On the 24th, the FBI released one of the most fascinating and simultaneously frustratingly incomplete studies in recent memory: Active Shooter Events from 2000 to 2012. This paper looks at active shooter events over a 12 year span with the goal to assess law enforcement reactions and how to improve the response at the LE level. There is a ton of interesting data for us to unpack in this paper, but for today we’re going to focus on the section titled “Resolution of the event” because to the average CCW holder that’s the most interesting. This section uses 104 incidents for its base set. Note that for the purposes of the study, the average police response time was about 3 minutes. Out of 104 incidents, they had the following resolution:
- 49% of events stopped before the police could arrive
- 42% of events (44 total) resulted in the killer committing suicide, of which 29 killers committed suicide prior to police arrival.
- 43% of events (45 total) result in the attacker being stopped with force, either by civilians or law enforcement.
- When civilians intervene before LE arrives, they stop 33% of mass shootings.
- Slightly less than 3% of mass shootings are stopped by armed civilians shooting the attacker.
Those are all very interesting numbers in themselves, and we could spend quite some time going over those. However, what’s missing from the report’s breakdown of events is one incredibly important number, and it relates to the killer committing suicide: many of the killers commit suicide only when confronted with force, as we saw in the Newton shooting. What I would very much like to see is how many of the attackers who committed suicide prior to the arrival of LE killed themselves because someone fought back? That’s a very important number.
Today though I want to focus on these numbers and how they apply to the average CCW permit holder. While I know that 100+ events is not statistically significant (sorry stats professor) it’s all we have to go on. So let’s look at the number that generated the title of this post: 16% of mass shootings are stopped by civilians. Let’s accept for the moment that the odds of being involved in an active shooter incident are relatively rare; with that being said we don’t carry our guns because we’re optimists. But if it happens, citizens, and armed citizens can stop them. Think about that for a moment. We’re not talking about some rambo’d up fantasy hero, but average citizens who are in the right place with the courage to act.
I want you to do a little exercise. Set a timer on your watch for 180 seconds. Start the timer and stare at the blank wall until it stops. That’s how long the average active shooter has to roam free before police even arrive. 180 seconds is a LONG time. I actually quite like the guidelines espoused by the .gov for civilians in active shooter situations: run, hide, fight. It’s a good hierarchy, and we’ll use that now to create a simple set of guidelines to be better prepared for an active shooter situation.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Know where the exits are, and if you’re on foot or inside a building (like a mall) know where your vehicle is in relation to where you may be exiting the building.
- If you have other people with you, know their capabilities. Your wife dragged you shopping with her mother, can your mother-in-law run if she needs to? Do you have small children that will need to be carried? Best know these answers in advance.
Escape is always the best plan. A big part of “Run” is being prepared to skip straight to “Fight” if you should find your primary exit blocked by an active shooter. However, if you can’t Run and don’t need to fight yet, we’ll move to the next item.
- Since you’re aware of your surroundings, you already know where a good hiding place is. A “good” spot is one that gives you the best visibility out possible while minimizing your visibility. So if you happen to be shopping at a store that specializes in 12 inch thick bulletproof glass, you’re in good shape. Otherwise, you’ll need to find a balance of concealment and visibility.
- Don’t be afraid to do things that are socially taboo: activate fire alarms, drop security gates, etc. This is your life at stake.
- Know the difference between cover and concealment. Cover stops bullets. Concealment just hides you from prying eyes. A good hiding spot would do both.
But what if while you’re running, the active shooter spots you? Or you spot him? What if he finds your hiding spot? Then you have no choice, it’s time to fight.
- Be willing to fight. The military trains people in such a way so that when they’re presented with the time to pull the trigger, they don’t hesitate and are able to do their job. A civilian can do that same mental training by preparing your mind for the eventuality of the fight. We harp on this all the time: make your choice now. Write it down, rehearse it in your mind. You should be able to visualize the circumstances under which you’re willing to use force right now, when you’re quiet and calm. I don’t mean this in some kind of daydream fantasy mode either, but a serious mental decision to not be a victim.
- Be able to fight effectively. Get training. Be confident in your skills. If there’s an active shooter 20 yards away with a rifle pointed at you, can you make that shot with a handgun? I guarantee if you can’t make it on the range, you won’t when it’s for real.
- Be ready for the consequences. You may fail and get killed. Do you have life insurance for your family? You may succeed and then get sued by the family of the shooter, do you have a good lawyer? There are so many things that could go wrong in a situation like that; but when you’re behind your gun isn’t the time to be thinking of them. That needs to be squared away today, before the fight could ever happen.
It’s a grim reality that active shooter situations are on the rise. The mainstream media has practically printed a blueprint for every broken anti-social loser to get all the attention they could ever want. Make no mistake that the constant media glorification is the reason for the rise in these incidents. Because they’re on the rise though, we have to be prepared. If you’ve been putting off taking that training class, now’s the time. No year like this one.