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Should Active Shooters be Named in the Media?
Timothy A. Dimoff -- High Risk Security Expert Timothy A. Dimoff -- High Risk Security Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Akron, OH
Wednesday, June 14, 2023


Active shooter events have, unfortunately, become all too common in today’s world. Whenever such an incident occurs, the media and the public grapple with one essential question: should the perpetrator’s name be used in the reporting? Does naming the individual, in essence, glorify them and potentially perpetuate this cycle of violence? This contentious topic is the subject of ongoing debate, and this blog post aims to delve into the 2022 and 2023 studies, findings, and reports that shed light on this discussion.

The Power of Notoriety

The argument against naming active shooters primarily lies in the theory of notoriety-seeking behavior. A 2022 study conducted by researchers at Northeastern University found a consistent pattern of individuals seeking fame or attention through such horrific acts. The report concluded that widespread media coverage, including naming and profiling the shooter, could inspire copycat actions with a contagion effect.

In line with this, the American Psychological Association released a statement in 2022 cautioning media against emphasizing the shooter’s name, image, and actions to discourage future events. They referenced multiple research studies that supported the idea that the promise of infamy could motivate some shooters.

A coalition of influential individuals, including those from the FBI and law enforcement, started a #DontNameThem petition aimed at the media requesting silence about the suspect’s names.

The Need for Context and Accountability

On the other side of the debate, some argue that including the shooter’s name is crucial for comprehensive reporting and maintaining public accountability. The Society of Professional Journalists, in a report from 2023, stated that omitting the name of an active shooter could be seen as censorship and possibly a breach of the public’s right to information.

Moreover, a 2023 study from the University of California Berkeley suggested that contextualizing the individual’s identity, rather than just providing a name, could help raise awareness about commonalities in such incidents, potentially enabling early identification and prevention of future occurrences.

Where Do We Go From Here with Active Shooters Identities?

So, what’s the best path forward? As with most complex issues, the answer will likely be a nuanced combination of both perspectives.

A 2023 report by the International Center for Journalists suggests a compromise. They propose a model of responsible reporting that includes naming the active shooter in initial reports for transparency but limiting the use of the name in subsequent coverage. They recommend focusing on victims and their stories while shedding light on potential causes and preventive measures without sensationalizing the shooter’s actions.

With a very competitive media field, obtaining cooperation from all outlets will be challenging without a federal law in which the media will state such infringement violates their first amendment rights.

Lastly, no proven direct correlation exists between releasing the name and more gun violence. However, many entities have signed a “no name release” option, making you believe this cause is viable. 


In conclusion, whether or not to name an active shooter in the media has no one-size-fits-all answer. What is clear is the need for thoughtful, responsible journalism. In striving for accurate and comprehensive reporting, media organizations must continue to balance their duty to inform the public about the potential ramifications of their coverage.

“I agree with the research explicitly mentioning that printing or saying the name strongly influences and impacts future aggressive behavior. Many diaries and messages left behind by the shooter list the previous active shooters, their carnage, and sad accomplishments.”

Tim Dimoff, President & CEO of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc.

About Timothy Dimoff, CPP

Timothy Dimoff is founder and president of SACS Consulting Inc. a security and consulting firm that specializes in workplace security, HR, vulnerability assessments,  violence prevention and other workplace related issues. Corporate headquarters is located at Canal Place, Suite 2516, 520 S. Main St., Akron, OH 44311. Telephone: 330-255-1101. Website:  www.sacsconsulting.com. or  www.timothydimoff.com.


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