U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Bowcock
As long as the laws of physics make it possible for guns to exist and the evil in people’s hearts causes them to kill others, we have the risk of mass shootings. This isn’t a new phenomenon and it’s not likely to go away anytime soon. This means that you and I need to prepare ourselves, so that we don’t become victims of the next mass shooting.
Avoid Target Zones
The best way to avoid becoming a target is to avoid places that attract mass shooters. While this is not always possible, there’s really no reason to expose ourselves unnecessarily. There are two common traits that these shooters always look for when selecting their targets. We need to be aware of them and try to avoid them.
The first is that they need a crowd. The psychosis that drives these killers causes them to seek fame or perhaps infamy through their actions. As of this writing, the most famous is the Las Vegas shooter, strictly based upon the number of victims he killed and wounded. The event he selected was based on the number of potential victims, giving him a “fish in the barrel” sort of target.
The second thing they need is time to do the deed. For this reason, mass killers prefer gun-free zones. That way, they have time to rack up a body count, before anyone can stop them. I guarantee you: No shooter is going to try to commit their crime inside the NRA convention, simply because there are too many armed citizens who could stop them.
In the case of the Las Vegas killer, he managed to plan his way around the need for a gun-free zone by killing from a distance. His vantage point prevented him from picking out specific targets, but ensured that he would have plenty of time before the police could attempt to stop him.
The trite saying about not bringing a knife to a gun fight is true. If all you’ve got is a knife, or your bare hands, you’re at a distinct disadvantage. While carrying a gun may not totally eliminate that disadvantage, especially in the case of a terrorist act, at least you have a chance.
One of the problems we face today is that mass shooters may not be armed with pistols and may not be killing at close range. Terrorists prefer semi-automatic or automatic rifles. In either case, having a pistol probably wouldn’t be enough, as the killer would be shooting at a distance. But in any case where the shooter is at pistol distance, you could be the one to save many lives.
Train Yourself to Use a Gun Effectively
Don’t carry, unless you are going to get yourself trained and spend time on the shooting range, practicing. Carrying a gun is a responsibility; you are responsible for every bullet that leaves the muzzle of your gun. The last thing you want to do is to hit some innocent bystander in an effort to stop a killer. Constant training and practice is your only way to mitigate against that.
Discretion is Still the Best Part of Valor
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If you’re anything like me, you see carrying a firearm not only as self-protection, but as protecting society at large. That’s a great and noble thought. But it doesn’t mean that you are responsible to give your live in trade for others. Your first responsibility is to save your own life and that of your loved ones.
From a practical point of view, you can’t do anything to save someone else’s life, unless you can preserve your own first. A dead hero is still dead, and probably didn’t save any lives. Save yourself, then look to see whether you can save others.
In the case of the Vegas shooter, the only way that anyone with a concealed carry license could have saved lives is to get out of the situation first, saving their own life. Once they did that, they could then storm the hotel, finding the shooter and confronting him. While covering someone else with your body to protect them is brave, you can only save one person that way.
Know Your Escape Routes
Wherever you go, you should have multiple plans for dealing with active shooters. Part of that is knowing all the available escape routes, not just the most obvious one. That exit might be blocked before you can get to it, either by the shooter, or by the crowd trying to escape.
In Las Vegas, there was a former Marine who went over the fence to escape. He then found a pickup truck with the keys in it, and borrowed it to start running people to the hospital. All in all, he saved about 30 people who were wounded in the attack. Had he not seen that fence as a possible escape route, he could have ended up being nothing more than a statistic.
Distance is Your Friend
If you can’t get out, then get some distance. The farther you are from the shooter, the harder a target you become. That alone can increase your chances of survival. Historically, most of these shooters have not been people with extensive firearms experience and training. So they can’t count on hitting targets that aren’t close. Ultimately, they waste a lot of shots which miss entirely.
On the other hand, you should make distance shooting part of your regular practice. It is considerably harder, especially with a pistol. So take the time to become at least somewhat proficient at engaging targets at 50 or 75 feet. That will give you a tactical advantage over the killer.
Keep Your Eyes Open for Good Cover
Just as you look around a new area, seeking out escape routes, you should also seek out good cover, or if you can’t find cover, at least concealment. This is much harder than it might seem, as pretty much all pistol and rifle round will go through walls, furniture and even appliances easily. Nevertheless, there are some things that will function as cover (such as brick walls and cement planters), especially if you are in an outdoor venue.
If you are forced to engage in a gun battle with a bad guy, it’s always best to do so from cover. Once again, a dead hero is still dead and probably doesn’t save any lives. Practice shooting from cover, even in awkward positions, so that when the time comes, you can do so.
Unless You’re Under Cover, Keep Moving
Moving targets are much harder to hit. While active shooters rarely pick out specific targets, they can and do pick “attractive looking targets.” What makes them attractive looking is that they are easy to hit. If you start running, especially running across the shooter’s field of view or at an angle to it, you make yourself an unattractive target, even if you do attract their attention. Should they take a shot at you, chances are, they’ll miss.
But don’t just run uncontrollably. You should always have a destination. Specifically, your destination should be an exit, a place of cover, or to move yourself closer to the shooter, so that you have a better chance of hitting them with your next shot. Although I will have to say, that last option is a risky one.
Don’t Wait, Attack
Whatever you do, don’t wait. As soon as you realize something is happening, you need to be moving. If you are close to the shooter, don’t try to escape, attack. Your chances of survival will be much better attacking them, even if it’s with nothing but a spoon, than it will be running. The more time you give them, the more people they can kill and the greater the chance that they will kill you.
You can greatly decrease your reaction time by maintaining what is known as “condition yellow.” This means keeping yourself aware of what’s going on around you and what people are doing. You should always be looking for suspicious people who are doing things that could lead up to crime or violence. That way, when they act, you won’t be caught off-guard.
This doesn’t mean that you should walk around fearful or pointing an accusing finger at others, simply that you should look to see what is happening. If someone seems suspicious to you for some reason, keep an eye on them, while continuing to scan the area around you. Then, if they do something, you’ll see it, right from the beginning.
Fear Is Your Enemy
While I’ve never been in one of these situations, I am sure of one thing: Fear is going to come. The problem is, fear will try and force you to act in inappropriate ways. For that reason, you want to try to avoid it as much as possible. What you can’t avoid, you need to learn to control.
This is why the military spends so much time in training. The better trained soldiers are, the better they are able to combat fear, because they know what to do. It is the lack of knowing, which creates the greatest fear. So train, train, train, preparing yourself for an event that I hope you’ll never encounter.
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