When seconds count and the cops are minutes away…

The real first responder who can stop the shooter to a public mass shooting such as the one in Roseberg, Oregon last week, will likely be a citizen who is lawfully armed with a concealed pistol. Many such shootings have been stopped by armed citizens, even though this is hotly denied by the people who dislike the idea of anyone other than the cops carrying firearms.  Trouble is, the cops are not likely to be there because if they were the shooter would not have chosen that venue. The typical deranged maniac who wants to make a name for himself by killing a lot of people in a few minutes wants to carry out as much carnage as possible before anyone can stop him.  That’s why gun-free zones are attractive to them, and also places where cops are not likely to be present until they are called.  Even the most efficient police departments in the country are likely to have a response time of anywhere from 3 minutes (very rare) to up 30 minutes (also rare but still possible).  Even if your police response time is an astounding 3 minutes a shooter can do a lot of damage in that time.

The first few seconds count the most when a mass shooter identifies himself as such. An armed citizen has the best chance to stop the shooter and minimize injury to himself and others in that first few seconds while the shooter is getting himself oriented into what he’s going to do.

Police trainers train their officers in something called the OODA loop.  It stands for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act.  This is what all of us should be doing when we first realize that a mass shooting is about to take place or is already happening. Hesitation is deadly under these circumstances. I like what Dr. Ben Carson told Brian Kilmeade at the Fox News Channel when asked what he would do if he found himself in the middle of mass public shooting: “Well, I wouldn’t just stand there and let him shoot me.”  

An armed citizen should always be in what is called condition yellow when carrying a gun. It is a heightened state of awareness of one’s surroundings. It is a state of awareness that can be maintained almost indefinitely without any psychological stress. As one goes further up to higher levels of awareness mental fatigue will set in after a period of time that will differ for different people.  Once that mental fatigue sets in one’s awareness become shaky.

When in mental condition yellow one knows where one is and could easily give their location to a 911 operator.  You will be aware of what’s going on all around you so nobody can walk up behind you and surprise you. If there is any strange or out of place behavior going on you will notice it.  If you have learned to read people and judge their actions and demeanor you will have a excellent advantage when some suspicious person decides to do the unthinkable. After one of these shootings we often hear that the shooter was armed with multiple guns and spare ammunition.  A citizen who is practiced at maintaining awareness could probably spot someone hauling all that equipment around no matter how carefully he’s trying to hide it.

It’s not just the cops anymore that we must rely on for our safety. It is often ourselves and our fellow citizens that we need to keep the bear from eating us.

Below is an excerpt from the introduction to a great book I highly recommend by a veteran cop from Wyoming, Building a Better Gunfighter by Richard E. Fairborn:

Until the 1960s all progress in the development of practical gun-fighting skills came from police training ranges. The military has always treated the sidearm as much a badge of office as a serious fighting tool, so military personnel learned what they now know of pistol fighting from the cops. Starting in the 1960s and progressing even faster through the end of the 20th century, ordinary citizens participating in practical shooting competitions changed the way we handle firearms. Most modern police pistol training is now an adaption of civilian competitive shooting.

So, while this book is written by an old cop, and the theories presented here were developed in police training programs, the principles apply equally to police officers, and citizens alike.

I was around in the 1960s and I remember that the general zeitgeist of the times was that no citizen should ever attempt to stop an armed criminal. We were told that if we cooperated with criminals we would be less likely to get hurt. I never believed it. I assumed the criminals were paying the newscasters to spread that bit of nonsense.  The FBI did some work and finally established with research what many of us already knew: That when attacked by a criminal your chances of being injured or killed are less if you fight back.

Today we are a world away from the 1960s way of thinking. There are literally millions of citizens licensed to carry firearms, and there is general consensus that this is a good thing. Barack Obama doesn’t like it but more sensible people, those who don’t have a Secret Service detail to protect them everywhere they go, they think it’s a great idea. They think that because they like their life and want to keep it.

To fight back most effectively you should want the best tools for the job. A gun that you’ve tried yourself with, extra ammo, a cell phone and one of those unbelievably powerful yet tiny flashlights are the first things to come to mind in that regard. The cell phone is for getting the cavalry rolling in your direction as soon as possible, the gun is so you can fight your way to safety, and the tactical flashlight is so you can find and avoid or shoot other attackers by using the thumb button on the end of the flashlight judiciously. With a good tactical light you can also temporarily mess up your attacker’s night vision giving you time to move to cover or concealment. Many if not most violent encounters occur in low-light conditions.

Always be aware that the first police officers to arrive won’t know you from the shooter. Be sure the gun is not in your hands when they arrive.  Re-holster and make sure your empty hands are plainly visible. You don’t want to have successfully stopped a terrorist only to be shot by the police.