US Secret Service releases report on warning signs for mass attackers News
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US Secret Service releases report on warning signs for mass attackers

The US Secret Service Wednesday released a report that investigated 173 mass attacks from 2016 to 2020. The report analyzed attacks where three or more people were injured or killed in “businesses, schools, houses of worship, open spaces, and other locations where we live our daily lives.” This report comes after Congress  introduced two bills to ban assault rifles and regulate the minimum age to buy firearms, in response to a recent mass shooting in Monterey Park that killed 11 people.

The report found that 73 percent of attacks involved firearms. For 29 percent of the attacks involving firearms, the perpetrator would have been federally disqualified from purchasing a firearm for current or previous felony convictions, domestic violence records, or a history of mental health issues. 38 percent of perpetrators had been convicted of violent crimes in the past.

Most attackers had previously exhibited concerning behavior that made friends, family, and coworkers fear for their safety. Nearly half of the attacks were motivated by perceived past grievances related to domestic, personal, or workplace issues.

The report explained that behavioral threat assessment is the best way to prevent future attacks. Behavioral threat assessment encourages bystanders to observe and report concerning and unusual behaviors as they occur to prevent any future attacks. Communities should have protocol in place to respond to those reports. The report also recommend early intervention using techniques like “crisis intervention programs, social services, mental health treatment, and, if warranted, a criminal justice response.”

The report also made it clear that these behaviors are not suspicious on their own, in fact, some involve constitutionally protected activity. There is no profile for who will commit an attack. That is why the Secret Service relies on the “behavioral threat assessment as the best practice for targeted violence prevention because it does not utilize profiles, but focuses on identifying and assessing threatening and
concerning behavior in context, and identifying the most appropriate strategies for reducing any risk of violence, while also maintaining individual civil and constitutional rights.”

The behavioral threat assessment technique emerged in the 1990s. Since January 1, there have been 40 mass shootings in the US. The report stated “targeted violence is preventable when communities are equipped with the appropriate tools, training, and resources to intervene before violence occurs.”