Thursday, August 8, 2019

Personal safety during a mass shooting

I've seen a lot of comment among more gung-ho denizens of the Internet after the three mass shooting incidents last week.  It can be summed up as "Always carry your gun, and if someone starts shooting, shoot back!"

Shooting back is not always a good idea.  It may be one's only option, if worse comes to worst;  but that still doesn't necessarily make it a good one.

Let's start by examining a scenario like the Walmart shooting in El Paso.  Around where I live, I can be pretty sure that there will be several persons in our local Walmart branches who have concealed weapons permits, and are armed.  I'll be one of them, of course.  Now, Joe Scumbag walks in the front door and starts shooting.  We're scattered throughout the store, so most of us won't know exactly who's shooting and from what position.  We also don't know each other.  We can hear the shots, we can hear people screaming in panic, we can see them running . . . but where's the shooter?

Let's assume that I, nearest the shooter, see what's going on, draw my weapon, and neutralize him.  At the same time, other concealed weapons holders are drawing their weapons and moving towards the threat.  They come around the ends of shelving racks, or down the aisle, or whatever, and they see me pointing a gun at a man on the ground - perhaps still shooting at him.  They can't necessarily see his gun, and they don't know he's the bad guy.  All they see is a man with a gun - me.  What's their reaction likely to be?  You guessed it.  At least some of them may light me up without waiting to ask questions.

I'm not saying you shouldn't stop a threat if it materializes.  That may be a plain and simple necessity, to save your life or the lives of others near you.  However, if you take action, you may be seen - by people nearby, and by responding cops - as part of the problem, simply because you have a gun in your hand.  You'd better plan on putting it down at once, as soon as the threat is past, and standing very still, with your hands in plain view, until responding officers have secured the scene and your firearm.  Obey every order they give, and don't try to explain until they give you time to do so.  If you don't, you may end up as yet another victim.

(EDITED TO ADD:  Precisely that happened to Emantic Fitzgerald “EJ” Bradford Jr. at a shopping mall in Alabama in 2017.  Go read the details for yourself.  He was shot and killed by a police officer as he turned back to aid a victim of a shooting, with his legally carried personal firearm in his hand.)

If you're not in the immediate vicinity of the shooter, and you have your family with you, then as a private citizen, your primary responsibility is to them, not to public safety.  You should be heading for the nearest exit with them - or, if that would take you closer to the danger area, head the other way, looking for an emergency exit, or better cover, or a place where you can put yourself between them and danger and cover any avenue(s) of approach for the bad guy.  If you try to play the hero, even if you succeed, the odds of you becoming a casualty are not small - particularly if you have a small, concealable handgun against the shooter's semi-auto rifle or shotgun.  What will your family think of your heroics then?

It's always a good idea to maintain situational awareness.  Do you know where the emergency exits, loading dock, and rear doors are to the supermarket(s) where you most frequently shop?  If not, why not?  Learn their location now, and keep it in mind.  In the stress and panic of an emergency situation, you won't have time to look for them.  If trouble strikes, head for them right away, herding your family ahead of you, where you can see them and make sure they don't stray.  Don't trust them to follow you.  In a situation like that, it's too easy to get separated.

If you have small children with you, that's going to make it very difficult to deploy a handgun.  They'll scream, and cling, and demand attention, just at the moment when you can't afford to give it to them.  It'll almost always be better to get them out of danger, and concentrate on that mission, rather than try to fight around, or over, or through them.

However, don't let those factors deter you from carrying a gun.  I almost never leave the house without a gun on my person, and following last weekend's events, I've resolved to cut out the "almost never".  I want to be armed whenever and wherever I go, except where legally forbidden, so that if Joe Scumbag decides to look for targets there, I can give him an incentive to stop.  Fortunately, I live in a state and a city where that's entirely legal, and where many of my fellow residents do likewise.  If it's legally possible for you to do the same, I most strongly recommend it to you.  If it's not legal where you live . . . well, I can't encourage you to break the law.  I can only remind you of the old saying, "It's better to be judged by twelve than carried by six".

Finally, I repeat the sage advice of John Farnam, which we've seen in these pages on several occasions.  It's as true today as it ever was.

The best way to handle any potentially injurious encounter is: Don’t be there. Arrange to be somewhere else. Don’t go to stupid places. Don’t associate with stupid people. Don’t do stupid things. This is the advice I give to all students of defensive firearms. Winning a gunfight, or any other potentially injurious encounter, is financially and emotionally burdensome. The aftermath will become your full-time job for weeks or months afterward, and you will quickly grow weary of writing checks to lawyer(s). It is, of course, better than being dead or suffering a permanently disfiguring or disabling injury, but the “penalty” for successfully fighting for your life is still formidable.

Crowds of any kind, particularly those with an agenda, such as political rallies, demonstrations, picket lines, etc are good examples of “stupid places.” Any crowd with a high collective energy level harbors potential catastrophe. To a lesser degree, bank buildings, hospital emergency rooms, airports, government buildings, and bars (particularly crowded ones) fall into the same category. All should be avoided. When they can’t be avoided, we should make it a practice to spend only the minimum time necessary there and then quickly get out.

“A superior gunman is best defined as one who uses his superior judgment in order to keep himself out of situations that would require the use of his superior skills.”

I couldn't agree more.  As for supermarkets and the like, see the last line of the second paragraph cited.  "Spend only the minimum time necessary there and then quickly get out."  That could save your life.



Old NFO said...

The problem is these are ALL hypotheticals... No one knows how they will react until they are actually IN a situation, nor will they know how others will react. Paralysis by analysis is the situation you've described. By the time you make a decision in 'that' scenario, you're probably already dead at the hand of the shooter.

Sherm said...

It'd be interesting to see shootings categorized by time of day. I suspect, with no evidence whatsoever, that you'll be practically immune if you take care of all your business before lunch. Heck, if I'm not home from my weekly grocery shopping before breakfast I feel like I've let my side down.

Sanders said...

One may want to re-think the "legally forbidden" carry places, unless they have a metal detector and armed security guards.

If it is concealed, nobody knows you have it. It is entirely personal preference what someone is comfortable with, but a majority of CCW folks seem awfully uncomfortable carrying. It is as if they feel they are doing something wrong by just leaving the house with their firearm. I'll even wager that fewer than 1/3 of CCW holders carry at all.

Ask Suzanna Hupp how it feels to leave your gun in the car because you are "legally forbidden" to carry it into a public establishment.

So, your choices are: 1) Don't carry, and possibly become a victim. 2) Do carry, and either go down fighting or stop the bad guy (most bad guys tend to off themselves when someone with a gun shows up). 3) Don't go to places that forbid carrying self defense tools.

For example: I love baseball games. Love going to the ball park. Love the crowd, the food, the sounds, and pretty much everything about it. I can't wait for summertime because of it. Then they decided to institute TSA type screening and rules for the ball park. To get to the ball park, you have to park in a dark parking lot on a sketchy side of town. I haven't been to a ball game in a few years.

Another example: I took my daughter to a store at the shopping mall. I chose not to go in for a couple reasons (teenaged daughter clothes shopping?? No thanks! and their "no firearms" policy). Sat out in the pickup and waited for her to call me to come in and pay for her clothes (I had to approve them before I paid for them). When she called, I took my pistol out of my holster and slipped it under the seat. There was nobody around me where I was parked, so I am pretty confident nobody saw me. Went into the store and came back out - all of 5 minutes or so. Truck had been broken into and the 1911, spare mags and a pair of binoculars (Steiners) had been stolen. They left my daughter's purse which was sitting on top of the binos on the floor in the back seat. I filed a police report and the first thing the cop asked me was why wasn't I wearing the gun? I told him about the "No firearms" sign and he just gave me a "you idiot" look and shrugged his shoulders. One thing I did was follow up on the police report to make sure the serial # got entered into the NICs system. The cop never entered it in. Good thing I checked, because I did get the pistol back when the cops arrested a guy for something else and he had it on him. After he plea bargained his case, the arresting officer made sure I got it back. I no longer leave firearms, or anything else of value, in my vehicles.

My apologies for the long-winded reply.

Jeff B said...

There's only one small point where I would disagree, Peter.

"and don't try to explain until they give you time to do so."

Don't even do that beyond a simple "I defended myself from deadly harm. I will make no further statements nor answer any questions until I have spoken to my lawyer."

Anything the cops ask of you gets answered with that last sentence: I will make no further statements nor answer any questions until I have spoken to my lawyer."

drjim said...

Agree 100% with Old_NFO's observations. In ALL of the firearms training I've had, the instructors made it a point to stress that "You will NOT 'rise to the occasion'. You will default to your level of training", and one of the things they stressed was "Keep Your Head On A Swivel", and if it looks like things are starting to go South, GTF OUT of there!

We can open carry out here, and I'm in the process of getting my Colorado CCW permit, but I'm still debating with myself whether I'll carry concealed or not.

emtgene said...

An incident at the Galaria Mall in Hoover AL left a "good guy with a gun" dead, after the bad guy shot one of the good guys friends. Good guy pulled his gun, police saw a man with a gun headed toward the wounded person, and lit him up. It is a legitimate concern.

tsquared said...

What if???

I came out of retirement to drive a school bus - I was bored. I can't carry with the new job. It is duck and cover. My only weapon is a 36,000 pound school bus hat is basically a tank on wheels. A turbo charged 7.3 diesel has power and I have one of the older, weaker POS out there but it will push on. The Mercedes diesel is the better drive-train - maybe next year.

HMS Defiant said...

I don't want the legal liability and costs of shooting some dirtbag that needs killing.
I could shop at a Heinens supermarket that has an armed cop standing at the entrance/checkout or one about 2 miles east that has no guard. I prefer that one.
There is a branch library here in metroparkcentralis that I went to in order to get a reserved book my wife ordered. It had 7 armed cops in it. There is another branch in Cleveland Heights that had 6 cop cars with lights flashing when I went to it one day. I decided to visit another branch.
I agree. Stay away from the places that raise the hackles. If it looks unsafe, it is unsafe. Go somewhere else.

John Prigent said...

Many years ago I had to raise a warning flag against a proposed investment by the company I worked for. The manager responsible thought that it must be a safe investment because there was always at least one Police car there. It was a casino in Florida, and not in a good part of Florida. And he hadn't checked crime statistics for the area, or even wondered if there might be Mob operations there.

Anonymous said...

I do not carry a gun to be a junior police officer, or because I intend to go places I would not go unarmed, or to prove I can outshoot the bad guy; I carry a gun because some day all my best efforts at avoiding trouble may fail. And, I define "avoiding trouble" as "doing my best to being somewhere else when it happens."

Whenever I'm in a store or out in public I presume, if not the majority at least a substantial percentage, of people around me are: >21 years old, not felony-convicted criminals, in full possession of their mental faculties, capable of independent action, not in the throes of poverty. That, at least, is the visual impression most of them project.

They are quite capable of: purchasing some sort of gun, taking a CWP course, getting a CWP to carry that gun, learning about threats, planning how to deal with the threats about which they learn.

It is not my responsibility to be their guardian; none of them have contracted with me for those kind of services, nor have any agreed to compensate me for providing them or any expenses related to my doing so or expenses my family may suffer should I be disabled or dead from the act of providing those services.

My family, on the other hand, is my responsibility, one to which I have explicitly and implicitly agreed.

So, sorry, folks, you're on your own. Start acting like it. Now.

Craig Mark said...

One of the problems with carrying while in a Govt Mandated Helpless Victim Zone is that even if you save your own life or that of someone you love, the state will try to destroy you for doing so. And even if they don't succeed in the end, the process is the punishment. And even though I carry lawyer insurance against such an event, I'm not sure that it will apply if I'm carrying in a legally no-carry zone.
So damned if you do and double damned if you don't should the SHTF.
This is one screwed up country. None of the politicians will abide by the limits that our Constitution has set for our republic (and do so without ANY danger of punishment) and the left and the press are actively trying to destroy it and western civilization.
I fear that this will not end well.

Will said...

Unless you are moving as an armed team/group, your handgun should remain in the holster until you have made the decision to shoot, and then it should be re-holstered quickly. Consider it to be the equivalent of kryptonite. You are killing yourself by holding it in your hand. Limit your exposure time!

Partly, this is to aid having your head on a swivel, as swinging a gun around as you look for trouble really restrains your vision. Mostly it is to keep the public from focusing on you as a source of panic, and having someone else decide to shoot first and ask questions later.

Also, shoot and scoot! Don't hang in the same spot you shot from, as someone may be pointing out your location to another gun carrier.

Will said...


If you are using one of those holsters that requires you to remove it before you can re-holster the gun, either choose another holster, or figure out if you can safely stow your carry piece in a pocket or stuffed in your waistband. This REQUIRES the gun to be a true DAO, or equipped with a safety. This EXCLUDES Glocks and their copies. If you think you will just pull the mag and empty the chamber, I will point out that that is just as stupid as can be. This is not the time to be playing games with a loaded gun, after the stress involved in terminating some Jehadi wannabe.

After shooting, you are not really concerned with proper concealment of the gun, you just want it out of your hand, out of obvious sight, and SAFELY contained. DON'T set it down, as you want it to be in your control until surrendered to the police. Think someone won't see it and think "free gun!"? Guess again.