There is no simple answer to solving an active shooter. A part of the solution for protecting Americans is the rights guaranteed to us under the 2nd amendment. I know for many who are not 2nd amendment supporters, this sounds counterintuitive because they believe that the gun is the problem, not the underlying mental instability that almost every active shooter possesses. I am a strong 2nd amendment supporter. The amendment was specifically crafted to ensure that none of the other rights spelled out in our constitution could be taken away through the action of tyrannical governments and also the quickest remedy to defend our most fundamental right, The right to life. All of the other remedies require long drawn out legal processes or outsourcing the protection of your life to a third party. I am also a realist with what a firearm can and cannot do. A firearm does not have any magical powers. It should never be construed as a status symbol and it should never be used to fill a void for ones own perceived inadequacies. A gun is a tool used to accomplish a specific task. Nothing more, nothing less. In reality, the weapon which people are looking for is one they already have, just underused. That weapon is a well trained mind. Personal and professional experience has shown me that active shooters and terrorist almost always chose targets that are “Gun Free” or soft for a reason. I’ve learned some very hard lessons from my policing career, tactical experience as a counter-terrorism instructor in the Middle-East and providing High Threat close protection in some of the most dangerous places on earth. Every act of violence, whether it’s an active shooter, act of terrorism, an armed robbery or a fist fight will alway’s have pre-incident indicators. They always exist. The reality is that we as Americans live in a predominately “Soft” society. This soft society is a blessing because I can think of no other place on earth that I would want to raise my kids. It’s also a curse. The blessing is that our country through all of its troubles is remarkably stable. Meaning that acts of violence like the one in Lafayette and Chattanooga are the exception and not the rule. The blessing is that because of our freedoms which the 2nd Amendment helps guarantee provides for a remarkably “stable” country. Because of this stability, we no longer recognize predatory or as we call it “outlier” behavior in our fellow man. It’s been a while since we’ve been on the menu if you catch my drift. Unless you grew up in a violent neighborhood were criminality and predatory behavior was rampant, or served in combat where you are forced to be Hyper-aware, you are simply not tuned in to the environment. The American populace does not readily recognize when something is amiss. That unfortunately is the curse. We will find as we have in every single mass shooting that the killers told the world what they were going to do either through direct statements, writings or through indirect means what he had in mind. Just nobody in his immediate sphere of influence was listening or took his statements and actions seriously.
**Updated July 25th: CNN reports that he had a history of mental illness and made threats of violence and his family had sought legal remedies that proved impotent. We still have not addressed what we can do to prevent mentally unstable people who clearly represent a danger to society from owning and possessing a firearm. You will not solve the problem by penalizing the rest of us for their actions and taking away our ability to defend ourselves.
I can say with quite certainty that he will have surveilled or staked out the theater several times and may have done a dry run or two. I haven’t seen the surveillance footage, but it will be there as it almost always is. Just prior to the shooting he had staged his car and had planned to escape using disguises and alternate plates on the car. That means that he had learned the internals of the theater, A check of his credit/Debit history may show when he was there and this may prove useful for an after action report. If there is internal surveillance footage of his activities in the theater prior to the shooting, this may yield some useful information. Lets talk about getting involved in a shooting in a crowded movie theater in extremely low light or exceptionally poor lighting conditions. (Flickering lights from the movie) Now factor in that you can have potentially hundreds of panicked movie goers running and stampeding around you. That’s the tactical reality of the shot that you are wishing to make. This scenario is real and it has happened before and most likely will happen again. It’s also why realistic force on force training is critical if you are going to exercise your 2nd amendment rights. Knowing what to do tactically must be buttressed by knowing what to do legally, morally and ethically. Not only for you but for the rest of us who want to keep and maintain our 2nd amendment rights. You will not get a clear shot as some may envision that’s just not realistic. You will also be accountable for every round that you may fire. Your intention to save lives will be entirely immaterial if you survive the encounter but inadvertently shoot an innocent bystander. In 1981 then President Ronald Reagan survived an assassination attempt. He was surrounded by heavily armed Secret service men who did not fire a single shot to stop John Hinckley Jr. Why do you think that was? Did Hinckley possess the means and the opportunity to try and kill more people? He most certainly did, what stopped Hinckley was that he was swarmed by members of Reagan’s Secret service team and cabinet members and he was overpowered. They were in very close proximity and they had the ability to simply “unload” on him yet they chose a more prudent and effective course of action. Unless you have trained and drilled with this scenario, over and over, You are putting yourself and your fellow citizens at risk. If your training consists of going to your local range and “throwing a box of rounds” down range, you are not remotely prepared for the complexities and the realities of a gunfight. I would ask that your honestly assess your capabilities. A gunfight is a savage act, most training that CCW holders receive focuses on recreational shooting and not the mental and physical stressors of a gunfight. I also want to dispel couple of popular myths, in a gunfight, your not going to “rise to the occasion” and turn into an expert marksman who never misses. In reality you are going to sink to your lowest level of competency. Retrieving your weapon from its holster will become a monumental task let alone manipulating your weapon and getting the sights on target. Most movie theaters have long corridors which means that the distances preclude making snap shots and exceed the capabilities of average concealed carry holder and their firearm. That’s the other reality. That does not mean that the “tool” can not play a part. You may be able to buy time by “fixing” the gunmen to one place for a moment, but remember you are still accountable for every bullet that leaves the barrel of your gun. Where I would focus my attention would be on prevention and preparation. I would discuss developing training programs that adapt the prevention methodologies that counter-terror teams have been using quite effectively in spotting outlier behavior and adapting those principles for private citizens and businesses. That does not necessarily mean an armed swat teams gets posted at the movies, but through effective training making a more observant movie employee or movie security team member who knows what to look for. If you can spot the tell tale signs of hostile surveillance, you can be ahead of the bad guy. You interrupt his attack cycle and quite possibly can save lives. The implied threat of concealed guns in the hands of private citizens can act as a deterrent much as is the intent of the 2nd amendment. The tactical reality is that your gun would most likely only be useful at what I call bad breath distances. Beyond that, it’s a liability. You would be better off mentally preparing for such an event and run some mental “What if” exercises. If you are with your family, come up with a rally point if you get separated, that’s a high likelihood. If you are caught up in the stampede, look to find a perimeter wall and move along the corridor, It keeps at least one side protected as you make your exit. Find an escape route and go. If that’s not available find a point where you can shelter and look to immediately fortify your position and if you are unarmed, look for weapons of opportunity. In closing, Sharpen the weapon through realistic training. Talk to your family and friends and start a dialogue at work, have that “what if” conversation. If you would like to know more feel free to contact us.