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Facing An Active Shooter


An unfortunate fact of life is that evil exists in men. Fortunately, good people almost always outnumber the evil men. An evil man with a gun is a terrifying thing; however, a good man with a gun can very well be a savior. A good man without a gun may simply only be able to survive. I plan to address both of these situations, as an active shooter is an evil we may have to face.

My experience with gun fighting comes from my time in the Marine Corps infantry, both through training and my time in Afghanistan. In today’s age, we have two kinds of active shooters: the sociopath and the terrorist. The sociopath is the more common active shooter and includes examples such as Virginia Tech shooter. I personally classify the Ft. Hood shooter as a terrorist. Outside of the U.S., the terrorist is the more common active shooter.

If you’re the situation with an active shooter and you are carrying a concealed weapon, there are a few things to remember. First, most active shooters aren’t planning on leaving alive. Second, active shooters are cowards looking to murder and not to fight; the first sign of resistance could be a complete shock. A prime example of this is that active shooters often kill themselves before possible police confrontation.

How do these things apply in fighting an active shooter? First off, if you’re drawing your weapon in this situation, be prepared to fire. Displaying your weapon most likely will not be enough. As a concealed weapon holder, you have the gift of surprise on your side. You have the ability to completely surprise and overwhelm your attacker with violence.

The value of violence of action is taught heavily in the Marine Corps. It is a term referring to using a maximum amount of violence in an attack, never slowing down your attack, and never losing momentum. Obviously as a civilian it’s a little different; you can’t open fire with an open-bolt machine gun.

What you can do, though, is surprise your attacker and refuse to retreat. Pinning a shooter down can save lives and give everyone valuable time for police to appear. But be smart: your first step after an attack starts and you’ve mentally declared this is an active shooter is to seek cover. Knowing the difference between cover and concealment is critical: tables, plaster walls, and desks aren’t cover. Things like bookshelves are a gamble; maybe the books can stop the bullet, but maybe not. Brick pillars or steel stanchions are great cover, and if you’re hiding behind a car, stay behind the engine block, not the door.

The majority of successful defenses against an active shooter takes place early, sometimes even before the shooter open fire. Getting a good angle on your attacker can give you a huge advantage. Most people shoot down their centerline— the imaginary line directly out from their nose. Staying out of this line is critical to taking the shooter by surprise.

Active shooters attack crowded places, so before you take your shot remember that bullet can never be taken back. It may be incredibly difficult to take a shot with crowds panicking and people running everywhere. Emptying a mag in the shooter’s direction can make you just as lethal to innocents as him.

Prior to encountering an active shooter, how can you prepare for it? It’s hard without a lot of money, time, and resources to actively train against a threat like this. Training from someone with military experience can be beneficial, but sometimes difficult to locate. There are other considerations, however. Maybe the five rounds you carry in your revolver isn’t enough—consider buying a speed loader or an extra magazine for your automatic. Practice your reloading.

And have you ever shoot with an adrenaline rush? Trying running a few sprints and then taking aim; you may find it is a little different. Also, practice your shooting, drawing, reloading with the clothes you’ll actually wear in public.

Unarmed Options

Unarmed options for surviving are vastly different. If you’re a law-abiding citizen in a gun-free zone (someone didn’t tell the shooter that), you are outgunned from the start. The majority of active shooters attack these so-called gun-free zones because they know they won’t meet resistance. This goes back to a coward’s mentality. In these cases, defense is hardly an option, but survival is. (Some of you out there may be unarmed defense masters, but the majority of people aren’t.) So what can you do?

Obviously, getting the heck out of dodge is the best idea. Locating an exit is the first step; be ready to run with a crowd who are headed the same way. Don’t stop as soon as you think you’re safe; keep moving until you have some real distance between yourself and the shooter, plus cover. Then call 911.

If escape isn’t an option, it comes down to hiding. This comes back to cover and concealment and realizing the difference. If you have the chance, take cover, as stray bullets kill just as well as aimed ones. If possible, lock yourself in somewhere. If you have the option to rely on something besides the door lock, use it: stack whatever you can in front of the door. This not only helps keep the door closed, but can also soak up bullets. Then call 911.

Overcoming your attacker is the last option; if it comes down to that and you have to, there are a few things to remember. Violence of action still comes into to play, so you want to attack fast and hard. You must be vicious—prepare to inflict pain and death on this attacker. Keep an eye out for makeshift weapons; for example, a fire extinguisher offers both a blunt object and nice distraction. Spraying someone with the foam can give you the element of surprise and as well as a few extra seconds to attack.

Anything can be a weapon—a chair, a board, a belt, a water bottle—so keep an open mind. Remember that if you start an attack, you will become target number one, so you better be committed to it.

Finally, when calling 911, give them the best information you can, as calmly as you can. If you can, tell them the shooter’s description, weapon, etc. I don’t suggest calling the police directly until you’re totally safe and can pass them new information; by the time you’ve called, they’ve probably received a dozen calls already.

Also, when it comes to pulling alarms, I don’t suggest it. Pulling a fire alarm can scare people out of their hiding spots and into the gunman’s line of fire. A fire alarm will only provide a few seconds of distraction anyway. Some may say the noise will make it easier to hide from the gunman, but this is false. If someone is shooting a weapon indoors, he isn’t hearing anything already.

An active shooter is a threat we continue to live with, and until the good men can be armed everywhere, these attacks will likely go on unopposed. It is not a question of gun control, but rather a question of gun-free zone control.

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