A gun was used for nearly three-quarters of the mass attacks carried out in the United States from 2016 to 2020, and often acquired illegally to carry out the attack, a newly released U.S. Secret Service report found.
"One third of attackers in this study were prohibited by federal law from purchasing or possessing a firearm, including those with a prior felony or domestic violence conviction, fugitives from justice, those previously adjudicated incompetent or involuntarily committed to a mental health institution, and those who were currently the subject of a domestic-related protection order," the report says. "Despite these prohibitions, 38 of these attackers used firearms during their attacks, including those that were acquired through straw purchases, theft, purchases from private sellers, and purchasing parts online."
The report, titled "Mass Attacks in Public Spaces: 2016-2020," is an analysis of 173 mass attacks that occurred in 37 states and Washington, D.C. - from major cities to small towns.
"As we all know random acts of violence are happening all too frequently in our nation," Secret Service Director Kim Cheadle told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday. "These crimes plague our communities and robbed everyone of peace and security we all deserve."
Just this week, there were two mass shootings in California. 11 people were killed and nine others were injured in Monterey Park, California when a gunman opened fire, and seven people were shot killed at two locations in Half Moon Bay, California.
The Secret Service says in the five-year span of data the agency analyzed, 513 people were killed and 1,234 people were injured.
"We study all forms of targeted violence to inform how the Secret Service keeps our nation's leaders safe," Dr. Lina Alathari, the Chief of the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC), told reporters. "But that same threat assessment model that we are using to protect the nation's leaders and the sites and facilities that are under our care, we're expanding for the community."
In the attacks the Secret Service analyzed, most of the attackers "elicited behavior of concern" before carrying out the attack and many attackers had a history of "physically aggressive or intimidating behaviors."
The Secret Service said that one quarter of all the attackers "maintained or subscribed to a conspiratorial, topic-specific or hate-focused belief system."
In June of 2019, an attacker opened fire at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people and injuring 53.
"Prior to the attack, he had exhibited behaviors indicative of several belief systems, including anti-Semitism, jihadism, and misogynistic or anti-female views," the report says.
A quarter of the attackers also posted some concerning communications online, the report says.
Nearly half of the attackers had a grievance against the site of the attack and were "retaliating for perceived wrongs related to personal, domestic or workplace issues," according to the report.
The Secret Service says 88 attacks happened at a business, with the most happening at a restaurant. All of the attacks were "deliberate acts of violence," the Secret Service said which means there was some kind of planning that went into the attack.
In 31% of the attacks, the perpetrator had some prior law enforcement contact that did not result in an arrest and 58% of attackers had a history of mental illness, the report found.
The report also offers recommendations for state and local officials such as communities shouldn't wait for a direct threat to respond to an issue and concerning behavior should be reported.
Businesses should also have a workplace violence prevention plan to identify assess and intervene if someone is suspected of workplace violence or attempting to carry it out.