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Thread: The Active Shooter and You

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    Default The Active Shooter and You

    In light of all the active shooters in the news these days (including one locally), I am posting a piece I wrote on the "citizen's response" to an active shooter event.

    The Active Shooter and You

    The Citizen’s Response


    “Active shooters” are an almost weekly occurrence these days. The phenomenon is world wide and morphing: planned and executed attacks involving rifles, improvised explosives, body armor, and unconventional tactics have been employed repeatedly by perpetrators. Although often associated with schools and workplaces (“going postal” entering our national lexicon at one point), these incidents have occurred at malls, health clubs, and even residences; what form they may take tomorrow and in the future is limited only to the twisted imaginations of the killers.

    Sometimes glossed in the reporting is that some of these incidents have been forestalled or ended quickly due to heroic actions on the part of citizens - including concealed carry permit holders, armed private security, and selfless acts on the part of people who refused to be victims, as in the case of wrestler Jacob Ryker tackling Kip Kinkel at Thurston High.

    Other examples of active killers stopped by proactive action include:


    1997, Pearl, Mississippi: An assistant principal heard the gunshots, retrieved a pistol from his vehicle and confronted the shooter;

    1998, Edinboro, Pennsylvania: A restaurant owner confronted the shooter with a shotgun;

    2002, Appalachian Law School: Two law students with law enforcement and military backgrounds retrieved handguns from their vehicles and stopped the rampage;

    2005, Tyler, Texas: Citzen Mark Wilson intervenes in Courthouse domestic violence shooting with his handgun, and shoots the assailant. He is killed by return fire, but his actions disrupt the attack. Law enforcement later kills the shooter in a mobile gun fight.

    2005, Tacoma Mall: A concealed carry permit holder intervenes gives a verbal warning but does not shoot. He is shot and receives a spinal injury that leaves him paralyzed, however, the shooter retreated into a store taking hostages after being confronted. The shooter is later taken into custody.

    2007, New Life Church, Colorado: Volunteer security guard Jeanne Assam shoots an active killer as he enters her church. This resulted in the shooter killing himself.

    2008, Israel: Student Yitzhak Dadon draws his gun and engages the shooter, wounding him, after Police officers refuse to enter. Part-time student and Israeli Army officer David Shapira blows past the cops, taking one of their hats to identify himself as a “good guy” and not the assailant, and kills the spree shooter.

    2009, Houston, Texas: A woman enters her father’s workplace and shoots one man with a bow and arrow and points a pellet gun at others. Two employees, both concealed handgun permit holders, shoot her. She points the pellet gun at arriving police who also shoot her and take her into custody.

    There are more. It is sad that the names of the shooters are better known than the names of these heroes.

    In some cases, citizen action by persons coming the scene of active shooter incidents has caused problems, including in such high profile situations as the Columbine school shooting where a mentally disturbed man armed himself and attempted to penetrate the police perimeter, being detained by officers, and in the terrorist school takeover at Beslan, where the crowd fired into the building endangering both the children being held hostage and the soldiers trying to effect their rescue.

    This is not to say that as an armed citizen or trained self defender one does not have a role, if not a responsibility, in an active shooter incident. Action on the part of a citizen, done smartly, has proven to be the key in ending more than one active shooter event, and has without a doubt saved many lives. But as a practical matter certain things should be kept in mind before, during, and in the aftermath of the incident should an armed and/or trained citizen happen to be on scene when a situation occurs.

    In assessing a potential response to an active shooter event that is occurring in your immediate vicinity, the following considerations should be foremost in mind:


    * Carry Gear

    The vast majority of circumstances will need to be addressed with what you are carrying or wearing. Thinking that you will be running out to the parking lot to get a long gun, plate carrier, extra magazines, and blow out kit from your truck is rare. By and large you should assume you will address the situation with what you carry in your day at the office, at the restaurant with the wife, or the mall or zoo with the kiddies. This will typically be a compact or otherwise easily concealed handgun with one reload (if that) and likely minimal additional gear.

    A cell phone should go without saying. If you don’t normally carry a cell phone daily, you should at least always carry one when armed.


    * Weapons Proficiency

    Be honest with yourself about your weapons skills. An active shooter will experience very little hesitation to engage, and in many incidents the shooters specifically trained with their weapons and prepared for what they might encounter (Cho at Virginia Tech actually practiced on a range with targets laid out on the ground). Long guns and body armor are no longer a surprise with active shooters, and are routinely found on suspects or in the possession of persons contemplating such an event. They should be expected.

    Practiced ability in shooting, weapons manipulation, reloads and malfunction clearances will increase confidence under stress - and therefore survivability - should you actually engage the suspect. Shoot your gun, as much as possible, and train with your weapon if you expect to take meaningful action in defending yourself or others in any armed confrontation.


    * Protect Your Own

    Your first responsibility is to the security and safety of your own family. The police are not bound to protect you individually, and logistically they simply cannot. Police will show up and try to stop a suspect from shooting more people, but they won’t be your personal bodyguard. They will also not stop to administer aid to you while the bad guy is still out there. Fire Departments typically have standing policies that prevent their rescuers from going into a shooting scene until it is confirmed safe, which will take hours.

    Have the wherewithal and the common sense to get you and yours out of there. If you are not in the immediate vicinity of the shooter as it begins, you should cover your family's evacuation. Move AWAY from the sound of gunfire. Arm yourself, unobtrusively if possible. The police will be looking for a “person with a gun,” and you running around with your gun exposed just became that person. Running with a gun in hand and a family in tow just became in some eyes “the shooter took hostages.” Be aware that you do not know of offices on or off duty, armed citizens, or armed security that might see you, mistake you for the suspect, and decide to save the day. He’ll then be putting rounds toward you and your children while you are simply trying to escape.

    Keep your gun out of view if possible and get the family out.


    * Cover Other's Retreat

    Post at an exit and provide cover for the escape of others. Verbally indicate your location so that people know where to go. Lots of people will freeze and go to the ground and stay there waiting for "something" to happen or for someone else to do something, even give them permission to flee. As above, remember people on scene may be frightened by the sight your gun, reassure them and tell them to get away.

    Call 911 on your cell phone and keep them on the phone, give them a description of yourself and that you are armed, and evacuating people from your location. That may become the staging point for the LE response, and it would cut down on the likelihood of friendly fire against you.

    If you know police are still not on scene and everyone you can help has been helped without engaging, and you can guarantee your family will STAY safe, then by all means go hunting.

    If you do, you must understand that in that moment you take responsibility for your own life. You could get dead, quick. The time to realize you “didn't sign up for this” isn't when the bullets are flying around you, or coming to rest inside of you. If you intentionally act against a perpetrator, you did sign up for it, and are a hero for doing so. But that means you accept the consequences as well.


    * Individual Tactics

    Standard police active shooter ”Contact Cells” are showing to be too slow, even with trained LEOs who have practiced together. Any notion that you will form up with other armed citizens, with the security guards, or with responding LEOs, and work as a team to “go get the bastard” will be fraught with problems. In general, once the cavalry has arrived leave engaging the suspect up to them and take over continued evacuation of others.

    Certainly, study tactical movement and communicate with those around you, but events that are resolved quickly are done so by aggressively taking the fight to the shooter, putting rounds on his location and pinning him down until more guns get there that can take him out.

    Remember always to “get off the X,” change your position and location regularly, making best use of cover so that a bad guy, or bad guys, cannot triangulate on you.


    * Unarmed Response

    Citizens that do not carry firearms may still be in a position to act. In any unarmed action taken against a subject armed with a firearm, the risk is always present that one may be shot in attempting to do so. Jacob Ryker, the wrestler mentioned above in the Kip Kinkel incident was shot. He survived.

    It is always preferable to avoid engaging someone with a firearm while unarmed, by no means does taking a round, or even more than one, mean that one is out of the fight, particularly with a handgun. With a shooter armed with a rifle the risk of serious injury is much higher.

    Be knowledgeable with firearms. The best way to achieve this is to seek out qualified and quality instruction in firearms handling and shooting. As well, to be truly prepared seek out practical instruction in firearms disarming from those with experience and realistic hand to hand combat training. Some schools offer unrealistic, rote techniques and other “commando” styled training that is an almost comical approach to what is a deadly serious topic. The basic idea will be to move rapidly off line of the muzzle while controlling and averting the muzzle through a strong grip on the barrel or slide of the weapon.

    Firearms do not have an endless supply of ammunition. Catch him on the reload… beware of a secondary weapon. At Virginia Tech, Cho carried multiple magazines for two handguns that he carried, a 9mm and a .22, and he used the latter to hold off potential defenders as he reloaded the 9.

    Use environmental weapons such as objects that can be used as impact weapons, thrown at the attacker, or used to deflect gunfire. Some companies are making ballistic book bags and briefcases for use in an active shooter situation.

    The harsh reality is that in choosing to act one may be making a sacrifice to protect others, particularly true if one is unarmed. Professor Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor, held a door closed against Mister Cho, allowing the escape of multiple students, but died after being shot through the door.


    * Other Considerations

    Assess the situation briefly if you can, time is critical but think as you act. If you are hearing rifle fire you may want to reassess your ability to engage the bad guy(s).

    Are those other people really worth dying for? Unequivocally, sometimes they are; when it is a professional or moral obligation, or when it is your family or other innocents (children) who cannot protect themselves.

    Otherwise, go back to Sun Tzu and don’t choose a fight you can't win.

    Consider not engaging but instead gathering intelligence for first responders, if you have at least some ability to defend yourself. Responders need to know exactly who you are, what you are wearing, what you look like, and that you are armed as you do this.

    Remember secondary shooters. They are not always obvious, one may have deployed from a different location, or be laying in wait to ambush any identified resistance.

    Explosive devices are frequently used during active shooter incidents. Think outside the box when visualizing what they may look like, what you may face and how you would deal with it.


    * Obey Law Enforcement Commands

    Finally, once officers have responded and contacted you, (and hopefully not overreacted and shot you), OBEY ALL COMMANDS they give you.

    If you are armed, commands will most likely first be to drop the gun. Do so before you do anything else. Better yet, have it put away or safely put down before the police even contact you. Don't wave the gun around pointing at where the bad guy is, just drop the gun and then tell them where the shooter is. Don't get frustrated that they are concentrating on you and missing the bad guy - every cop in the region is either pulling up on scene or busting ass to get there, so there will be more cops flooding the place while the guys hooking you are up are doing their job.

    Don’t get so locked onto a threat that you miss the threat to you from armed law enforcement.


    Last Word

    With appropriate assessment and a measured protective response versus the “gun store commando” fantasy, taking action during an active shooter incident may be the right thing to do. Sound judgment and a commitment to end the carnage will undoubtedly affect the outcome, and almost always for the positive.

    No one can make the decision to act but the person right there, right then, with what he or she brings to the table. In taking action, they should do so in the knowledge that protecting others at the risk of one’s life is indeed a high calling.

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    Kit, can I repost this elsewhere?
    ____________
    Aric Keith

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    Sure thing, Aric. Careful on WT, you may get flamed. This started as a response to some of the ridiculous things that were being presented there

    We are also working on a site for NW Close Quarters Concepts and it will be posted there along with some other stuff I have been working on. I am developing some "Family Protector" course work that will include some practical exercises in this realm as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hissho View Post
    Sure thing, Aric. Careful on WT, you may get flamed. This started as a response to some of the ridiculous things that were being presented there

    We are also working on a site for NW Close Quarters Concepts and it will be posted there along with some other stuff I have been working on. I am developing some "Family Protector" course work that will include some practical exercises in this realm as well.

    Excellent. I don't visit WT enough to bother posting anything there. But I've got a private email list that will benefit from this.
    ____________
    Aric Keith

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    This was a good thread-post. However, it is hard to prepared in such situations under the emotion of stress. And, a weapon, such as a knife or firearm, is prohibited in certain establishments.

    I was with my wife and sister in a jewelry store when two armed gunman came in to rob the place.

    I am a person who always is uncomfortable with my back to a door-entrance and I usually dont like staying in one spot of a store for very long. Anyway, when I seen these guys walk in, my first reaction was to get my wife and sister to come closer to me, and we were able to duck out a rear exit. Now this may seem to be cowardly, but I was only interested in getting my loved ones safe first. We had called the police safely outside the rear of the store.

    When the police arrived, the three of us was able to give not only the description of the gunman, who had removed their hoods upon going for a car they had parked on the side, we were also able to give the description and license plate on ther vehicle.
    Richard Scardina

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    Richard

    That is not cowardice, it is called doing the right thing. I applaud your clear thinking and smart action.

    Agreed re: being prepared under the emotion of stress. That is why training under increasing pressure of more and more realistic scenarios is a must.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hissho View Post
    Richard

    That is not cowardice, it is called doing the right thing. I applaud your clear thinking and smart action.

    Agreed re: being prepared under the emotion of stress. That is why training under increasing pressure of more and more realistic scenarios is a must.
    It wasn't training under increased pressure and more realistic training which saved us.

    There are people, who can remain calm under stress naturally.

    Many people out there, for the majority, are not martial artists or have reality-based training.

    That said, I do agree that certain aspects of personal safety is a must.
    Richard Scardina

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    I would say that most martial artists do not have reality based training, but that is a different issue.

    Even with such training, extensively so, some people do choke. As you point out, some folks are just able to process stress and handle situations naturally.

    Those people would perform even better if properly and progressively trained.

    I think most are in between - and realistic training can be crucial to their performance. As well, the more prepared you want to be, the better trained you should be.

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    Hissho , thanks for the valuable post The Active Shooter and You.

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    Thanks for commenting, Jorry!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hissho View Post
    Thanks for commenting, Jorry!
    you are most welcome !

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    Our community service officers teach a short class at every new hire orientation for our new employees and new students. It always includes this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VcSwejU2D0 I'm sure a lot of folks have seen it before. What I find most startling is the response we get from people after seeing it. I work in a somewhat niche form of law enforcement, college campus police. Naturally most faculty and staff are very well educated but they often lack in these areas. Our director/chief is a retired captain from a highly regarded county department and he was also the director of that county's school security for a decade or more after he left the police so he has a very strong understanding of what needs to happen in our environment. He told me he was in a meeting with deans and directors and was explaining some of these concepts. If you hear shots from the hallway coming closer and you are on the ground floor he said smash a window and leave that way. If you are on the 5th floor barricade the door with desks, copiers, computers, whatever is in the room. If you have to fight grab a chair, fire extinguisher or PC and use the most aggression you can muster to stop the armed person. Management level people argued with him that they wouldn't do any of that because they would be open up to being sued or the college would make them pay for the damaged property. What?!? He tried to explain that the college would never do that and life and safety was the primary concern of the college but some folks weren't convinced. Maybe it is a little trite but the sheep, wolf and sheepdog metaphor is sadly true. Sometimes it is up to us even when people are informed on what to do.
    Christopher Covington

    Daito-ryu aikijujutsu
    Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage-ryu heiho

    All views expressed here are my own and don't necessarily represent the views of the arts I practice, the teachers and people I train with or any dojo I train in.

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    So they're more worried about getting sued then dead. Amazing!
    Tony Urena

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    Yup. Some folks just don't get it.
    Christopher Covington

    Daito-ryu aikijujutsu
    Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage-ryu heiho

    All views expressed here are my own and don't necessarily represent the views of the arts I practice, the teachers and people I train with or any dojo I train in.

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