This is a rare event for me, since I am not a person who is frequently overcome by emotion, much less numerous emotions. How this post will turn out is a mystery as I try and write it because I am vacillating between anger, sadness and greif as I try to get my thoughts recorded.
The readers of this blog, my dear friends and family, are a diverse group. On the subject of violence they range from complete pacifists to barely contained killing machines. I am speaking to you all.
Over the last two days there were mass shooting, this time in New York and Pennsylvania. You have to know about it because it dominated every medium of news. This same sentence can be read in a different way because you have to know about it involves you and everyone you know. It is virtually impossible to predict where or when another incident will occur, but there can be no doubt that it will repeat. Laws won’t change that because human nature won’t change. Wave a magic wand and make every gun on Earth disappear and madmen will kill innocent people with knives, spears, cars, bricks, or explosives they made in the kitchen sink.
Madmen have certain advantages over the sane, the foremost is surprise. You don’t generally go into the office or school or the shopping mall expecting to come under attack. If you do expect it and tell this to anyone , society is going to label you as paranoid. You can overcome this advantage by quietly being prepared to survive and only telling your paranoid friends if you need help with training or advice on tactics or equipment. I tell you that I worry about it because I’m not worried about the paranoid label. I’ve had that millstone around my neck for decades.
Madmen have total commitment and high motivation. This can overwhelm anyone including highly trained law enforcement and combat veterans. This can’t really be overcome but it can be matched. Commit yourself to training and keep yourself and others motivated to stick with it. Training in what you might ask. I can’t tell you that, but you know your strengths and weaknesses. Enhance your strengths and train to overcome the weaknesses.
This is where the paradigm shift comes in. The conventional wisdom has been to comply with criminal demands. Give up your wallet to the mugger, your car to the carjacker. Flee your home if it is invaded by burglers. Your life isn’t worth the property. If violence breaks out, flee. I have actually promoted those principles in response to an attack:
- Create distance between you and an attacker
- seek cover or concealment
- alert the authorities if possible
- do whatever is required to remain safe
This will not work against this new enemy of society now dubbed the Active Shooter. This class of criminal is described as a person who is committing and ongoing assault using deadly force and has access to multiple victims. These murderous criminals generally do not stop until they are killed, either by themselves when confronted with opposing force or by persons, usually law enforcement, who apply lethal force to the active shooter.
Recently, these attacks have amounted to huge death tolls and seem to be increasing in frequency and severity. It is for those reasons that I am changing my advice to correspond to the new concepts put forth by law enforcement. The old school of thought was to secure the area in which a shooter is operating, wait until a large force is organized, then assault the shooter by entering his area of operation from multiple points, seeking him out and shooting him. These operations are usually carried out by SWAT officers who have access to weapons which can defeat the body armor that is being used with increasing frequency by this type of mass murderer. This type of thinking gives an active shooter more time to claim more victims.
The new school of thought is very different. Law enforcement are now being told that first officers on scene are to locate the shooter and counter-attack with swift and overwhelming force. This plays partly into the tendency of the active shooter to shoot himself rather than be taken into custody. Engaging such a mass murderer is inherently dangerous, but the good news is that statistically poor marksmen, with hit percentages under 50%. Cops are not a hell of a lot better themselves, but do have access to training, gear and facilities to improve their odds. The same goes for armed citizens if they take the time and effort to seek them out.
There is no other set of circumstances where I would knowingly ask my friends and family to put themselves in danger. This new and evolving type of murderer has made it necessary. It is incumbent upon us all to prepare for the situation. Those of you who go armed practice shooting and moving. Learn how to use cover and concealment. Carry a weapon with enough power to stop an opponent with well placed shots. Practice the Mozambique technique in case the shooter has body armor. Learn to be aggressive rather than defensive. 99.9% of the time defense will be the right call. If someone is committing mass murder they must be stopped and only selfless courage can accomplish that. Keep in mind that active shooters prepare for this situation and initiate it when they are ready and able. They will be armed with multiple weapons, possibly long guns like shotguns or rifles, will have plenty of ammunition for them. As I mentioned earlier, they may be wearing body armor or other protective gear.
You can emulate this to a degree and improve the chances of your survival and that of others. Give yourself every advantage you can imagine. Buy a small set of hearing protectors. A tiny pair of earplugs in a hard case is the size of a four stack of quarters. You can even get miniature electronic versions that amplify your hearing while shutting out loud sounds. Either will protect your ears from gunfire and allow you to hear what is going on around you.
Body armor can be legally purchased in most states, some of it is concealable enough to wear every day. If that seems a bit much store it in a closet and put it in your car truck when you go out. Train with it on because even the thinnest vest adds bulk and weight.
The same goes for rifles and shotguns. Find out how you can legally own, use and transport long guns where you live. If you can legally lock one in your car trunk and retrieve it in an emergency, do so.
Buy shatter resistant safety glasses, shooting glasses or sunglasses with wraparound protection and keep them with you. If you lose you vision in a fight you can no longer be effective.
Have a cell phone with you. Bum an old one off a friend or buy one retail. You don’t need to activate it or have a contract. In most cases even an unactivated cell with allow you to call 911
If you are not the type to carry a firearm I totally understand and respect your position. You can skip the martial aspect of these assaults entirely and still help. Help people escape, find and clear exits, summon assistance and alert the authorities. Learn to administer first aid and be a capable first responder. Observe details and make accurate reports after the fact. I will council everyone, even the most devoted pacifist to learn some basic unarmed self defense. Even some beginner’s Tai Chi and an umbrella beats the hell out of nothing.
If you choose to engage in training for such an encounter as described it must include some elements far beyond standing at a pistol range and punching holes in paper targets. Accuracy is important, but keep in mind that your target will be shooting back. There are schools across the country that teach shooting using scenarios and situations that encourage thinking as well as shooting and feature force-on-force training. Competition is also a good training tool because of the positive stress. Wherever you live there will be organizations that hold formal or informal competitions, IDPA, USPA, even SASS. The pressure of a win or lose situation can help you get used to shooting with a rush a adrenaline in your blood. Don’t underestimate the difference between some relaxed range time and a high stress shooting environment. They are very different worlds.
I’m going to stay on top of this topic and promise to add more when I get it together and re-visit the posts with new information. If you take any of this away with you I feel I’ve done some good.
To sum this up for now, I admit freely that I am asking my friends and family to go into harm’s way to protect other people. If you advance on a shooter you run the risk of being shot, by the bad guy, by the police if you are misidentified, or other armed citizens if they think you are the shooter. There is no greater risk I can think of off the top of my head.
I vow to do my best to prepare myself to face this situation, to try to overcome my limitations and increase my abilities and assets. And, above all else, I hope none of us ever have to confront a killer.