|Image from Breach Bang Clear.com|
While this account is interesting, in that I suspect that this woman's background and training level--and thus her response to this situation--is likely more typical of your average CCW permit holder than many would-be sheepdogs would like to admit, what she wrote next provided some real food for thought:I approach the stairway of an office building, heading for the second floor to see a friend on her lunch break. As soon as I get about halfway up, I hear gunshots. Multiple gunshots. And yelling. I draw, continue slowly up the stairs while clearing the landing ahead- I see nothing, and it’s got quiet. At the top of the stairs there are two hallways I can go down; as I’m trying to decide which one to choose, all the while trying to slow my breathing and clear dark rooms close to me, several employees coming running towards me screaming for help. I assume the shooter is in that direction. I choose to go find him - I'm here and the police aren't. As I get near the bathroom, a male body slumps to the floor in the doorway. I’ve got the shooter’s location. I slowly enter the unlit bathroom, sweep the corner and I see him. I quickly move to the other side of the bathroom where there is another doorway, seeking cover as I’m shooting and receiving fire. I get hit, left thumb. I duck into the hallway I’m next to, as my mag is empty. I reload, and step back into the doorway to put him down. Got him- and good thing too, I’m out of ammunition.This is one of the scenarios I went through in my most recent training endeavor- citizen’s response to an active shooter. There were several others I went through as well: doctor’s office visit, school shooting with hostages held, rifleman in a tax accountant building and several others. The bathroom shooter was the first, and possibly the one that made the biggest impact on my mindset.
I found out that I tend to tune everything out auditorily. Under stress, I can’t hear shit...[w]hen I saw the body slump to the ground in the doorway of that bathroom, I didn’t hear anything. When I came into contact with the aggressor, still didn’t hear anything. Just my breathing. After the exercise was over and I watched some of the footage (some of the role-players were running GoPros) and got feedback from the instructor, aggressor, and other students, I learned that not only was the shooter yelling crazy things at me under fire, the body that hit the ground didn’t go down for no reason- there was a gunshot I hadn't even heard. On top of that, when I went back to retrieve my empty mag for the next student, I found it wasn’t empty at all. So I wasn’t even hearing my own gunshots, I thought I was out of ammo, took cover and reloaded because I thought I had run the magazine dry. Any or all of these things, had it been a real situation, could have meant lives. That’s a pretty big eye opener if you ask me.
There are completely different mindsets and stress responses in the body for each [role, either aggressor, responder, or bystander]; for example, victims may flee, aggressors may start shooting more people, and the responder may engage the threat or simply be the one that calls the authorities. Each of these reactions dumps adrenaline into the body, and that in turn affects your senses, conception of reality, physical capabilities, etc....For example, when the aggressor sees someone that is coming after him, he may not be as afraid of dying as much as he is of failure, so he’s more likely to start shooting more people, or (and this happens frequently, including last week at Ft. Hood) give up and kill himself so someone else can’t.Reading this, I very much appreciate the author pointing out the differing mindsets of each of the actors in an active shooter scenario. The aggressor just wants to kill and last as long as possible while doing so. Bystanders just want to get away. And responders must choose to fight or flee. Should responders choose to fight, they must somehow simultaneously survive while regaining an initiative that, for the moment, belongs to the aggressor. This means maneuvering, using cover and concealment, and likely ambushing the active shooter(s), all while guarding against threats (other aggressors, other responders, bystanders, police) from any quadrant.
The bystander is most likely terrified- some may be to the point to which they revert back to basic animalistic instincts, being more likely to trample each other trying to get away from the threat, or some may not know how to react and freeze completely...[I] learned just how crazy they can be. They don’t think, they don’t rationalize, they just run. They don’t care who they step on, they just want away from the threat. This obviously makes it difficult for the responder to get through the crowd (or get information about what is happening, where is the threat, etc), and provides a much larger target for the aggressor- crowds are easier to shoot than individual targets.
I noticed the aggressor was in a different mind set...[t]hey had more control of the situation to begin with, and they could care less if they were shot. They just wanted to cause havoc as much as possible before going down. The responder avoids getting shot, using cover when he can, because he can’t help anyone or stop the threat should anything happen to him. The responder was also more conscious of the amount of ammo he had, mainly because he only had two mags (the typical number for shooters carrying concealed). The aggressor on the other hand will usually plan his attack and will most likely have much more ammo (and possibly multiple weapons), so he doesn’t worry about conserving it.
Thinking about the set of possible reactions available to a CCW holder in a situation such as this, a number of discussion points come to mind, some of which are raised by the author in her post. First, what should a CCW holder's initial response be in the event he or she is in an area where an active shooter incident occurs? Second, how does one discriminate between aggressors and fellow responders? Third, how does one's response fit in with police protocols when they arrive and intervene several minutes later (or never) after the shooting starts? Fourth, will other bystanders mistake me for an aggressor and attempt to neutralize me as a perceived threat? Fifth, if a responder stays and engages, where do you place your shots, and how do you deal with active shooters who take hostages?
Regarding what a CCW holder's first response should be, there are no "one size fits all" solutions. Each CCW holder is different (skills, willingness to engage, etc), and each situation is different. Some CCW holders would be tempted to be the hero of the hour and engage and suppress the threat; others may think it is more prudent to get themselves, their families (if so encumbered), and any other bystanders they happen to encounter away from the situation. Bruce Lee's advice to win a fight by not being in the fight in the first place seems apt here.
If responders stay and move to engage the threat, rather than flee, their situation becomes far more complex. Discriminating between aggressors and responders becomes more of an issue, albeit one made slightly easier by considering what responders don't possess but aggressors likely do...body armor, duffel bags full of ammo, multiple firearms, long guns, tactical kit, etc. Behavior may also be an indicator, in that responders would likely be moving tactically, using cover and concealment, whereas aggressors may act with much less self regard and be more careless and brazen. With all this in mind, how does one positively identify a potential fellow responder as friend or foe, and he you?
Adding to the confusion, when a responder encounters someone that appears to be an aggressor, what should said responder do? Do they attempt to persuade an aggressor whose already made peace with his/her Maker to surrender? Or do they shoot on sight, and if so, do they place their shots 'two to the chest, one to the head', in the heat of the moment, with a firearm with which they may not be very proficient? Or do they place all their shots center of mass, 'two to the chest, one to the legs', for an immobilization kill (and a much larger target, less likely to miss, not likely to be covered with body armor)? What about bystanders behind the aggressor that will sue you if you miss and hit them? How do you deal with hostages, or an aggressor using a bystander as a human shield?
Making the situation even more complex is that bystanders may themselves pose a threat, in that they may attack you, or report to law enforcement that you are one of several aggressors they witnessed, moving threateningly and brandishing a gun. Speaking of police, when they arrive several minutes or longer after shooting and dying starts, assuming they are uniformed, will they assume you are an aggressor and shoot you on sight? Or will they exercise some target discrimination as well?
Considering all this, I can't help but think about how simultaneously insane and yet wise the "run hide fight" advice for sheep--caught unarmed in an active shooter situation--can be. Insane in that sheep, purposefully disarmed in a sheepdog-free zone, are to run away if they can, hide if they can't, and fight if they must, when faced with a wolf interested only in killing as many sheep as possible before the police take him down or he kills himself. Insane that creating these self-defense free zones implies acceptance that a half dozen to a dozen sheep will die before the wolf runs out of ammo or commits suicide. Wise in that having a self-defense-free zone makes it much much easier for LE--when they finally arrive on scene--to positively ID the aggressor(s), thereby boosting LEO safety and to a certain extent, that of those sheep that manage to survive until LE arrives.
What do you think?