A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

Characteristics of Violent Lone-Offenders: a Comparison of Assassins and School Attackers (Research Highlight)


In the post 9/11 world, lone-offender attacks have become more salient and have attracted increasing attention from policymakers and security officials. While there is no profile for group-based terrorists, this project seeks to determine whether there may be a profile for lone-actor offenders. In particular, this research highlight aims to improve understanding of lone-actor terrorists by looking at two similar types of violent offenders: assassins and school-attackers. These actors resemble lone-offender terrorists in that they plan and perpetrate violence, the great majority act alone, and most act out of some perceived grievance rather than for material self-interest. 

Data for this study are drawn from two U.S. Government–sponsored reports: Assassination in the United States (1999) and The Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative (2002).



Publication Information

Full Citation:

McCauley, Clark, and Sophia Moskalenko, Benjamin Van Son. 2014. "Characteristics of Violent Lone-Offenders: A Comparison of Assassins and School Attackers." START. College Park, MD. May. http://www.start.umd.edu/pubs/START_LoneActorViolentOffenderComparisonAssassinSchoolAttacker_May2014.pdf