Contagion of tragedies is not a new concept, but the concerning aspect of this emergence is the pattern involves younger populations (see Contagion in Mass Killings and School Shootings, published in 2015). Nearly two thirds of these threats came from people aged 18 or younger, including three threats by 12 year olds.
While a mass shooting can inspire imitators, the copycat violence does not always target the same types of locations and events as the act that inspired them (see Echoes of Columbine: Copycat School Shootings). More than half of these threats of harm were targeted at education institutions, many more than those directed at Walmart, the target for the El Paso shooting.
There is also a diversity in the platforms used to deliver the threat. Social Media is the most common medium, but within that category many platforms are utilized. While Facebook and Snapchat have the most, which is perhaps not surprising based on popularity, various other known channels were also used. These threats are diversifying as the digital landscape continues to expand.
As mass shooting events happen, the trends of event contagion has become more and more clear and a raised awareness is appropriate for several weeks afterward. The types of threats that are inspired can be diverse in targets and distributed across a variety of social media platforms. In many of the school threats, students were aware and reported the threat because of their engagement in social media.
Behind the Numbers
These incidents were compiled using various verifiable news articles. The list is likely not complete; it does not include events that have not been widely reported or incidents still under investigation. Only events that resulted in some sort of police action but may or may not have resulted in charges were included. All included incidents were verified using multiple sources, and at least one source was referenced in the below list of resources. The incidents range in severity, with some appearing to be spurious threats where the person did not have access to firearms, but in some cases the individual was well armed and actively planning a shooting