This past week we’ve had two more incidents where those who had a radical agenda killed people in an act of terrorism. Terrorism, defined in these instances, as using violence with the intent to coerce or intimidate a civilian population or influence government policy. In each case, victims who were unable to defend themselves, were targeted to be killed. As news coverage continues in the next few weeks, remember: it’s not about guns – it’s about people who are willing to use violence to push their agenda. Time and time again, it has been proven that taking away guns, only creates unarmed victims.
Tel Aviv last week, Orlando this past weekend, and Paris and San Bernardino a few months ago, the list goes on and on. But there are other examples as well. On the train between Paris and Amsterdam a potential terrorist had two guns, over 300 rounds of ammunition, and a knife. With him were about 400 passengers who, because they were on a rapidly moving train had little chance of escape.
What was different on the train? Why were there not hundreds of dead and injured? Because three Americans (Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos), were willing to fight the gunman and disarmed him before he could get very far on his killing spree. Like Todd Beamer’s outcry of “Let’s roll!” on flight 93, the only thing that will stop these attacks, is fighting back, either with a firearm (in Orlando a 3 hour standoff preceded the SWAT team shooting the bad guy), or whatever means are necessary and at hand. What is not being widely reported is in Tel Aviv, several armed citizens shot at the bad guys, causing them to disengage and run away after only 11 people were shot (4 later died).
As I noted, most of these attacks are designed to make us change our lifestyle – will we let that happen this time and allow the focus to be only on the guns? I’m not going to dwell on politics, motivation, or discuss government policy or issues and opinions in our society about why these things happened, or what we can or should do to prevent these types of situations – that is a discussion for another time. Although early reports indicate the FBI had been aware of the Orlando guy for the past two years. Instead I’m going to talk about what you and I need to do, in case we are present when something like this happens.
The best place to start is well before any such incident occurs. Very few of these attacks occur spontaneously. Most have those involved doing some pre-event surveillance of the facility, or in other cases, the attacker(s) worked in the facility. If strangers are doing on sight information gathering, testing the security at the location, or doing rehearsals before the actual event, someone should notice and report that sort of suspicious behavior. If they work at the location, chances are they have made comments or said things that someone will have heard, and again – should report.
Once again, prevention is always better than reaction. If you can let someone know, and a follow-up with the potential attacker, can stop the attack, or cause those involved to at least change the location to a place where that is easier or has less aware people on site. Once an attack goes “operational” anyone and everyone will be behind the curve, and it quickly become about survival – and whatever it take to get out of there, instead of using tactics and calm reaction to engage the threat. Can we make choices in where we go that will keep us safe, and out of harm’s way?
What about those venues or facilities that tell you – we have security on-site. Well, regardless of what level or degree of security they may have at that location, I can assure you that their primary job is not, and will not be to make sure YOU are protected. You are the only one that has that responsibility, and farming it out to a security guard is not where I want to be. Even then, a shooter with some smarts will take out the security first, then everyone else. As an aside, early reports indicate in Orlando the guy had worked in that facility as a security guard. What if he decided to launch an attack while he was working his security shift, how would that have worked out?
Police response? Just call 9-1-1 and help will be on the way. On average, in active shooting situations police typically arrive within three to six minutes. Great, but averages won’t match whatever situation you are involved with. In Orlando, even if police arrived quickly, it became a stand-off with the shooter and it took three hours until a SWAT entry and an officer shooting the bad guy. I’m guessing the death count would have been much less if emergency responders had been able to enter within only a few minutes, or if someone could have shot the bad guy sooner.
Whether you are carrying a firearm or not, should you be present when a shooting situation breaks out, you have limited choices. The decisions you need to make in such a situation should have already been thought through well before you need to do something. When the rounds start to go off, the plan you have previously formulated needs to be put into play, it’s too late to spend a lot of time thinking about your options, you need to act, and do so “RIGHT NOW!”
But, I could get hurt… Yeah, and you could be hurt or even killed if you do nothing. Remember, the guy in Orlando didn’t choose to do this in a biker bar (I suspect the end result would have been VERY different), he was expecting a room that was filled with victims – and that’s exactly what he got. When you fight back – you will have an initial advantage, getting way ahead of the bad guy’s OODA loop. By the time they realize you are coming at them with a chair, you’ve hit them twice on their head.
Some may say: in an actual shooting situation, you won’t be able to do anything about it. In some situations, that might be true. If I don’t have a clear shot, or something else prevents me from being able to act – you are right. But, I can also guarantee that if I am in the right place, and an opportunity is there – I have spent many years preparing myself to act, and I fully intend to do so. Just as I will do anything in my power to protect my family or myself on the street, I will do the same if I am able to do so in an active shooting situation. But what if I can’t be armed, or I am otherwise unable to protect myself?
I made a decision about this many years ago. I have stayed home, or not gone to an event, or changed plans rather than go somewhere where I knew I could not protect myself, or where the risks associated were more than I was willing to risk. It’s not being paranoid, it’s being prepared. Because in my career I have been in too many places, and seen too many things, and been involved in too many after-action reports, where someone was hurt or killed – and it could have been prevented with a little more awareness and preparation. Regardless of the steps you might take, there are time when you can’t get away from bad situations, sometimes bad things come looking for you.
I heard about the Orlando incident and watched some news coverage about an hour before I went to church Sunday morning. As I was sitting in church, I started thinking about what I would do if someone came in and started shooting those sitting in the pews. This is a facility that I am very used to, and I have already considered locations of cover that would stop a bullet, paths people take when exiting the church, shooting angles and fields of fire. As I was sitting there, I again processed all of this information, and decided were such a thing to happen, I would be as ready as I could be to take the appropriate action and response.
Ask yourself: If you knew you would be attacked today, or knew the event you were heading to would have an active shooter present – would you change your actions as you leave the door to your house? Would you carry your gun? Would you carry a larger pistol? Would you make sure you have some extra magazines? Would you wish you had spent another few hours at the range, maybe done some additional reload drills and some shooting drills with movement and action? Should you have been doing some exercise – to be able to physically fight back or run to cover or away from the threat?
Start getting ready today. Even with a single step or two at a time, it’s getting you more prepared, and ready to do what you need to do to stop an attack, and survive. Mainly, start thinking about what to do, what you could do – if you end up in a situation like this. For me: I carry a full size firearm, and at least two magazines for reloading. I always have a flashlight (or two), and most importantly, my head is always on a swivel and on the look-out for potential threats. Accepting that the very real possibility exists of being involved in an incident like this, is the first step in preparing to survive such a situation.