It’s a sad and frightening fact of life. Mass shootings continue to occur, and the risk of terror attack on U.S. soil remains serious. Schools, hospitals, places of worship, movie theaters, malls, stadiums, fairs and other public places are all potential targets. No one knows where and when the next attack will occur.
Would you know what to do if the shooting erupts next to you? Would you use your concealed carry weapon to save yourself and others? Do you know how? None of us should ever have to face a violent killer in our lifetime. No one deserves to be a victim. Yet, this type of violence does happen, and it is more commonplace than we would like to believe. Our law enforcement cannot prevent every possible attack, and counting on others to save us does not always work. We must be prepared to take action to save ourselves!
Carry for personal protection
Carrying a gun for personal protection carries with it a great deal of responsibility. In the majority of jurisdictions across the United States, the use of deadly force is justified as a last resort under extreme conditions… when there is reasonable fear of death or grave bodily injury. In general, deadly force is defined as any physical force that a person knows, or should know, to pose a substantial risk of death or serious bodily harm to another person. While law enforcement officers are permitted to use deadly force in certain circumstances when attempting to enforce the law, it is illegal for private citizens to use deadly force unless it meets the specific requirements set out by their state in circumstances of self-defense or defense of another person.
These laws can vary from state to state, but in general, most laws are designed around what’s considered “reasonable and necessary” force based on what the state deems a reasonable person would do under the same circumstances. Anyone who has been in combat or involved in life-and-death situations knows that we undergo significant psychophysiological changes related to the activation of the flight-or-fight mechanism. These autonomic (non-voluntary) reactions of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) result in severe disruption of motoric skills and distortions of our ability to process information (sensory exclusion). Most notably, we will experience target fixation (also known as tunnel vision).
It’s important to remember that these changes affect everyone involved, including the perpetrator(s). Research has shown that vision provides about 80-percent of the information we process during emergencies. We also know that our field of vision narrows down by about 50-percent when shooting. This phenomenon is further exacerbated in low-light conditions (during which most firefights occur). In other words, the active shooter’s vision will always be impaired during his attack.
During the shooting, they only see the targets in front of them (or in their sights). They have no peripheral vision and cannot perceive anything above, below, behind or on their sides. Neither can they hear anything over the gunfire and screams. This represents an important tactical advantage to those brave enough to intervene. Those of us who can act swiftly and with determination can close the range, flank the shooter and attack by surprise.
A counterattack can be accomplished using any means available, like improvised weapons, a concealed firearm or an edge weapon. Such tactics could have undoubtedly been used during the public shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, during which the shooter was a few feet away from bystanders. The vision of the shooter at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, was severely impaired due to darkness and his use of a gas mask, and he could have been flanked and tackled (or shot) from either side by people who were outside his field of fire.
Of course, shooting a terrorist in a crowded environment is a challenging task. We must exercise extreme caution not to hit unintended targets (innocent bystanders) in the foreground or background. As such, the traditional method of shooting into the central mass (body) is not likely to work for the following reasons:
- Suspect may use cover (body not visible)
- Suspect may use body armor (body protected)
- Suspect may use a hostage as human shield (body hidden by others)
- Suspect may use an explosive vest that could detonate (suicide bomber)
- Suspect may not die immediately and continue to shoot when down (limited incapacitation)
So what is the solution? Simple. A precision shot to the cerebellum (head shot), resulting in immediate incapacitation. Attaining this level of precision under pressure requires advanced firearm training by an experienced combat shooting instructor (www.TacticalPistol.com). Active shooters and terrorists have no hesitation whatsoever about pulling the trigger. By comparison, we must have complete confidence in our decision to shoot and will be held accountable for every round fired.
The fundamental rules of safe shooting are never shoot through walls, shrubs, curtains and never shoot toward sound, silhouette or light. There’s no margin for error when the shooter is moving within a crowd and in close proximity to others. Rapidly locating and identifying the shooter in a high-density (crowded) environment is a serious challenge. See the sidebar for identifying active shooter threats in a crowd.
How to ID an active shooter
- Focus on individuals who appear to be moving tactically and/or carrying a weapon (bag).
- Look for the hands holding or hiding a weapon (behind the back, in garment, etc.)
- Watch the movement of the crowd and who is moving away from the individual.
- Listen to the sound of gunfire and to the direction from which it is coming
- Follow the trail of violence (victims, debris, blood, bullet holes, etc.)
Responding to the chaos
In the chaos typical to mass violence incidents, responders may be mistaken for the perpetrators. If not identified in time, such mistaken identity could have disastrous consequences (tactically, legally and morally). In many cases, there may be multiple armed people responding to the attack. This includes, but is not limited to, other concealed carry citizens, undercover law enforcement personnel, off-duty police officers, and, of course, the law enforcement first responders (LEFR). In addition to identifying the shooter(s) accurately, it is also critical that responders clearly identify one another. Be prepared to identify yourself to other responders immediately following the shooting.
If possible, stay behind cover, re-holster your weapon and keep your hands clearly visible while verbally identifying yourself. Expect to be treated as a suspect and comply with instructions given by responding officers. Moving toward the sound of gunfire is unnatural, and it’s in complete contrast to the human instinct of self-preservation. Anyone who is willing to do so to save others should be honored for his sacrifice and bravery.
Such incidents draw a lot of media attention, which have been less than favorable to gun owners in the past. It is highly recommended that you stay away from media exposure in the aftermath of a shooting. Avoid being interviewed on radio or appearing on television regarding your involvement with the incident. The resulting publicity could expose you to harassment and lawsuits, as well as put you and your family in danger of retaliation.
We are all exposed to the possibility of facing an active shooter or a terrorist someday. We are also accountable for one another. Doing nothing to prepare is unethical and unreasonable. As Americans, we do not cower, and we fight for what is right. A mass murderer killing innocent men, women and children is wrong and must be stopped. The right to bear arms guarantees that we have the ability to do so if we must. Well-trained armed citizens working together can stop these mass murderers and help save lives.
Factors commonly associated with active shooter attacks
- Multiple weapons employed
- Lengthy planning and preparation
- Suspect has no desire to surrender
- Most of these incidents are over in less than 10 minutes
- Suspect has no concern for own safety or threat of capture
- Suspect almost never take hostages and does not want to negotiate
- Suspect will engage targets of opportunity while searching for intended targets
- Suspect desires to kill and obtain a high body count before intervention (mass murder)