The grim but all-too-familiar subject of an active shooter in a public place was the focus of the June 21 Clintonville Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

"We should be concerned about the rise in violence we're seeing in our country," said guest speaker Gary Sigrist.

The Grove City man, former safety director for South-Western City Schools, founded Safeguard Risk Solutions in 2013 after retiring from his post as well as from a law-enforcement job.

Initially, Sigrist told the chamber members and guests, the company was aimed at improving safety in grade schools, but he began to get inquiries from colleges and universities and eventually expanded the company to cover businesses as well.

The increasing concern about active shooters in public places is well-founded, according to an FBI report released the day before Sigrist spoke at the chamber function.

According to the report, in 2017, there were 30 separate active shootings in the United States -- the largest number ever recorded by the FBI during a one-year period.

The FBI defines an active shooting as an incident in which one or more shooters are actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.

Sigrist said school shooters and those who kill people in places of business don't just abruptly decide to take such actions.

"People don't just suddenly snap," he added. "It's a process."

A co-author of the FBI study, which examined active-shooter cases between 2000-13, agreed in an interview with The Washington Post.

"Offenders don't snap," said Andre Simmons, special agent with the Behavioral Analysis Unit. "They don't wake up one morning and suddenly decide to attack."

The FBI report held out hope that people can become aware of the signs that someone may be leaning toward an act of violence:

"Faced with so many tragedies, society routinely wrestles with a fundamental question: Can anything be done to prevent attacks on our loved ones, our children, our schools, our churches, concerts and communities? There is cause for hope because there is something that can be done. In the weeks and months before an attack, many active shooters engage in behaviors that may signal impending violence. While some of these behaviors are intentionally concealed, others are observable and, if recognized and reported, may lead to a disruption prior to an attack. Unfortunately, well-meaning bystanders, often friends and family members of the active shooter, may struggle to appropriately categorize the observed behavior as malevolent."

"Be alert for things," Sigrist said. "You have choices in an active-shooting event."

He added that business owners and managers should have a plan for dealing with such a situation, if for no other reason than not having one can leave people open to lawsuits. In active-shooter cases, Sigrist said the natural human response is "fight, flight or freeze."

"We've got to take the freeze part out," he said. "Have a plan. Know what to do."

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1