The syndrome of copycat killing is real, and the prepared individual should take heed. There is, at this point, a clear pattern that shows the heightened potential for mass killing attacks within the several weeks following another such incident. A few examples: The Sutherland Springs church attack followed a month after the Las Vegas massacre. The El Paso, Texas, Walmart shooting in 2019 was followed by the Dayton, Ohio, mass shooting within twenty-four hours, and within a week, another attack happened at a California festival. The sickening Uvalde massacre followed within a month of the Buffalo supermarket shooting. Just prior to this writing was witnessed two mass killings in California, within days of one another, both committed by the rather unlikely demographic of elderly males. Coincidence?
The list goes on and on, and there is no denying that such incidents work to inspire other sickos in society to act out themselves. There is a particularly dangerous two-week period following high-profile attacks in which another attack, or more, is likely to follow. Beyond just the timing, high-profile events often fuel further violence in a similar manner; for example, an attack on a church may prompt another attack on a place of worship, or an attack on a certain demographic of people may spur another attack on the same group. While the motive for any such violence is disturbing and nonsensical, taking heed of these patterns is worth our time so that we can be more aware of such threats.
Time for Heightened Awareness
One can argue that we should be even more vigilant than usual in the days and weeks following a high-profile mass killing event. Since a convincing trend shows a higher likelihood of another such event in the wake of a previous one, should the prepared citizen run on high alert in that aftermath?
Understanding that a copycat event becomes more likely in days and weeks after a significant event is worth knowing, but how drastically this should modify behavior is arguable. This author thinks that anticipating and perhaps avoiding a specific threat is not a workable solution. All trouble that can be avoided should, and a general resilience against violence, cultivated through mindset, training, and equipment, should be built. While understanding the chances of another mass casualty event is more likely in the wake of another, hiding in one’s home until two or more weeks have lapsed is hardly a workable strategy.
Likewise, it is not sound to decide to carry heavier weaponry only in this time-lapse either; life balance is in order here, and preparedness should be part of daily life, not just in the weeks following an event. Consider, also, that such mass casualty situations still prove exceedingly rare compared to more routine crimes such as armed robbery and home invasion. Being armed and prepared should be a life choice that does not change based on recent events.
However, one behavior that may reasonably be analyzed, if not altered, would be attending large events in public. Generally, large crowds pose a heightened security concern as is, not just pertaining to active killer attacks. While I do not advocate living as a hermit and never participating in entertainment that involves crowds, there is a reasonable argument to be more inclined to skip a large sports event, music show, or parade in the recent wake of a high-profile mass casualty event. This is particularly true if a large event occurs location that prohibits citizens from carrying firearms. The statistics on mass killings clearly demonstrate that over ninety percent of such incidents occur in gun-free zones, which is by design. Limiting your time in such places following an attack is, perhaps, worth considering.
Also, understanding what further violence may be spurred by a particular event is a valuable knowledge set. An attack on a high school by a misfit student is highly likely to encourage other losers to take action. After such an event, a community should take action to incentivize heightened vigilance at the schools. An attack on a church may inspire other monsters to do the same, so a congregation should take the needed steps to be vigilant, perhaps even more so than usual. Again, however, such vigilance and preparation should always be maintained, not just after an event.
Interpreting a Potential for Targeted Violence
A productive thought exercise that can come from studying a high-profile event is interpreting who or what was attacked. For example, an attack on a church that is heavily, if not exclusively, attended by a certain racial demographic may indicate that the attack was intentionally committed on said demographic. This is not always the case. Many events have targeted facilities or groups of people only out of convenience to the killer, a soft target always being the most obvious draw. However, even if not intentional on the part of the killer, such violence can certainly encourage other bad actors to attack the particular demographic due to racial, religious, or ethnic hatred. This possibility is worthy of note.
Active killer events prove still so rare compared to other forms of crime that many do not consider them in their overall threat assessment. There is an excellent argument to be made that catering our overall preparedness towards the highly unlikely is not wise. However, knowing that copycat events do often happen in the wake of an initial active killer attack should factor into threat assessment to some degree. Understanding the trends of criminal activity in your environment is wise, whether that be the trends of violent crime or just property theft and petty crime. A good assessment of regional criminal activity makes avoiding and interdicting such crime much more achievable. The same principle can be applied to a higher level of threat assessment and avoidance pertaining to the outlier, but still possible, mass casualty events that do occur.