In the weeks after three high-profile shootings in three states took the lives of more than two dozen people last month, law enforcement authorities nationwide reported a spike in tips from relatives, friends and co-workers about people who appeared bent on carrying out the next mass shooting, the Associated Press reports. Some would-be shooters sent text messages to friends or posted on social media that they hoped to exceed previous mass shootings by killing more people. In some cases, intense media coverage of mass shootings leads to more people seeking to become copycat killers. In other cases, it’s a reflection of the general public being more aware of warning signs when a friend or relative or co-worker is in an emotional crisis and more willing to tip off police.
On average, the FBI gets 22,000 tips about potential threats of violence weekly. That volume increased by about 15,000 after high-profile shootings in the first week of August in Gilroy, Ca., El Paso and Dayton that killed 34 people and wounded nearly 70. Mass shootings can plant the idea of carrying out a rampage in potential mass shooters, each seeking notoriety or striving to “out-do” others with higher death tolls, said sociologist James Densley, a criminal justice professor at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Mn., who studies mass shootings. Identifying who the next shooter will be is challenging for authorities. Mass shootings remain rare events and there’s no one basic profile for the attackers. The demographics of school shooters and their motivations are vastly different from someone who carries out carnage in a place of worship or a workplace. “When it comes to thinking about the profile of a mass shooter what our research is starting to uncover is there’s not really one profile of a mass shooter,” Densley said.