Do we need an active shooter alert system?

April 21, 2022
Congress currently considering bill that would create a notification system for mass shootings similar to Amber Alerts

The person suspected of shooting and injuring more than 23 people on a New York City subway has been apprehended. “Frank R. James, who law enforcement officials suspect of having perpetrated the worst attack on New York’s subway system in years, was taken into custody on Wednesday,” reported the New York Times on April 13, 2022.

But what if he had not been apprehended so quickly? What if he was still at large with the potential to attack others on the subway, on New York streets, or virtually anywhere in the country?

Is Congressional Help Coming?

Congress is currently considering a bill called the "Active Shooter Alert Act of 2022." According to supporters, it would be a mass alert system, similar to Amber Alerts, which sends out notifications when children are abducted.

The reasons for proposing the bill go far beyond the recent shootings in New York. According to ABC News, between 2000 and 2020, there has been a 1,200% increase in active shooter situations in the U.S. Bills like this have been proposed in the past, but typically they run into opposition from gun rights advocates. Aware of this, supporters of this act are trying to avoid that issue entirely.

It’s all about having some form of organized mass response system on a local, state, and national level to report that an active shooter event has occurred and that the perpetrators have not been captured. Messages would be sent over social media channels, in text and email alerts to those who opt-in, and in other forms of media.

Further, the act has several “behind the scenes” components. In real-time, it would notify law enforcement officers around the country with details about the event and offenders that have not been released to the public.

This type of system is not new. Rhode Island has been using an emergency alert system for several years. Referred to as the “codeRED,” it is used to notify residents throughout the state about emergencies including an active shooting event, where it happened, what is known so far (that can safely be revealed), and what actions people in the state should take.

The National Weather Service also has a nationwide system to broadcast weather emergencies happening anywhere in the country. Called SAME, the system sends out automated text messages and calls covering all types of weather-related issues that could impact local communities.

The goal of all these systems, including the proposed act, is not to cause panic but to give timely notice and advice. Supporters compare it to an unpredictable tornado. The SAME system, for instance, tells people a tornado may be likely in their community, when it may occur, and what actions they should take in a timely manner.

As to an active shooter event, the same unpredictability holds true. The system will discuss what has happened, where, and encourage people to lock their doors; suggest a safe place to stay if needed; or turn around if they are driving toward the incident or a potentially dangerous area.

My Take

Overall, this is a promising idea. Crime, including active shooting events, has increased so much in the past 20 years that circumstances now demand solutions.

The act calls for a $2 million operating budget, a small sum by federal government standards. Further, it asks that the Department of Justice oversee administering it or set up a system of “best practices” if managed by another agency or a private vendor.

The proposed legislation is meeting opposition, just like similar bills in the past. However, it may help save lives and promote safety.

About the author: Johnathan Tal is Chief Executive Officer of TAL Global Corporation, an international investigative and risk-consulting firm. He served as a military field intelligence officer for the Israeli armed forces during the 1970s. Tal has also served as an antiterrorism security specialist. He is a licensed investigator, Certified Private Investigator (CPI), and Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), and he holds a Bachelor of Science degree. He can be reached through his company website