Active Shooter & Concealed Carry

This is a guest post by Scott Sylvesteractive shooter

I’ve been absent for a couple of weeks now, partially because I spent a week at a training course on responding to active shooter incidents. While this course was designed for law enforcement officers, there are many similarities in the way you as a concealed carry citizen could respond. As time goes by I will hopefully bring you more articles about active shooter incidents, training and response. As this is my first attempt to broach the subject, I’ll give a brief overview.

An active shooter event is not a new phenomenon. If you go back through history there are dozens of incidents where deranged individuals have used bombs, cars, knives and firearms to cause mass casualties. Over the last decade however, active shooters have evolved primarily in two ways. Mental health, psychotropic drugs and extensive studies related to behavior are now on the forefront. Pharmaceuticals of every type alter your body in some way, and as psychiatrics are using new and uncharted mind altering prescriptions, we are starting to reap some of the uncontrolled and unexpected side effects. The other driving force behind more recent active shooter events is the media infamy associated with each event.

Each killer this day and age wants to go down in history as the top killer with the largest body count and be remembered in history for the evil he/she perpetrated on the world. The new generation of active murderers are seeking publicity and the major media is playing right into their greedy, selfish, horrific and murderous ends.

Each new shooter who sets out is now conducting reconnaissance, developing elaborate plans, and becoming a more sophisticated threat. What started with two high school students and a few firearms is now a tactical vest wearing, 3 gun wielding, bomb and booby-trapped psycho. While I harbor strong beliefs about the reasons these murderers are often successful, it is not the focus of this article. (For some insight, read: Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill, by: Lt. Col. Dave Grossman)

What I do want to focus on is your preparation, training and mindset if you find yourself in an area where the next psychotropic altered maniac unleashes their attack.

We’ll start with why you carry a gun in the first place. To protect yourself and your loved ones from the imminent threat of death or great bodily injury. You also carry because you know that there is also an off chance that you might have to save the life of a third party (fellow citizen you may not know). If you carry, it is also because you are going to be in a public area, with lots of people where there is a certain calculated risk that bad things could potentially happen. Places likes a mall, movie theater, or when dropping off your child at school.
Regardless of where you are when you hear the tell-tale sound of gunfire, you have to have already made up your mind if you are going to intervene or not. Some circumstances may make the choice for you, sometimes the threat will be near but not direct. Whatever you decide, make sure you consider some risk factors.

Are you going in? Statistic gathered during these events (and research by Israeli police) show that intervention by a single armed person drastically reduces the number of victims during an active shooter event. If an armed person (police, citizen, military) engages the suspect and upsets their plans, lives will be saved. If the killer is focused on you and your attempt to deny them infamy, people in the area have an opportunity to escape. One major thing active shooters fear (terrorists too) is failure to achieve their goal. When active shooters are confronted by a lethal threat they often kill themselves which is also a victory by other means. (Clackamas Mall)

Before you feel like being a hero I want to sober you up with another interesting piece of data. First responders who engage a mass murder during these events have a 40% chance of suffering great bodily injury or death. You may not come out of the event unscathed… or even alive. On duty, I have body armor, an AR-15 and a trauma kit that make my odds better. As an armed citizen, you most likely do not have protection, a force multiplier or medical gear necessary to stop major hemorrhaging. If the statistic is 40% for law enforcement, I’d venture a guess that it higher for an armed citizen. If you fall victim to the shooter without inflicting injury of your own, you have now just armed the murderer with another tool with which to wreck more havoc.

If you decide to go see what is happening, you will be alone. The active shooter may not be. While we were in training the two killers that murdered the police officers and then ended up in a Wal-mart store were confronted by an armed citizen…who was ambushed and killed by the female he was not expecting. Remember this golden rule when conducting threat assessments: There is always one more threat! I believe Joseph Wilcox is a hero and his intervention helped prevent the escape of the two suspects allowing law enforcement to intervene and force them to suicide. His death was unfortunate, however he did something many people would not do and his sacrifice was not in vain. Rest in peace hero.

The crowd will also be moving against you, and if you have a firearm, you are going to have to protect your weapon while pushing towards the threat. When you decide to draw your own firearm is a choice you will have to make. On duty, and in full uniform, it’s easy to have it out and ready. Off duty, or a civilian in plain clothes, you could be mistaken for the shooter by the panicked crowd and have some mob justice dispensed upon you. There is no right answer, just something I want you to think about now, so you are not trying to decide under stress.

As you move towards the threat also be aware of potential booby-traps. Improvised Explosive Devices or IEDs are left out to inhibit or kill first responders or used as force multipliers to kill more victims. If you encounter an IED find cover and get low. If an IED is thrown at you, run to cover and get low or charge the threat, neutralize the threat and take cover as fast as possible. If you encounter an active shooter that is equipped with IEDs, you might want to back out of the situation. As a citizen do not have a fatalistic sense of heroism. A tactical retreat may be a good option against an ensconced, sophisticated, well-armed, or well armored threat.

As a citizen responder, you will lack heavy armor and specialized equipment to deal with every situation. I encourage you to try to do something, but be smart, don’t get into a situation or circumstances that overwhelm your senses or training. You have to accept the fact right now that people are going to die, you will try to prevent that, you will not be able to save everyone.

Also as you move towards the threat you will encounter carnage. There will be floors slick with blood, you will encounter severely wounded people who will scream and beg you for help. You have to decide if you are going to move on towards the threat or stop and render aid. No one will fault you for rendering aid or dragging someone to a safer location and if they are coherent, you might be able to gather some intelligence as to what the shooter looks like, what they are wearing and which direction he/she/they went. If they have a phone they can also call 911 and give a description of you so the responding officers do not mistake you for the suspect.

While I’m on that topic, let’s address it. You will be in regular everyday civilian attire. You look like everyone else in the fleeing crowd and may easily be mistaken for a threat. (Especially if you dress like a 5.11 billboard.) It is a risk you will have to take if you decide to intervene.

The police do not care who you say you are, they care about what you are doing. If you are seen probing an area with a firearm, you may be engaged by police gun fire. If you are challenged by the police, comply with their instructions and DO NOT point your handgun anywhere near their direction. If they tell you to drop your gun, do it. I don’t care if it is a $3000 Nighthawk Custom 1911… drop it!

If LE intervenes and you are taken into custody you can expect to be handcuffed and treated roughly until the threat is over. Be grateful you are alive and give the police time to sort out the details. You’ll have plenty of time to explain your intentions a couple hours later.

If you do manage to make it to the threat and neutralize him/her, you may be physically and emotionally spent. Adrenaline will be overwhelming your system and you will be on a high like you have never experienced. If there are no more threats then it is time for you to conduct a self-assessment.

Start with you… are you injured or shot. I suggest running your hand over yourself and looking for signs of bleeding. Adrenaline will deaden pain and constrict blood flow so you may not feel it. Check and re-check and make sure you are medically sound. If you are injured, it is time to improvise. Use your shirt, an electrical cord or whatever you have to stop the loss of blood.

Next you need to do a weapon assessment. If you have a spare magazine this is the time to reload and make sure you still have the potential to continue to fight in case there is a second (or third, or fourth) shooter who may be coming to check on their partner in crime. Under extreme stress you might not know how many rounds you fired and you may not even realize you reached slide lock. Assess your weapon and stay ready.

If you have a cell phone it is time for you to call 911 and give updates. If police announce themselves as they approach, respond back and let them know you are in the room or hallway. If you know the police are approaching, holster or discard your weapon, and obey their commands!

If police are still working their way towards you, and you can connect with a dispatcher, give a description of what you look like, what you are wearing and stay on the phone until officer’s contact you! An easy way to remember what information to give is to start at your head and work down to your feet. Hair color, skin color, shirt and pants color, shoes and any unique features like scars or tattoos. Anything the dispatcher can tell the officers that will distinguish you from the real threat.

Remember, you will be treated like a potential suspect initially. Your handgun may be placed into evidence for a while. You should ask for legal representation, but be cooperative. Lastly, be patient while the police gather information, contact witnesses and compile the series of events. If you are lucky enough to have made a difference, you also need to be prepared for the media swarm that will likely vilify you for carrying a gun in the first place.

As I close this article I want to remind you to remain vigilant, be prepared and be smart. I sincerely hope you will never encounter an event like I have described. If you do, I hope this article will give you some groundwork you can think about and prepare for mentally. You cannot save everyone, people will die. Do what you can, but please, do something! Before you have to do something, get some training!

Be safe, and Godspeed.
Scott S – Founder or One Weapon, Any Tool

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