We have all asked ourselves what if. You know, when you see the latest active shooter event scroll across the screen. What would have happened if we were there? What do you do in that situation? Especially if you are concealed carrying. What then?
(Would it be enough?)
What is an active shooter?
The US Department of Homeland Security has defined an active shooter as: "an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a conﬁned and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use ﬁrearm and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims."
These events include the Newtown and Columbine school shootings, the Aurora theater shootings, and the Fort Hood shooting in which Malik Nadal Hasan, a Major in the U.S. Army, killed 12 soldiers and 1 civilian.
The Standard response
The FBI came out with their video on civilian response to active shooters a few years ago. This was expanded upon by FEMA who offers a one-hour course online at their Emergency Management Institute that is free to the public (after you sign up). This course is being spread everywhere across the country and entails a three-part plan for if you have an active shooter event in your immediate area.
The basic concept is "Run-Hide-Fight." Meaning that you should first try to get away from the situation, then try to hide if you cannot get away, followed by the worst-case scenario of fighting back.
What about that whole fight thing?
Let's be clear, a hero is, in the words of Oddball, some kinda crazy sandwich. There is no such thing as a legal obligation by any gun owner to uphold the law or defend life. Heck, when you have a second read up on the Supreme Court ruling on Warren vs. District of Columbia, which says that the police are not obligated to protect the citizens by law-- even if a dispatcher promises that help is on the way. Now if the cops are not legally obligated to intervene, what does that say about your obligations?
Now a moral obligation is different. I've trained enough CCW permit holders over the years to know from my own experience that most holders are not carrying to become a hero. They are carrying to defend their own life in a 'me or you' type of encounter. This is correct. With that being said, if you reach a point in an active shooter situation where you have decided that running or hiding is not the proper response-- and remember you have to be able to explain this in court if needed-- then the fight is yours.
Remember that there is an awesome degree of civil liability that you are taking on yourself should you get in a gunfight. Every round fired will end up in court at some level, both from your gun and the bad guy's.
Remember that and fire only if you are sure of your target, positive in your actions, and fully ready to commit. Also, keep in mind that law enforcement, when they arrive, will be looking for a shooter, so with that in mind you will want to re-holster or place the gun on the deck as rapidly as possible and avoid any sudden movements lest you make yourself a target of friendly fire. Let me be the first to tell you, friendly fire isn't.
In 2013 four terrorists attacked the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya killing 67 and wounding another 175. How long before we see this in the U.S.? Photo by Reuters.
Is it worth it?
At the Clackamas Mall near Portland Oregon in 2012, an active shooter incident unfolded in which 22-year old Nick Meli, a CCW holder, found himself face to face with a gunman armed with a rifle. The choice to Meli was clear; he drew his own gun, positioned himself behind a pillar, and watched the shooter as the man reloaded his rifle.
"As I was going down to pull, I saw someone in the back of the Charlotte move, and I knew if I fired and missed, I could hit them," Meli said of the incident. Although ready, the concealed carry holder elected not to fire.
Seeing Meli, the last shot the gunman fired was into himself, electing to self-terminate as some 40 percent of active shooters do when confronted with an armed response.
The thing is, these threats are getting more and more real.
For instance just last month Somali terror group Al-Shabaab called publicly for supporters to move to attack large well-known shopping malls in the west to include the Mall of America. While you can discount that Al-Shabaab is more than 5,000 miles away, there are terrorist sympathizers here in the states who are ready to willing to become active shooters as witnessed by the arrest of an Iowa man last month who was taken down by the FBI in a gun shop parking lot.
San Antonio Police Department video
The SAPD recently produced a training video that is available online to help civilians understand the proper response to an active shooter. Using the scenario of a gunman armed with an AR-style rifle (which studies show are rarely used in mass killings) attacking an office building without warning. The video spends the first few minutes detailing the "run" and "hide" mantras. The SAPD Chief relates, "Know when it's time to run, know where you are going to hide, if necessary be prepared to fight."
At the four-minute mark is where a concerned office worker, who is a legally permitted concealed carry practitioner, makes his choice in the run-hide-fight trinity of active shooter response. The video is very carefully laid out to detail proper weapon retention, moving to engage a shooter, realizing the nature of your shooting zones, and what to do when law enforcement does arrive.
Then there is the ultimate risk of putting your life on the line in a tactical situation. Last summer, Joseph Robert Wilcox, 31, was killed by a pair of active shooters in Las Vegas. Wilcox, who was in an area Wal Mart to return a modem he bought earlier, was a concealed carry holder who witnessed the pair come in the store and, moving to end the treat, met his demise at the hands of the crazed couple.
The likelihood of being in an active shooter event is thankfully very low. Hopefully you will never have to make a choice in a situation like this to have to run, hide, or fight. However, remember that your choice is up to you, and you have to live with it no matter what you choose.
What would your choice be? Comment below.