When an armed gunman goes on a shooting rampage in a restaurant, theater, school, or other public place, deaths are certain to ensue. Such gunmen are labeled by law enforcement as active shooters, which is a term the American public is unfortunately becoming well acquainted with. Active shooters are nothing new; criminals have been randomly shooting civilians in acts of desperation and rage for nigh on a century. Workplace violence and shootings seem to magnify in the face of a down economy, and sometimes there is simply no connection between the shooter’s target and the grievances he has. There is no real reason for the senseless violence that occurs.
In many cases, active shooters will undertake their rampage in areas that are designated as gun-free zones, places like colleges, universities, schools, and federal buildings, because they know and realize that these places are unlikely to contain armed resistance. It’s easy to advocate concealed carry to fight back against active shooters, but even in states where concealed carry is easily obtained by ordinary citizens, there are still places where it is prohibited to carry a firearm. It doesn’t matter if you have a concealed carry permit or not. A private business, government, or institution can absolutely forbid the carrying of firearms on their property—it’s their right to decide who can carry on their property.
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In lieu of armed resistance in places where it isn’t lawful to carry, we need to develop skills to combat active shooters, skills that don’t require weapons. We need to develop strategies that will help us survive in cases where we can’t shoot back. To that end, here are some tips to deal with active shooter situations:
- Avoid them in the first place. This isn’t designed to encourage reclusiveness or a hermit like existence; it is simply designed to mitigate risk. Ask yourself if it is really necessary to see that big opening night picture or attend that political rally in the first place. It’s no secret that active shooters choose public places in which to execute their savagery, and they love target-rich environments. Give some serious consideration to avoiding such places.
- Observe the shooter before he becomes one. No, this doesn’t involve clairvoyance. It involves vigilance and observation. When you first enter a public place, note the entrances and exits, and closely observe the people as they enter and leave the premises. We aren’t stating that you need to be the proverbial gunslinger with his back to the wall and facing the entrance, but we are saying that there was a reason that old west gunslingers sat that way, and a reason why most police continue to do so. The reason is simple – watch the ingress and egress of persons. Look for the following patterns:
- Persons who come in and seemingly scan the crowd.
- Persons who come in, scan the crowd, then leave, only to return again shortly. It could be innocent, but it could also be a shooter planning an attack.
- Persons who come in visibly shaken, perspiring, or with wide eyes and dilated pupils. All are signs of an adrenaline dump which could signal impending action on their part.
- React to an emergent active shooter. Your number one priority is to flee the building immediately should you hear shots or see someone pull a gun. While this seems obvious, realize that many buildings or institutions will have a lock down policy for active shooters in which they will compartmentalize the rooms within the building, each room barricading itself and awaiting either help or further instructions. There’s no advantage to the lockdown; all it does is create sitting ducks out of those who could otherwise flee. Should the only option remaining be a barricade, attempt to exit the room as soon as possible through means other than the door that’s barricaded. Keep the following in mind:
- Think outside the box for your escape; look at windows and drop ceilings and alternate methods of egress or hiding.
- Stay away from the door as most handgun rounds and all rifle rounds will easily penetrate your typical interior door. Do not use your body weight alone to block a doorway!
- Hiding is passive and should be your last, final, and most desperate resort.
- If bullets fly, know what to do. Realize that bullets flying doesn’t necessarily mean every bullet will strike a target. Even among professional shooters, occasional misses are the norm even in calm, controlled situations. An active shooter is under extreme mental duress when he’s on a rampage, and thus many rounds miss their intended targets (fortunately). Still, keep the following tips in mind:
- Bullets follow walls and floors. For that reason, try and stay off both. Much as a body of water will make a stone skip, even a sheetrock wall will sometimes deflect a bullet that is fired parallel to it, and send that bullet skipping alongside it. Try and stay a minimum of 18” off the walls.
- The easiest way to stay off a floor is to crouch by sitting on your haunches and keeping your heels slightly elevated. This takes most of your body off the floor and presents the least surface area and smallest target to a shooter.
Active shooters are a menace and threat to society as we know them, but by being observant and taking action when disaster strikes, you can potentially evade death or injury.