By Ed Santos, The Shooting Channel
Active shooter incidents, while small in number, continue to make headlines worldwide. Many people say each incident is a lesson for law enforcement response. I agree, the law enforcement community gets smarter with each incident. Anyone doubting this need only look at today’s response as compared to an incident such as Columbine.
I believe the civilian community must also learn from each of the past stories which have made headlines across the globe. From incidents like Columbine, Virginia Tech, Ft. Hood, Beslan, Mumbai, and many others, we must learn. Learn what you ask? How about indicators, patterns, awareness, avoidance and response.
Law enforcement has an obligation to plan, equip, and train officers to counter the active shooter. The active shooter requires an immediate defense of life, immediate action. Neither law enforcement nor the civilian can wait the arrival of SWAT teams. Law enforcement is often minutes away which is why I say civilians have an obligation to themselves and their families to be prepared to counter the active shooter.
When the Police show up at a shooting where you are the “Good Samaritan”, how are you going to not become a victim yourself?
This of course is not without risk. The civilian responder is exposed to even greater risk than law enforcement. The civilian is at risk from the active shooter but by the very nature of who they are and their inherent lack of identity, they are exposed to first responders, private security and even other less trained civilians trying to respond as well. Without the benefit of a uniform or police placard or badge the civilian responder looks very much like the active shooter.
Think about the first responder as they are driving to the shooting. The only info they may have is “man with a gun shooting people.” They get on scene, adrenalin pumping to levels never before experienced. They hear the shots and screams, they move in and see you running with a gun. Will you get challenged or will you get shot? If you get challenged, will you have the wherewithal to not point your gun in their direction as you respond to their challenge? If you do point the gun…you will more than likely be shot without hesitation.
Let’s examine the active shooter challenges that face us all. The primary LE training aspect of rapid response/rapid deployment centers on first arriving patrol officers forming a “contact team” and moving aggressively against the active shooter. The offender must be located, identified, and defeated. Victims must be rescued and removed for medical assistance with all possible speed. To accomplish these goals, officers must receive realistic training and have immediate access to a firearm capable of delivering accurate fire at distances that represent the length of a hallway or gymnasium, which can be in excess of 75 yards.
First responders may not know who you are. How will you let them know before you get shot?
The equipment and training considerations mentioned above have led to much debate in the LE community. Given the obvious limitations of hand gun calibers and the typical distances one encounters an active shooter, this debate is both predictable and understandable.
The civilian community is also faced with these considerations and of course is even more handicapped in their response. After all, how many of you go shopping or to the movies with your AR slung across your chest? In fact, how many of you concealed weapon carriers even carry an extra magazine or extra revolver ammo when you leave the house?
Now, to gain some insight into the events themselves let’s look at the results of the work done by a few researchers who compiled some helpful info for us all. John Nicolette, PhD, conducted a study of 35 active shooter incidents during 2012 and discussed the results of his study during a lecture entitled “Detection and Disruption of Insider/Outsider Perpetrated Violence.
- The average active shooter incident lasts 12 minutes, while 37 percent last less than five minutes.
- 49 percent of attackers committed suicide, 34 percent were arrested, and 17 percent were killed.
- 51 percent of the attacks studied occurred in the workplace, while 17 percent occurred in a school, 17 percent occurred in a public place, and six percent occurred in a religious establishment.
Peter Blair, PhD, and Hunter Martindale, PhD, conducted a study of active shooter events. Here’s a summary of their findings:
- Two percent of the shooters bring improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as an additional weapon.
- In 10 percent of the cases, the shooter stops and walks away. In 20 percent of the cases, the shooter goes mobile, moving to another location.
- 43 percent of the time, the crime is over before police arrive. In 57 percent of the shootings, an officer arrives while shooting is still underway.
- The attacks ended before the police arrived 49 percent of the time. In 56 percent of the attacks ongoing when police arrived, officers had to use force to stop the killing.
So where does this leave the concealed carry civilian responder? Before we get too far here allow me to briefly bring up the recent Las Vegas incident that started me thinking about the need for this article.
Think about what you’re willing to risk to intervene.
I’ll be brief. Essentially the husband and wife duo that ambushed and killed two Las Vegas police officers immediately after the shooting ran into a local Wal-Mart. The husband fired a shot in the air, “told the shoppers to leave the store, the police are coming, this is a revolution.” A shopper who was a concealed carry civilian decided to respond.
Note: I am not aware of this Good Samaritan’s training or abilities. Please do not consider anything I say here as a criticism of his intentions or his actions. I am just trying to address the situation accurately and in a manner that might benefit us all.
The concealed carry civilian decided to confront the husband unaware of what had transpired only minutes earlier or that the woman pushing the shopping cart behind him was actually a co-conspirator or (Lay-Off Person) positioned strategically for just this type of intervention. The Good Samaritan did not have a chance. When he made his move she made hers and shot him before he could do any good. This is the reality of such a dynamic, ever evolving, high stress situation. Whenever anyone enters such an environment with limited intel, the risks are extreme.
So, how about us? What have we learned from this article to this point? We know we don’t have much time. People involved need help now and LE response is at least minutes away. The CCW holder is there now but the ability to effectively respond is an uphill battle for many reasons not limited to training, ability, intel, equipment, and even good guy/bad guy identification.
I keep coming back to one of the fundamental elements I have been preaching for years. Awareness! In this case I mean awareness of the situation, your environment, your abilities, your training, and your tactical options, the overall risks your actions will bring to you, first responders, and other innocent participants. With proper awareness you will at least be able to make some initial decisions. I say initial because these situations are so dynamic and ever changing that modifying your plan may very well be a given once initiated.
So you have made your decision. I don’t have the answer here. Circumstances may provide you the opportunity to take that ultimate step and inflict the greatest amount of trauma possible in the shortest amount of time, thus ending the crisis. It may take all you have to just evacuate your family and loved ones through the chaos and panic around you. You may have the opportunity to be a good witness and help direct the first responders to the bad guy or you may be afforded the opportunity to pin down or limit the mobility of the shooter.
I don’t have the definitive answer and you don’t either as you read this. One thing for sure is the more you know ahead of time about these situations in general, the more you know about yourself and your ability to implement strategy and tactics, and the more you know about how your actions may be interpreted by others around you will give you the best chance for success. The one thing we know for sure is these situations are stressful, dynamic and evolve at an unbelievable pace. Stay Aware, Be Vigilant, and Be Safe.
About the Author
Ed Santos is author of the books “Rule the Night Win the Fight” published 2008 and his latest “Low-Light Combatives” published 2013. He is the Owner/Founder of Center Target Sports, Inc. and Tactical Services Group. He teaches advanced firearm skills and Low-light training around the world and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.