the Perry Hall High School shooting in Baltimore, Maryland on August 27, 2012.  From the first FBI report: “The shooter had an altercation with another student before the shooting began. He left the cafeteria and returned with a gun.”  No one was killed, and the only injured person was the one that the attacker was arguing with.
The police here made it clear that they believed that the permit holder “saved a lot of people in there.”  While it isn’t necessary to be included as an active shooter case, it wasn’t just the barber whose life was endangered.
Based on the FBI definition, the only thing that might disqualify including this case would be if it primarily arose out of self-defense.  No news story discusses it involving self-defense.

5. Portland, Oregon, January 11, 2014, Oregonian

Thomas Eliot Hjelmeland, 43-years-old, was ejected from a nightclub, but returned 30 minutes later with a gun and wearing a mask.  He shot the bouncer who had ejected him and shot at others.  The bouncer was critically wounded by a shot to the head.  Two others were also wounded: one patron in the foot and a waitress, who had been standing at the front of the club, in both of her legs.  Hjelmeland was on probation at the time of the incident.  Bouncer Jonathan Baer used his permitted concealed handgun to fatally shoot Hjelmeland, who had continued firing at people around the club.

Here is a February 1, 2014, article in the Oregonian.

Baer, 31, followed the masked gunman out of the club’s interior doors to the entrance foyer and drew his own Glock .40-caliber pistol from his hip. He looked back one or two times to check on Rizzo, who hadn’t gotten up.

While using one foot to prop open the club’s inner door, Baer said he saw the masked man reach the front door. The man stopped and looked as if he were going to turn around. Baer said he leaned forward and fired two to three rounds.

Baer, who has a concealed handgun license, . . .

Baer later explained to detectives that he had thought about two dancers and two customers who were standing outside the club smoking. He said he didn’t want anyone else to get hurt. . . .

And this January 21, 2014, article in the Oregonian.

Club co-owner Connie Barnes said she did not know Baer was armed that night, but she called him a hero.

In a Facebook post, Baer wrote, “I did what I felt was right to stop the shooter…I carry every day, and will continue to, and will so with the hope that I will NEVER have to pull it out again.” . . .

FBI response:

Does not meet FBI definition.  Shooter just went after the bouncer who had ejected him from the nightclub earlier in that evening.

Our response: Yes, the shooter was ejected and then returned later to shoot the bouncer, but the FBI has counted multiple cases where there was apparently one primary target (such as the judge case mentioned earlier). The permit holder was afraid that the attacker may shoot others, especially when it looked like he was turning around after going out the front door. But the permit holder shot the attacker before that could happen.  It isn’t clear how this case is different from others that are included on the FBI list.  For example, the Sandbar Sports Grill case on November 7, 2009, is very similar.  The attacker there was escorted out of the bar by security before the attack.  Both cases involve the attacker retrieving a gun and then returning later to carry out the shooting.
While those two cases involve a person being forced to leave a bar by a bouncer/security, the Atlantis Plastics Factory case (June 25, 2008) involved an employee being “reprimanded by a supervisor” and “escorted from the plant.”  Similarly, the Kraft Foods Factory case on September 9, 2010, involved an employee being “escorted from the building.”  Again, in these cases, the attacker returned with a gun to shoot people.

Other possible cases in which a permit holder saved lives

New Holland, Wisconsin, May 5th, 2015, Fox Carolina

In this case, the permit holders didn’t even have to fire their guns.

FOX Carolina 21: “CWPs likely stopped deaths of children, firefighters”
Firefighters said they may have stopped a massacre after a gunman surprised them at their station Tuesday.

The Aiken County Sheriff’s Office said deputies responded to the New Holland Fire Department’s Station 2 around 6:30 p.m. for a report of shots fired.

Firefighters said Chad Barker pulled up to the crowded fire station parking lot full of children and firefighters, got out of his car, and began firing in the air and at his vehicle. They say he also pointed the firearm at individual firefighters for lengthy periods of time.

“I came out of the office, saw the man with the gun, told everybody to leave out the back quickly that there was a man in the parking lot with a gun, and I was not kidding,” said Gary Knoll, a firefighter for New Holland.

Knoll said he and another firefighter who have concealed weapons permits pulled their guns on the gunman.

Knoll said Barker returned to his vehicle and firefighters carefully followed him with their weapons still drawn. After encouraging Barker to put the gun down, Knoll said Barker ultimately complied and Knoll grabbed the gun. . . .

FBI response:

Does not meet FBI definition. The suspect didn’t shoot at anyone.   Shot in the air and shot his own car.

Our response:

The people at the scene felt threatened and believed that the permit holders saved the lives of the children and firefighters.  The attacker pointed his gun at people for “lengthy periods of time.”  There are plenty of cases on the FBI’s list of active shooters where no one was injured or killed in the shooting.

There are two other shootings that the FBI lists but does not count as having been stopped by permit holders:

We did not receive responses to our analyses of these two cases.

1. Cici’s Pizza and Walmart (Commerce)
On June 8, 2014, at 11:20 a.m., husband and wife, Jerad Dwain Miller, 31 and Amanda Renee Miller (female), 22, each armed with a handgun, one with a shotgun, began shooting at Cici’s Pizza in Las Vegas, Nevada, killing 2 law enforcement officers who were having lunch. The shooters took the officers’ weapons and ammunition and fled to a nearby Walmart, where they killed an armed citizen who tried to intervene. Three people were killed; no one was wounded. The male shooter was killed in an exchange of gunfire with law enforcement; the female shooter committed suicide during an exchange of gunfire with law enforcement.

The permit holder, Joseph Robert Wilcox, confronted Jerad Miller and made it necessary for Amanda Miller to circle around Wilcox so that she could shoot him from behind.  The time it took for Amanda Miller to get behind Wilcox gave Walmart shoppers some additional time to escape.

2. Memorial Tire and Auto (Commerce)
On May 29, 2016, at 10:15 a.m., Dionisio Agustine Garza III, 25, armed with a rifle and a handgun, began shooting at Memorial Tire and Auto in Houston, Texas. One person was killed; six were wounded, including two law enforcement officers and an armed civilian who was wounded while attempting to stop the shooter. The shooter was killed in an exchange of gunfire with law enforcement officers.

By engaging the killer and forcing him to exchange fire, the permit holder may have saved others from being shot (KHOU-TV):

All the while, feeling grateful that her friend still has his life and his actions may have kept others from losing theirs.

“He could have prevented more people from being shot,” Guerra said. “He’s a hero, even though he was shot. He’s a hurting hero.” . . .


One thing that the FBI doesn’t mention is that all of these active shooters were illegally carrying their guns.  All of the civilians who stopped the attacks were legally carrying theirs. None of the perpetrators were following the gun control laws.

Clearly, the FBI’s reports have missed at least half of the cases where a concealed handgun permit holder stopped an active shooter attack.  Concealed handgun permit holders have stopped or mitigated between 15.6% and 16.5% of recent attacks of this type. Permit holders save lives by responding quickly at the scene of the attack.

Our original report in the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences Today, March 2015, focused the claimed increases in active shootings over the years from 2000 to 2013, but the problems with the FBI report obviously go much farther than that.




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