Stopping the Shooter

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189 Responses

  1. Avatar Dan Miller says:

    If loosening the restrictions on pepper spray et al is accompanied by tightened restrictions on guns, I’m all for it. That’s a great trade-off.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Dan Miller says:

      It’s not just about altering the legal landscape with regard to weapons, but also about coming up with some kind of standard training that would help people recognize their options.

      Some martial arts studies offer this kind of training, but by and large it’s offered by gun training facilities, with very inconsistent curricula. If I want that training, I should not have to pay thousands of dollars to some potential Mall Ninja & hope he has good information.

      This is something the NRA could do, if they could pull their head out of the GOPs ass for a while. They could be the Red Cross of improvised defense, providing a consistent curricula & offering trainer certification.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        There are plenty of ranges that offer basic and advanced firearms training, not to mention all the various legal aspects of purchasing, owning, self defense, concealed carry, etc.

        The fundamental problem is that you have to train people to make decisions in moments of severe stress. That can’t be taught via book learning, it has to be experienced so you learn to deal with the flood of adrenaline.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        Ask anyone who used CPR to keep someone alive until EMTs arrived if they were not feeling the adrenaline flowing. I’m going to bet they will tell you it was. Being able to think past stress responses is important, and many people can do it, even at a young age.

        Not everyone who gets CPR training would be able to use it in the moment, but that doesn’t mean you don’t get as many people trained as possible. Getting trained in CPR gives you techniques and practice on saving a life, if you can keep your head. It certainly isn’t the kind of training I had in the military, where things were drilled into my head over & over, or my forearms training, where aiming & shooting is a matter of muscle memory instead of conscious thought, but it is still good information to have in my head, and to refresh every year or two.

        And my point is still that there is no consistent self defense training. If I get Red Cross certified CPR training, then I can be relatively certain that what I learn will conform to the standards the Red Cross has set, which is based upon their vast experience base in how to save a life. If I go the range to get self defense training, I may get good advice, but I may also get a load of the instructors Super Ninja Operator BS that is more likely to get me killed in an attempt to play his/her style of hero.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        Yes, the only real way to teach people that want to reactive proactively in a life and death situation is to put them in a scenario that has that aspect. You never know when someone will rise to the occasion or fold. The only method I’m aware of is essentially military training. No one really offer that and I really don’t think it’s practical. How many people willingly want to subject themselves to that….?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Damon’s right.

        And if you want some practical self-defense weaponry, you Do Not Want Guns. (Pepper Spray, as it is currently constructed is Not Much Better, as it requires you to be awake, aware of the threat, and able to point your damn spray at it.)

        Practical self-defense generally involves area-effect, with a general “level everything, and sort them all out later.”

        Plenty of non-lethal weaponry that can lay out a decent sized area — and otherwise be fairly well assured that you wont’ kill anyone.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        Which is still not relevant to my point, but let’s try this again.

        There are more people trained in CPR than there are people who have the capacity to operate under severe stress. This is specifically BECAUSE there is no good test, short of throwing a person into the deep end, to find out who will act & who will crack in a given situation, so the goal is to train as many people as possible & hope that should a situation arise where said training would be useful, one or more people so trained will be able to rise to the occasion & save a life.

        Ergo, if we had a standard training for how to halt a shooter, and it was as widely given as basic 1st Aid/CPR or CERT training, then the probability of one or more people being able to employ said training to halt an attack, or slow it down enough for everyone else to escape to safety, goes up.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        A lot more people die from car accidents than from mass murderers (sorry, no training you’re going to come up with is going to protect against assassinations). Yet we don’t train people on even the basics in how to stop someone from bleeding out.

        CPR training is a form of signaling how much we care (and how preventable the deaths are). I think Heimlich maneuver is a bit better (saves kids, yanno?).Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        To use a very unfortunate analogy, you are recommending the shotgun strategy. The more people with the training, the more likely one of them will be on site and the more likely one of the people on site with the training will be able to effectively employ it. You’re increasing your odds. Sure, you also risk someone poorly implementing their training and making things worse, but I’d venture to guess this is far outweighed by what is gained.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Yet we don’t train people on even the basics in how to stop someone from bleeding out.

        That’s covered in basic CPR. Direct pressure, and when and when not to use a tourniquet.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        Every first aid class I ever took, alongside my CPR classes, taught how to treat shock, apply direct pressure, elevate, and tie a tourniquet. I may not be able to set a broken bone, but I know how to immobilize a compound fracture.


      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:



        And to your other point, if one person acts and takes charge, others who might be spinning mental wheels, but not necessarily frozen with panic, will follow instructions. First responders rely on this feature of humanity quite heavily when responding to large situations.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        the only real way to teach people that want to reactive proactively in a life and death situation is to put them in a scenario that has that aspect.

        Partially, but partially not. If you can’t realistically put them in such a situation, you can equip them with a set of well-ingrained responses. The more those responses are practiced, the more habitual they become. As MRS says on this page about always spotting the fire extinguishers in a building he enters–we don’t know if he’d actually respond well if he encounters a fire, but we wouldn’t go broke wagering on people like him over people who haven’t had that training, and haven’t thought about what to do in case of fire each time they walk into a building.

        You never know when someone will rise to the occasion or fold.
        True, for individuals. But the US military changed their training regimen when they realized what a large percentage of soldiers never fired their guns. You can’t be sure John Doe will rise to the occasion, but you can be sure that a larger proportion of his unit will if you train them in the modern way instead of in the old regimental drill way.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        Again, part of the OP was a lament that the only two real self defense options widely on the table are martial arts training & firearms.

        As much as I want people to have access to firearms, and be able to carry them, I also recognize that currently, damn few get any kind of training, and even those who do probably don’t keep up on it the way they should (mainly cause real, effective, professional firearms training can run a couple of grand per 3-day session, plus lodging & meals if you can’t find anything local).

        I WANT laws that allow for people to carry the small non-lethals (my 11g can of Mace is something I carry with me almost everywhere), & widely available & affordable training that relies on using your head & what is around you. Most people just plain do not think about how you can use a fire extinguisher or hose to defend yourself, or anything else, for that matter. Most people have ideas about what guns can & can not do that are straight out of Hollywood, and so they freeze at the sight of a gun, rather than recognizing what it is & all it’s myriad limitations. Etc.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @James Hanley @mad-rocket-scientist

        I think we’re in general agreement. I agree with James’ and MADs comments. But there IS no such training that I’m aware of, outside of the military. And really, how many folks would want to go through training like that in the unlikely event they will need it?

        Did anyone see Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservation” show where he went into Kurdistan? The first 1/3 of the show was “emergency training” on how to identify wounds, triage, dealing with potential hostiles, etc. while wearing body armor. This was for insurance purposes and the trainers for Britian’s ex special forces. I think it was several days to a week of training.

        Is that the type of training your thinking of MAD? Because I can’t think of anything else that even comes close.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        Well, perhap not the body armor part. 😉

        Triage, etc., should be part of first aid training, I think. Usually (in my experience) it’s focused on dealing with single individuals, but whether we’re talking about tornadoes, industrial explosions, or multiple car accidents, even without contemplating shooterd, there’s a good chance of multiple victims.

        I think the active awareness and response part should be more readily available, too. It should begin with how to protect yourself, but then should transition to how to spot an opportunity to respond and how to take advantage of it if you want to, while not downplaying the risks of doing so. It probably does require at least a week, but it doesn’t have to be a week straight. It can be a day a month or some such, made available repeatedly.

        Of course you’re right that not everyone will want it, but MRS’s OP emphasizes increasing the numbers of people prepared to respond, rather than trying to make everyone a responder, which is wisely pragmatic.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        I know someone who’s had the training who wasn’t ever in the US Military. Figure you can hire mercs to teach you, if nothing else. Still deuced expensive, and still probably not worth it for everyone (he still can’t aim worth shit).Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Damon and MRS,
        Thing is? The training that makes you react to loud noises as a hostile action ISN’T what you want to train most civvies in. Fireworks and cars backfiring is harmless.

        YES, you can train people to fucking destroy anyone who surprises them. This is Also Not A Good Plan — people who go to war train hard afterward to reduce these reactions.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        But there IS no such training that I’m aware of, outside of the military.

        OK! We are approaching understanding. You are right, there is no such training, or rather, there is no consistent, standardized program widely & affordably available. I’ve taken such training, but either through a self-defense studio or firearms training facility, & it usually runs me anywhere from $500 to almost $2000 – far outside what most people can afford, even with the Groupon!

        In comparison, I can spend a day & take the Red Cross 1st Aid/CPR course for free, or at most a modest fee ($25 or so). If I want, I can take advanced first aid courses for increasing amounts of money & time, but that basic level is easily within reach of 90% of the population. Likewise with the CERT class (24 hours of lecture & hands on training spread over 8 weeks, usually free through the Fire Department with the only cost being basic safety gear, ~$40 at home Depot).

        So I am arguing that we, as a society, should develop something to give people the mental tools for how to stay alive &, if the opportunity is there, to fight back. Something maybe as simple and affordable and as widely available as a CPR course, or as involved as a CERT class, I’m not sure. That I would suggest we leave to people with a lot more experience & knowledge as to what would make a good curricula.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        We agree!Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        I think the kind of ‘preparedness’ you’re thinking of will vary tremendously by state, and how civil defense and emergency response training happens.

        Where I live, it’s mostly small towns, a ‘big town’ is one with more than 5,000 people and a five-man police force; most town’s have no police department, they purchase law-enforcement services from a combination of state police and county sheriff. Response times are often two or more hours, if an officer is even available, due to the long distances involved.

        That’s balanced with another set of community volunteers — first responders. Here, we have a host of paid volunteers on call — civil defense officers, fire fighters, EMT’s, etc.; all with some pretty extensive training (often far beyond what the official police have,) in dealing with emergency situations. And their training has been substantially beefed up over the last decade via grants from Homeland Security.

        We were surprised at the authority these first-responder agencies actually have a few years ago; the town was building a side walk along our street, and scheduled three trees in our front yard for removal. One, a white pine about 70′ tall, had one end of one of my sweetie’s short-wave radio antenna in it. The civil defense engineer saved that tree because of the antenna; it (and my sweetie, who’s a licensed ham and proficient with morse code) had long been on the local inventory of communication resources. With that antenna, a radio (we have several) and a car battery, doesn’t matter if the phones, internet, or power are out; there’s communication with the outside world available.

        There are a lot of people with emergency preparedness skills in my town; in the surrounding towns. I’ve seen them respond to forest fires, hazardous waste spills, flash floods, storms, and alerts of murderers potentially at large. And for the most part, they do a very fine job, they train hard, and I know some of that training involves human-on-a-rampage events.

        So I suspect this will vary by state and region, and by how the people in a region opt to handle emergency preparedness. But I wouldn’t presume that it’s only the professional police force on call in most areas, even for a mass shooting.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        Perhaps, but if we can do programs like Red Cross 1st Aid/CPR, or CERT, we can come up with a basic, consistent training program for average Joe’s to take to help them survive.Report

  2. Avatar Damon says:

    So here’s my “let the professionals handle it” story. I was out clam digging with my family. Some old dude collapsed onto the beach, having a heart attack. My mom, knowing CPR was the first to arrive. Shortly after that, two EMTs, two doctors, and a nurse all showed up. They were all clam digging and weren’t on duty. (The ambulance and such folks arrived about 20 minutes later.) While the EMTs and Doctors were working on the guy, they got into an argument over the best method of doing something related to keeping this dude alive, with the Doctors saying “I am a doctor and know more than you EMTs” and the EMTs saying “we deal in emergencies like this more than you so WE know more than you”. This was all witnessed by my mom….
    As an aside, it didn’t matter…the guy was blue as the sea before the ambulance showed up and was DOA….Report

  3. Avatar DRS says:

    It’s a simple phrase that has so invaded out social psyche that we don’t even think about it.

    I really doubt that anyone has the luxury of such an objective thought at such a time. I suspect it’s more likely the involuntary paralysis that comes with being confronted with a completely unexpected and dangerous situation, as well as overwhelming fear (even if it doesn’t go all the way to mindless panic).

    As for shooting back, that’s not as easy as the movies make it look. This is just NRA-issue-ducking. You’re more likely to be taken for the shooter himself by other people and the police, and just add to the confusion.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to DRS says:

      And this is why I recommend non-lethal area affect weaponry.
      Better everyone around you be bleeding than three people dead.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Kim says:

        Prepare to get sued then.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kim says:

        Most jusrisdictions have laws against civil or criminal penalties for injuring bystanders in cases of legitimate self defense.

        I recall a few years ago here in WA a bystander was killed by a stray shot fired by a guy who was legitimately defending himself from an attack. The DA declined to prosecute, and had the attacker lived, he would have faced the felony murder rule, since his unlawful assault was the triggering event for the additional death.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Kim says:

        I sincerely doubt that the use of a grenade (even a nonlethal one) in a pubic environment is going to win you friends with the District Attorney office.

        Interesting to learn that with directed weaponry…Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kim says:

        Aside from my joking about a Cheese Whiz grenade, who is using, or even selling non-lethal grenades to civilians? Last time I checked, tear gas canisters & flash-bangs were illegal for civilians to own & use.

        I mean, there is a big difference between getting doused with a bit of pepper spray or mace in a mad rush & someone tossing a grenade of some sort.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kim says:

        Most jurisdictions have laws against civil or criminal penalties for injuring bystanders in cases of legitimate self defense.

        Are they more common than Good Samaritan laws?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Kim says:

        aside from a friend’s unwise production of chlorine in a warehouse (rats drop like flies), I assume no one.
        Well, europe’s ready to claim pepper spray is worse than teargas (got curious, so I looked it up)Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Kim says:

        I’m just imagining the infinite regress: Shooter 1 was aiming at Shooter 2, so Shooter 2 in a legitimate act of self defense, aimed at Shooter 2, but in the process put Shooter 3 in the line of fire, which resulted in Shooter 3 aiming at shooter 2 in an act of legitimate self defense, which put Shooter 4 in the line of fire…Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kim says:


        Not sure, about the same, I would suspect, but I’ve never actually researched it.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kim says:


        That is an awful lot of shooters. Where are you envisioning this, a gun show or NRA convention? Police station, maybe?Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Kim says:

        Mad, I was mostly being silly, though recall that I do live in Texas ;).Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kim says:



      • Avatar Kim in reply to Kim says:

        it’s Iowa where the criminals drive into the cop station looking for munchies.

        Yes. people really are that stupid.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kim says:

        “Your intentions may have been good, but it looks like your attempt at CPR did some real damage. A civil suit is a real possibility. It’s a shame the guy who was shooting at the mugger got that bystander in the chest instead of the head. You’d both be in the clear instead of just him.”Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to DRS says:


      I really don’t mean to limit this to being about “the good guy with a gun” meme, but to address your point, 2 things:

      One, if a person has a gun is actively engaging a shooter, then the police are most certainly NOT there yet to confuse the two, and other people who may be armed (pretty unlikely coincidence, but it could happen) should be able to figure out who is who by who is not shooting at them. There are not a lot of examples of such things turning ugly like that, so it’s very much an edge case. And besides, it still falls under the whole “can this really get any worse” heading. The guy with a gun accepts the risk of getting shot the moment he clears the holster.

      Two, getting shot at has a way of focusing one’s attention. If a shooter suddenly finds himself taking fire, even if it isn’t hitting him, his first impulse, unless he is no longer in touch with reality, will be to take cover & return fire. If he is shooting at the GGWAG, he isn’t shooting at anyone else, which buys them time to escape and consumes his ammunition (a person can only carry so much).

      And yes, a GGWAG might hit a bystander. It could happen. But those bystanders are in even more danger the longer the shooter remains unopposed free to kill at leisure.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        the point about the intervener being a distraction is a good one.
        I think I’ll save that.

        I still prefer area-effect weapons that are more likely to take the shooter out with one shot.
        Why let more people die than you have to?Report

      • Avatar DRS in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Great, if you’re writing a movie script. But I doubt that things will unfold as rationally as you suggest. A GGWAG is going to be dealing with intense emotion at the time, and I doubt if he’ll be aware of when the cops arrive or not. Also, cops have procedures to deal with mass shootings – after all, they’re getting lots of experience – and having a wild card in the situation isn’t going to decrease the overall stress level of everyone concerned.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        Since you seem to think that only the police can possibly be of any use with a firearm, despite evidence to the contrary*, I don’t know why you are even bothering to engage in this conversation.

        I mean, the GGWAG might be an off-duty cop, or ex-military, or a well trained shooter. Or he could just be an idiot who is shooting blind from behind cover. Hard to know, but no matter what, if he is shooting in the general direction of the bad guy, the bad guy is going to stop killing other people. and focus on the person shooting at him.

        Why is this concept so hard for you to get?

        *Police training, as I said in the OP, is not always very good, or consistent, and they suffer the same problem everyone else has, you don’t know how they are going to act until the SHTF. Police are just as prone to close their eyes and empty their gun as anyone else. SWAT/Tac Teams tend to be better, but it can take up to half an hour (or more) for SWAT to deploy.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        cops have procedures to deal with mass shootings – after all, they’re getting lots of experience –

        No, they’re actually not. Cops here and there are getting the experience once. That’s not the same thing at all.

        And even if the GGWAG is panicky and wild, most people will have taken cover and he won’t be aiming at them, but in the general direction of the shooter. It’s certainly quite possible to hit a bystander in that situation, as sometimes good hiding places aren’t readily available (inside a fast food restaurant, for example), but he’s still less likely to hit an innocent than the BGWAG who’s purposely targeting them, and to the extent GGWAG draws the attention of BGWAG away from innocents, the odds of a killing shot do decline (although the exact amount of decline will be context dependent).Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Not only do cops not have a lot of experience, many are horribly undertrained for the responsibility we put on them. Some places, yes, they are well trained and proficient. But some have no training at all (particularly relief cops in rural areas) and often, all that’s required is an 18 week course at a police academy, which has to cover everything, and from the people I’ve talked to who’ve attended, mostly covers driving.Report

      • Avatar DRS in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Heh, Mad Scientist, don’t get all pissy on me just because I’m disagreeing with you. And I’ll comment on any damn thread I want.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        Hard to know, but no matter what, if he is shooting in the general direction of the bad guy, the bad guy is going to stop killing other people. and focus on the person shooting at him.

        I take some very serious issue with this. First, bystanders are sometimes shot by the cops. The GGWAG may, often as not, be helping the BGWAG along on their mission.

        Most instances of civilians helping to stop a shooter seem to involve rushing and tackling, not another weapon.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        Then stop being obtuse & arguing the edge cases.


        That still does not explain how waiting for the police to arrive is better. I mean, if you are safely tucked into a locked room the shooter can’t enter, leaving it to engage his is arguably idiotic. But what if the kid in the Seattle case had a gun instead of pepper spray? How many lives may have been lost because he was afraid to shoot for fear of the slim possibility of hitting a bystander?

        And besides, I’m arguing DRS’ edge case directly. My OP was meant to treat firearms as merely one possible option, and not necessarily the best option.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        “No, they’re actually not. Cops here and there are getting the experience once. That’s not the same thing at all.”

        I have a single anecdote to offer in refutation of this, but given the particulars of the situation, I am tempted to assume it is part of a broader trend.

        After Sandy Hook, the local police and other agencies in the area came and did life shooter drills in our school after hours. They brought in highly trained professionals to lead them in this. This wasn’t no Barney Fife shit. They wanted to familiarize themselves with the campus and the building and walk through a variety of scenarios.

        Now, I’m cynical enough to wonder how much of this was legitimate preparation that could make the difference in the highly unlikely event that something happens and how much was playing Rambo. And of course there is training and there is experience. But if we accept MRS’s argument that training can make a difference, well, we have to assume the same for the professionals (provided the training is appropriate).

        So, I’d venture to guess that PDs across the country are getting more training for these sorts of scenarios. The effectiveness (both in terms of actually efficacy and cost/resource-effectiveness of such training… well, there’s that cynic again…) is another question.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        So a few comments about police training, in particular, firearm accuracy and such…

        My step mother, on the first day of handling a pistol, and with no prior firearms training, passed the state police shooting qualification test in her state on the first try.

        My first comment was: good job, and the second was: jesus, the test should be harder. That’s the quality of training needed to be cop?Report

  4. Avatar James Hanley says:

    A handful of responses (if the hand is short a couple fingers), but let me preface it by saying I am 100% in agreement with your point.

    1. My employer’s public safety office has started doing a once or twice a year active-shooter-response seminar. It’s a start, at least, but a) it’s a one-lunch hour thing, and b) the whole message is geared toward staying hidden/running away, and waiting for the professionals to show up. I wonder if there’s a potential liability issue in encouraging employees/students to fight back, which could result in harm as a direct consequence. I don’t like the taught helplessness message, though.

    2. It’s important to keep in mind that there’s a collective action problem here. Yes, we should gang tackle the bad guys, but part of the training needs to focus on people understanding the collective action problem aspect of it, which in practice sometimes just boils down “most people won’t act first, but will be quick to follow someone else who acts.”

    3. A mild addition to your 9/11 example. It wasn’t just the message of wait for the professionals that caused people to sit quietly as they flew to their deaths, but what they had learned from previous hijackings. In the past, if you sat quietly you endured a day or a few of discomfort, but lived. The ones who acted up were most likely to get shot. So given what type of hijacking they had every reason to expect their situation to be, the passengers acted very rationally, even absent any “wait for the professionals” concepts. Post 9/11, of course, every hijacking will be assumed to be of the suicide variety, whatever the hijackers might try to say, and that changes the passengers calculus of what is the rational response, to the extent that “wait for the professionals” messages are now probably meaningless inside an aircraft, where there is no possibility of escape.

    None of that contradicts your main point, though. Although I don’t have a gun and probably never will, I’ve developed the habit of scouting the rooms I teach in, thinking about entry/exit points, how it might be blockaded, what make-shift weapons are available, how I would organize and direct a student response, etc. I’m hampered, though, by not having expertise in this area and not having training resources available. I also bought a chain saw after an ice storm a couple of years ago, on the grounds that “I need to be sure at least one person in this neighborhood has one and knows how to use it when the next major storm hits, or just when that big tree falls down on the old widow lady’s house and traps her.”Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

      re: 1)
      … you want people seeking cover. And if the only training you get is how to get flat and stay low, well, that’s the first bit (don’t freeze, drop).
      Once your brain starts thinking, you can see what you can do.
      … or you can discover that some idiot decided to testfire a blank without warning…

      I know someone who has disarmed a child because he did it on instinct alone. It was a fucking stupid thing to do, and pretty damn dangerous — should have simply retreated and called park security.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

      Re: #2

      One thing I was taught in my various CPR classes was about how to gain help from a third party. If someone were to collapse and I began CPR while a group of bystanders observed, I would want one of them to call 911. The training tells you not just to yell, “Call 911!” Everyone will assume someone else will. Instead, they teach you to point at a specific individual and instruct them, personally, to call. “You, John, call 911!” “You, ma’am in the red dress, call 911!” The odds of that person not acting are near zero. If they don’t act, it is likely that they are overwhelmed by the moment at which point you identify another person.

      This is generally good logic… you’re more likely to get a ride to the bus stop if you ask Terry directly than if you mass-email the whole office and hope for a reply. But obviously life-or-death situations have higher stakes and best practices become even more important.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

        Good point, Kazzy. A few years back I was teaching at a summer program in D.C., and I had a girl suffering from severe asthma who twice stopped breathing completely. The second time was in a cafeteria, with quite a few people around. It was a hard floor so after I tasked one of the RAs to call 911 I wanted something soft to put under her head. I called for a jacket or something (in D.C.? In July?) and no one responded, then I saw a guy watching us who was wearing a suit, so looked right at him and asked to use his suit jacket. He looked plenty pissed off about it, but he did it.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        The guy was peeved you wanted his suit jacket to aid someone in the midst of an asthma attack? What a dick.

        Good on you for knowing how to appropriately handle the situation and tend proper care to the girl.Report

      • Avatar A Teacher in reply to Kazzy says:

        I was grading papers one afternoon when a student attempted to do a “Run up the wall and do a back flip” outside my classroom. He landed on his head and broke his neck. I still remember the events that followed and I was a little surprised at how well those kinds of training work. I was able to have the hallway cleared and the students that I directed to specific tasks (you, in the blue, I want you stand in that hallway and direct traffic away from here. You, here’s my cell phone, call 911 now. You, … go do this. You… go do that).

        I also some a lot of hesitation as the sheer shock of it was overtaking people who witnessed it. So I found myself doing this a lot: “You, I want you to go over there and stop people from coming here. You. Pink coat. Nevermind. You, Chris, I want you to…”

        The one thing I couldn’t remember clearly was protocol for clear spinal injury. I was afraid to start chest compressions or rescue breathing because I didn’t want to further damage the spinal cord and I thought my training was that in those cases you just do your best to wait not for professionals but for people with the professional gear to keep from doing further harm.

        After the fact it seems that compressions and rescue breathing in this case were considered appropriate responses.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

        He landed on his head and broke his neck.

        Yikes. In my case I at least knew I couldn’t do any more harm. Broken necks, though…Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Kazzy says:

        The guy was peeved you wanted his suit jacket to aid someone in the midst of an asthma attack? What a dick.


    • Avatar Damon in reply to James Hanley says:


      James, generally, I do something like this as well. It’s just basic common sense, especially if you’re in an unfamiliar area. Scan the area, look for escape routes, cover areas, etc. I do it in parking garages in particular.Report

  5. Avatar Gerry says:

    One important point in this story that completely changes the complexion is that the shooter was not in possession of a large caliber, large magazine, semi-automatic weapon, which appears to be the weapon of choice for most of these psychos. Instead, he had a shotgun and some knives. This is the key to the story. If he had one of the aforementioned weapons and knew how to use it, no-one would have gotten near him to pepper-spray him and the best choice in that situation would be to run as fast as possible and hope that the cops get there soon. Does the author of this post really think that if that was the case, running at him would have been the best choice?Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Gerry says:

      I don’t take that away from the OP. What I take away is that someone nearby should have done more than run and hide, but figure out a way to contain and take control of the situation. What that consists of will be intensely context-driven and no one-size-fits-all sort of solution could possibly be trained for in advance.

      Do I agree with this point? I don’t know. But I’m not taking away the “rush the attackers” solution as what the OP advises.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Burt Likko says:

        What could or should be done specifically is not the point. The point is that in every such situation, there exists multiple opportunities to bring it to an end quickly and with no more injury. Training would involve helping people survive long enough, and how to identify those opportunities & act upon them*.

        Legislatively, it would be nice if people were not forbidden almost every reasonable tool except firearms. The number of people who would choose to carry a gun over a can of mace is probably relatively small, but a gun is very often what they are allowed to carry.

        *For example, you are near the door to a cafeteria. A shooter comes in from the opposite side & opens up. You run for the nearest door. If you are panicking, you run for your life. If you have your head & some training, perhaps you notice the fire hose station near the door you just exited. You break it open, reel it out & charge the hose, then from the cover of the door frame, you engage the shooter. If the range is close, you knock him on his ass. If it is long, you just destroyed his ability to aim at anything, or even clearly ID targets since he is getting hit with the local equivalent of a severe downpour in the face, giving everyone else a chance to escape.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Hard to know if you can keep your head in a situation like that enough to think of a solution like you describe.

        “In retrospect, I should have tried the fire hose thing — but there was a dude with a gun shooting folks!”

        Besides, I try stuff like this in video games sometimes, and I get shot real fast. In video games, the consequence is you have to start over. Not so much in real life.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Burt Likko says:


        Well that just shows how much you suck at video games. 😉

        Seriously though, training can still go a long way to helping. Do you think the guy at SPU had extra special training for dealing with a shooter, such that he could overcome his fear response and think clearly enough to act? Or do you think he probably just saw enough stories on the news to decide he was going to be ready & started running scenarios through his head.

        There is research that shows that if people are given information and encouraged to think about how they would act/react in a scenario, they perform better when faced with a similar scenario. This is why a lot of training involves unscripted role-playing. If you get people thinking about it in a useful way, and you give them a sense of empowerment, it has a positive effect.

        I’m sure in his head he was considerably more epic & badass, but the end result is the same, when the moment came, he acted & saved lives.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Burt Likko says:

        seems obvious to me that you said “every” when you meant “most”. Classic Postal takes someone with a rifle (or a sniper, same diff) to take out the gunman (or explosives, etc.)Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Burt Likko says:


        No, I meant ‘every’. A single shooter, especially an untrained kid, absolutely can not provide 360 degrees of perfect coverage with expert marksman accuracy & the reflexes of The Flash, which means there are always opportunities.

        They may not be the best opportunities, or even good ones, but they exist if you have your head & can recognize them.

        Columbine was actually one of the most dangerous shootings, because the two worked as a team, which shut down a large number of potential opportunities. The Texas guy in the bell tower was another, because he had good coverage and a highly defensible position.Report

      • The number of people who would choose to carry a gun over a can of mace is probably relatively small, but a gun is very often what they are allowed to carry.

        I’m not sure I’d ever carry mace or pepper spray, but I have foresworn ever carrying a firearm, and I might be more likely (but still not very likely) to carry a spray.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Gerry says:


      I have to ask, how much firearms training have you had? Because from your comment, I’m going to guess it’s little to none.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Yeah, I was thinking that too and this:

        Give me a 12 guage pump or semi auto shotgun, a few days of practicing feeding shells into the mag as quickly as possible, a bandlier or trap bag to carry the shells, and I’d probably be able to squeeze off as many rounds as a AR 15 with a 30 round mag…and I’d have to be less accurage with the shottie…Report

      • @damon

        Is this your actual opinion?

        “Give me a 12 guage pump or semi auto shotgun, a few days of practicing feeding shells into the mag as quickly as possible, a bandlier or trap bag to carry the shells, and I’d probably be able to squeeze off as many rounds as a AR 15 with a 30 round mag…and I’d have to be less accurage with the shottie…”

        I surely hope not because it is waaaaay off. With a shotgun you are getting a max of 6 shells (8 if you can get your hands on a military model). So you are reloading 4-5 times while the AR is still blasting away. And a tactical reload of a shotgun is still slower than a magazine-fed gun.

        As for accuracy, yeah, you can spray more shot around with a shotgun. But that shot also loses its killing capacity. Remember Dick Cheney’s hunting accident? Of course, that was smaller shot (probably #6) however, if you dial down to buckshot you are now trading qty of shot for size. At 30 yards I believe the math works out to 1 pellet within each 20 sq ft of killing radius. I will take those odds all day long verses someone with a semi-auto shooting .223 rounds.

        At extremely close range it’s a wash on killing ability, however that also means those close-by people can tackle you when you reload 5 times to squeeze off 30 rounds (this supports the premise of the OP).Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        It WAS a bit of hyperbole 🙂
        It’s not that I’ve timed it out. My point was that Gerry’s comments were a bit over the top. Anyone trained and well practiced would be greater danger than some noob. His focus was on the evil AR and the 30 round mag….Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        As Mike said, even with a wide open choke, the dispersal pattern at close range is still maybe the size of a softball, maybe a soccer ball, depending on the shot you are using.

        And yes, you can learn how to do a tactical reload, but you are going to be spending an awful lot of time learning how to do that to the point that you can’t do it wrong.

        The reason mag limits are silly is because with a day or two of practice, I mastered the mag change to the point that the limit is moot. You’ll spend weeks learning how to reload a shotgun that fast.Report

      • Avatar Citizen in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        I think Damon is considering feeding the mag between shots. A very plausible action only limited to the size of the ammo bag. A little bit of skill and there is no worries about clip size or long reload times.

        Spencer does it with a Winchester at the 1:30 mark:


      • Avatar Damon in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Yes, I agree. It’s just the degree of training…Report

  6. Avatar Saul DeGraw says:

    There was a shooting in Las Vegas by white supremicists today or over the weekend.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      I heard about that. Made me think back to Lakewood, WA.Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Good Guy With a Gun got himself dead when he didn’t see the bad girlfriend with a gun who saw him moving toward boyfriend and shot him. It ended when girlfriend realized this shit was real and she’d killed someone, apparently decided she couldn’t live with herself, shot boyfriend several times and then took her own life.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        I was holding off on saying anything until more information came out.

        GGWAG accepted that risk when he cleared the holster. Since he was the last innocent to die, I’d say he served a purpose, whatever it may be.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      And they’d reportedly had their appetite for violence whetted by being part of Cliven Bundy’s “militia”. That’s what happens when you coddle criminals.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        And the Bundy folks kicked their asses out, according to that link. Which makes the Bundy folks the good guys, right?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        It doesn’t say that at all. Carol Bundy is quoted as saying “I have not seen or heard anything from the militia and others who have came to our ranch that would, in any way, make me think they had an intent to kill or harm anyone,” and there’s not a word about her or her husband finding anyone dangerous or undesirable. The ones who reported that the killers were violent white supremacists were neighbors from their apartment complex.Report

  7. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Interesting piece, @mad-rocket-scientist .

    A couple thoughts…

    1.) I’m a planner. Probably too intensely so. And I’m a problem solver. Perhaps pathologically so. But I yam what I yam. Often times I find myself in a situation doing hypothetical problem-solving. Especially if an “incident’ is fairly fresh in the mind. So Zazzy and I were at a movie not long after the Aurora shootings and I remember thinking to myself, “Here’s what I’d do if something like that happened here.” I don’t have a hero complex. I have no interest in going out in a blaze of glory. Rather, I just try to keep my head on my shoulders and do a little bit of mental preparation. Nothing obsessive. I don’t start casing exit paths. I just try to develop a bit of mental muscle memory.

    2.) I’ve been trained in CPR throughout my teaching career. Whenever I had to get recertified and go back through the course, I would always think, “Ugh, why? If anything happens, I’m going to freak out and insist someone else do it.” I don’t know why I thought this. I’m not prone to freaking out. But I did. Lo and behold, I’ve twice had children choke right in front of me and instinctively my training kicked in and I performed the Heimlich on them, likely saving their lives. I didn’t even think. I acted. I did what the training told me to. It was only a few minutes after the situation was fully resolved that anything hit me and I had to take a moment to gather myself. So, yea, training makes a huge training. Especially regular training.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kazzy says:

      In the Navy, as an Gas Turbine Tech, a big part of my regular training was firefighting. I was trained to always know the exits & the location of all firefighting gear. To this day, I walk into a room, spot the exits & the fire extinguishers & plugs. It’s just habit, and not one that took long to develop (and firefighting gear can be very effective for self defense, it’s hard to argue with the pressure & volume of water a fire hose can put out, or function with a face full chemical extinguisher, and those axes!).Report

  8. Avatar zic says:

    Didn’t people in the crowd bring tackle the gunman who shot Gabriel Gifford down?

    There, it was a blessing.

    But the principle and teachers who lunged for Adam Lanza died, too.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to zic says:

      Exactly my point. I don’t want people to rush the shooter necessarily, unless it is the best option available. In an open area without cover, that might be the only good option, especially if you are behind or flanking. Even if a shooter can hit the guy rushing him from the side, momentum may carry the day and the shooter goes down tangle of limbs. In a building, rushing the shooter is probably something to do AFTER he has a dose of pepper spray, or firehose, or hot chicken soup, or whatever can be used to foul him up.

      What I want is for the people who can keep their heads to be thinking about those options, because someone taught them how to identify them.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        In your experience, how much of “keeping one’s head” can be taught? I doubt it is something that can be accomplished in an afternoon seminar. But I’d venture to guess that certain responses can be conditioned towards or away with sufficient training; in fact, I have to assume much of psychotherapy is based on this assumption. And I’m most curious if there are broader shifts we could/should make to socializing humans (i.e., the education system) that would lead to worthwhile improvements to responses in stressful situations.Report

      • Actually, keeping your head is a challenge when you feel your life is in danger. Your rational core shuts down and your emotional core kicks in. It’s evolution.

        Two cave men come across a big furry thing that snarls. One of them ponders the probability that it is dangerous, the other feels. Who you do think survives to have kids and pass on his genetic brain coding? Hint, the one that doesn’t get eaten.

        So in a case like this, it becomes critical that responses be coded in the brain beyond rational thought, that they are themselves reflexive or instinctual. It’s why police/ military do training after training on the same basic tactics, to both build up that base of natural action in response and to also help train their minds to be more rational than the average Joe in the same situations.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        You can teach reactions. But I’ve nearly been killed (multiple times) by someone who has been taught to react to surprises with extreme violence.

        The best thing to teach is “hide first” — on the ground, find cover if possible. MRS is right about “don’t rush the shooter”… But he’s missing another obvious point: if you’re in a building at night — shoot the lights.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        Yes, you can teach a person to keep their head, even when danger to life & limb is clear & present. However, every person is different, and how long it will take will vary from person to person.

        One of the purposes of Boot Camp in the military is to place recruits under severe stress & see who cracks, and then see if they can still be trained to overcome that. Some people never will, some will, but only with extensive conditioning, such that the training takes over when the rational mind shuts down, and some people just roll with it so easily it’s kind of creepy (usually they are afraid, but they are running the Litany Against Fear through their heads).

        It’s that last group we want to target for training, but since identifying them is next to impossible, we need to give the training to as many as possible in the hopes that such people will attend.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        we can pretty much ID the 10% of humans most likely to become geniuses.
        I’m sure it’s not too hard to identify the folks who won’t freeze under pressure.Report

  9. Avatar Citizen says:

    What are your thoughts on sling shots? It would allow the locals to put rounds on or near the shooter. 3 active slingers could make a shooter look for cover.

    I would hope that cops could tell the difference between a sling shot and pistol.

    Daisy B-52 fold-up was about $8 last time I checked. The bands have to be replaced after 2000 rounds or one year, whatever comes first.
    Silly thing is, they are still illegal in many cities.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Citizen says:

      Sling shot, BB-gun, well thrown rocks for all I care.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Citizen says:

      Silly thing is, they are still illegal in many cities.

      I’m sure the local fenster’s union would be happy to lobby for repeal.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Citizen says:

      Silly thing is, they are still illegal in many cities.

      Nor can I carry a sword. Despite years of training. Because, according to law enforcement officers that I have discussed it with informally, a sword is too threatening. Even, in some cases, officers that don’t consider open-carry of assault rifles to be a problem.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Canes are still legal, as are walking sticks.
        Sword Umbrellas can probably be used anywhere that isn’t an airport.
        (And garottes have walked past airport security, being worn on people’s necks, of all the idiotic plans ever).Report

      • Avatar Citizen in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Those officers probably greatly under estimate the threat of Michael with a key knife. At least with the sword they could SEE a possible threat.Report

  10. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    Which of us really knows what’s going on inside the heads of people in a building being attacked by a spree shooter, of course. (For God’s sake, I hope it’s none of us forever.)

    But for my part, my speculation would not be that the reason active resistance doesn’t happen more frequently is because of “Let the professionals handle it,” at least in the moment There are lots of situations where that does drive action, and many probably unwisely or inappropriately, but I think finding yourself in a classroom with a shooter likely isn’t one of them. I just can’t imagine anyone being in that situation and having the reason that they wouldn’t resist be an expectation that the authorities will arrive and neutralize the shooter before they get shot. There’s nothing in media accounts of any of these incidents that I think would make people have that expectation, and I doubt that they do in those moments.

    Instead, I’d speculate that it’s two simple, related mental states. First and most obviously, paralyzing fear. Second, no belief that resistance can be successful. The latter is tied up with the former, and it’s also strongly reinforced by the collective action issue that James and Kazzy identify above. After all, resistance by just one unarmed resistor against a gunman is indeed likely to fail.

    This absolutely still indicates that training in resisting these attackers – both teaching how to do it, but also just assuring that resistance can be successfulv – could be effective at reducing victimization. I’m just not sure that a baseline sense that, once in a situation like that the thing to do is still to rely on the protection of professionals is going to be the biggest hurdle to getting the message to be heard.

    I’d actually speculate that the harder thing will be getting people to move away from simply wanting to trust that the professionals will prevent them from being put in the position in the first place (maybe that’s the sense of “let the professionals handle it” that you mean). In order to accept the necessity of the training for the situation, people have to relinquish that trust to some degree, which means stepping outside of the bubble of an assumption of basic security that people would really prefer to be able to count on. I actually don’t really blame people for not wanting to accept that part and parcel of just going to work or school these days should be training for how to actively resist a madman shooter. That’s actually in itself some considerable loss of security itself for people. OTOH, more preparedness ultimately will always save lives. It’s a trade-off that I can certainly understand being on the “man up and learn to defend yourself” side of… but I can also understand being on that “No, I don’t accept this as our new reality. Find other avenues to control these people and their weapons” side of it too because, again, it’s a real loss of security, and surrender of time and energy, to accept that this training should be a part of life for students and workers everywhere.

    Perhaps there could be an effective middle ground that relies on not just security professionals, but on all or many of the professionals or officials who run various kinds of institutions to be able to respond to spree shooter situations. Essentially that might be that teachers and managers, who usually already do receive training for emergency situations, get more training in active resistance in some situations rather than the mostly defensive training they (presumably?) receive now. But again, that might not be sufficient per James’ & Kazzy’s discussion of collective action issues above.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Michael Drew says:

      Damn you @michael-drew , giving me enough for a whole other post…

      In short, I think you are spot on. Part of “Let the professionals handle it” is the reality that we have abdicated the bulk of our personal security to the ever encroaching state. This ties into Will’s post the other day about kids in cars, as well as why there isn’t a lot of public outcry over the fact that cops in GA have permanently disfigured a toddler. We all have the exact wrong idea as to what police are supposed to do, which has also inflated our estimation of their worth (and subsequently their own estimation of their personal worth).*

      I don’t like to think about having to prepare for a house fire, or a tornado, or an earthquake, but I have to, because such things happen. I can understand people not wanting to “live in a world” where people need to even think about how to resist an active shooter, but our choices are to further permit the encroaching police state, or be ready to act to the best of out abilities. I for one am not keen to grant the police/state any more power. YMMV.

      Another thing to think about is the psychology of the shooter. How much of their desire to kill in that manner comes from wanting to go out in a blaze of perverted glory? If news reports started sounding more like the one out of Seattle, where the shooter only claimed one life before s/he faced active resistance and was brought to a halt, how appealing would the idea become. There is no glory if the fantasy ends on someone else’s terms. Could such acts become even more of a rarity if the appeal of them was lost because people were just plain unwilling to stand for it, and very willing to stand against it?

      *The intended purpose of the police was to be the professionals who investigated crime & dealt with law breakers. There was also an aspect of public outreach so as to prevent crime from occurring in the first place by trying to get ahead of it. They were never meant to protect us in the specific, and only abstractly in the whole. Our desire to see them as noble guardians protecting each & every one of us has perverted the dynamic. We have shifted away from police protecting our rights & serving our communities first, and themselves second, the the safety of the officer & the security of the conviction being paramount, and our safety being a happy convenience. The case in GA is a perfect study in this shift.Report

      • I think many people do want to rely on the state to protect them from fire and earthquakes etc. to quite a great extent in lots of ways, but they understand that there are components of necessary protection against those threatsindividuals can only do for themselves, both because of the uncontrollability of natural forces like that, and because the state can’t arrange your household for you, etc., or at least people don’t want it to. I think getting them to accept the same thing about shooters is harder because I think they think shooters are the kind of threat that they expect and want professionals (importantly, not necessarily police) to provide fairly reliable and complete protection against. That is, after all, why they tolerate so much power to be in the hands of security personnel of every stripe (state and private) in the first place. Some people (like yourself) differ, but generally I don’t think Americans at this point long for a country in which they take on more rather than less personal responsibility for protection of self and family against men with guns and what they may do in streets and hallways. I think that should be accepted as a prevailing preference about the role of government/private security procedure, but hey, if you dissent then you dissent. But I think you should acknowledge such dissent as a distinctly minority view. (It kinda matters). Ultimately, this might just reflect a basic difference preference about the role of government, the kind of society we want to have, and to some extent one’s orientation to prevailing cultural mythos, and as such this divergence is venerable and going nowhere. But I don’t think the general direction of your stated preference has much chance of winning many people over over the short, medium, or medium-long run. (The real long run, who knows.) People want the authorities to protect them from gunmen at this point. And again, I think that matters.

        What I’d say is that people don’t only rely on the police for this. You expect your school’s administration to keep your school safe. You expect corporate Chipotle to keep your corner Chipotle safe (with certain policies ahem). To a large extent in those contexts, it does remain the police’s role mostly to investigate incidents when that hasn’t happened in places where proprietors offer security to patrons, administrators to matriculants, etc. The major exception is the public street. I guess that’s where the battle for our hearts and souls lies. Some people want the police to keep the streets safe. Others just want them to investigate what crimes may nave been committed after the natural processes of threat and defense have played themselves out. So I guess the question we have to ask ourselves is, Do ya want the Wild West back, or don’t ya? Punk? Well? Do ya?Report

      • …But in any case, that’s a rant about preferences. Then there are capabilities, and people need to understand the limitations of the real capabilities of the authorities. I think that is the most fruitful ground for hammering out agreement in these areas, so long as people agree not let these kind of preferences impose too much pressure on a discussion based on assessment of capabilities. Neither side is great at that, however, and both get very sensitive to the other side’s failures to prevent it.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @mad-rocket-scientist @michael-drew

        Indeed, and let’s remember that the police have no legal obligation to do anything anyway. “That active shooter killing kids in school? I’ll wait for the swat team to show up rather than go in myself.” So waiting for the professionals to handle it very well could mean waiting for the shooting to stop and just cleaning up the mess.

        And for those people who don’t “want to live in that world” I only can say this: Then either move away from people or suffer the consecquences., because you already ARE living in that world.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        And for those people who don’t “want to live in that world” I only can say this: Then either move away from people or suffer the consecquences., because you already ARE living in that world.

        This is like looking at the extreme of violence and suggesting it’s the norm. It’s newsworthy because it’s the exception.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        there are plenty of other exceptions that don’t make the news — like assassinations.

        In pittsburgh’s msa, it’s less safe to be in the “suburbs” (erm, rest of MSA) than in the city proper.
        A major part of this is people taking the law into their own hands, and using guns to do it.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Not at all. Stuff like this unless you are dead, you already are living in this world. It’s prudent to take some general/basic steps to ensure you avoid these scenarios and/or know what to do to get out of them quickly should you find yourself in one. Just like how to deal with hurricanes, tornados, and earthquakes….Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:

      Which of us really knows what’s going on inside the heads of people in a building being attacked by a spree shooter, of course. (For God’s sake, I hope it’s none of us forever.)

      And now you know why I skipped Leaguefest this year. After last year….Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Michael Drew says:


      After Newtown, my school did some live shooter drills. Basically, we were trained on how to get our kids into the safest part of our room and barricade the door (eventually, sliding bolt locks were installed).

      A number of teachers were unnerved by this. At least one (whose young daughter is a student and who was present in the building with a few other faculty children during what were otherwise adult-only dry runs) was brought to tears. Practicing meant we were acknowledging the reality of the risk. It was amazing how different their response was than my own. Practicing didn’t change the risk that we would have a shooter in our school (it was and remains astronomically small). All it meant was that we were better prepared to survive it. That’s how I saw it. They saw it differently. I can’t necessarily fault their reaction. It is very, very human.

      Complicating matters was that our trainer was very well-versed in tactics and very poorly versed in communicating with non-police officers/military. He’d say things like, “Don’t worry. It’ll be over and he’ll have probably killed himself before we even arrive.” Probably true and perhaps useful knowledge but, dude, know your audience and work on your delivery.

      People don’t want to think they are at risk. Preparing for risk requires acknowledging that they are.

      How many others have participated in live shooter drills?

      What others might find most remarkable is how calm the students are when properly prepared. For mine, I simply shifted some language. We always did fire drills which most kids — even young ones — understand as being about safety. So I simply redubbed the fire drill an “Outdoor Safety Drill” and the lock down drill as an “Indoor Safety Drill.” “Sometimes we keep ourselves safe by going outside. Sometimes we keep ourselves safe by staying inside.”

      Thoughtful preparedness is ever so rarely the wrong course.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy says:

        How about the parents? Did they care? Do you think the redubbing would have worked on the ones that did?

        But a point you raise is a good one: I realize now that I am anticipating that active resistance training will make people more aware of their acceptance of risk (a “new reality”) than would reasonable defensive/evasive training for the same eventuality like you describe (your example of crying teachers being a counterexample to that expectation). If so, that would obviously be irrational, and who knows if it would even be so? My instinct is that people would react much more viscerally to being asked to think about taking active resistance steps against a shooter than they would to simply being instructed about how to organize their most natural response – to get to the safest place available as quickly as possible. But if that made them more averse to accepting the risk, yeah, that would be irrational. But people are irrational.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        I think most parents wanted us to do this stuff. They wanted us locking exterior doors that were previously never locked. They wanted us doing everything possible. Of course, their relationship to the school and their children’s safety was every different than ours (not better, not worse, just different). Most also did not appreciate the potential psychological effect of imparting unnecessary fear and/or a heightened sense of risk. But that is neither here nor there.

        But, allow me to clarify. I wasn’t offering up our training as evidence of non-assertive defense that failed to resonate with people. Rather, I was actually trying to illustrate what I understood to be your point, which is that people would often rather pretend a risk doesn’t exist, even if it means leaving themselves ill prepared in the event that risk presents itself.

        Some of these teachers did not want to learn how to keep their students safe because they didn’t want to believe that the risk existed. “If I practice, that means it could happen. Why would we practice for something that would never happen? I’d rather think this would never happen. Thus, I won’t practice.” I don’t know if that officially qualifies as irrational but it didn’t seem like the right way to think about it to me.

        My wife reacted similarly when we initially discussed having wills written. “I don’t want to think about you dying.” “Neither do I. But that doesn’t change the chances that it happens. But not talking about it does risk making an awful situation even worse if our affairs aren’t in order.”Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy says:

        I understood. But if it was just a few teachers and the kids and parents were all cool, then I’d say it on balance suggests people might accept the decrease in perceived security with more equanimity than I suggested. But(!) these weren’t active resistance techniques but instead evasive and hardening techniques; one always has to allow for irrationality…;)Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        Gotcha. It is worth noting that the teacher training (and subsequent reactions) took place shortly after the shooting; we didn’t actually drill with the students until the next school year, 9 full months later or essentially a lifetime for young children (most of whom had little to no knowledge of the shooting). For the specific teacher I mentioned, it should also be pointed out that she teaches Kindergarten and her daughter was in Kindergarten at the time; if you remember, it was a Kindergarten class that was targeted. So she obviously had a very different emotional response to both the shooting and our drills than anyone else.

        All that said, there certainly exists a broader “I’d just rather not think about this because it feels safer” mindset that many people hold. I suppose this all boils down to “Ignorance is bliss.”Report

      • Avatar A Teacher in reply to Kazzy says:

        Our training is very similar. And as I work with teens I am often asked things like “Why are we hiding, let’s go get the Fisher!” and “do you really think that he can’t break in here if he wants to?”

        And I always answer the same: The people who study this for a living have analyzed every specific and this is what they believe to be the best plan to minimize risk to you individually. Better to make him wander the halls looking for targets than to flood the hallways with 1800 potential dead bodies.

        Maybe that’s not the solution, but I’m also not a security analyst. I don’t get paid to study this and do the math and figure out what to do. I get paid to teach Algebra. I do agree with it myself because I do think that the alternative would lead to a lot more deaths, though yes, Sandyhook proves that there is no guarantee in that protocol either.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

        I’ve participated in bomb drills, where we were expected to search our own areas for bombs…Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Kazzy says:

        Once when working at my companies HQ we emailed a memo from security about what to do if someone called us claiming there was a bomb in the building. I’ll never forget it. One section dealt with asking the caller where the bomb was and when it was going off, and if it was a real bomb.


      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kazzy says:

        Related: Apparently people are upset because Miss Nevada promotes women learning to defend themselves from sexual assault.

        I don’t understand why people get upset at acknowledging risk & preparing to deal with it. I know they do, but it baffles me. To me, it’s an Ostrich* approach, or the mindset of a child who thinks that if he can’t see the scary thing, the scary thing can’t see him. It is, IMHO, incredibly immature. Or perhaps we’ve forgotten how to teach courage & bravery. Part of mastering fear is facing it, acknowledging it, and having a plan in your head as to what you are going to do. In the moment, perhaps you will still freeze up or go into a blind panic, but if you refuse to face a fear & do some thinking about it, it’s almost guaranteed you will be a victim at the moment.

        I certainly don’t want to live in a world where crazy people get guns & go on shooting sprees, or where men sexually assault women, but the fact is, I do. And until we put our mental health system back together, and until we’ve managed to complete the process of removing the attitudes that fuel sexual assault, we need to deal with the reality of here & now.

        PS OMG what was your PD thinking having that guy do the training?! I’m glad they did it, as getting you and the other teachers thinking about it is good, but still… BTW, did they talk at all about cover vs concealment, and what items in a room could be expected to protect against what calibers? Did they talk about what you could do if the BGWAG decided to shoot the lock & come in anyway?


        I made the point in the OP that the professionals are rarely on hand in the moment, and probably won’t be for a long time. To me, that fact alone is sufficient cause to develop and offer training. So far, all the pushback I’ve gotten has been wrapped in emotional pleas of either “I don’t want to think about it” or “amateurs will only make it worse, despite the lack of evidence showing how it could get worse, and quite a bit of evidence that amateurs made it better”.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

        People fear death. This aversion to even thinking about it is part of the stupidity that is humanity. Many delusions stem from this — some that you might yourself cherish.

        I don’t see why you expect that it will take a long time for the police to arrive. At WPIC, we had several PDs @ the scene within 5-10 minutes (and, yes, in bullet-time that’s a lot, but not in “driving a car” time).Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        He did discuss the difference between cover and conceal.

        What he said is that most of these shooters are looking for low hanging fruit. If they can’t turn the knob on a door, they usually move on. He didn’t discuss what to do if the shooter makes entry. My plan all along is to hide the kids in the bathroom and keep myself between him and that.

        The trainer was ridiculous. I think he’s been put out to pasture. He’s got military, SWAT, and a boatload of other training but for some reason works for an 8 officer force in a town of 600. I think something must have happened. Why he is their public relations specialists, I have no idea.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kazzy says:


        If I may…

        In your room, if you do not already have one, keep a good, sturdy wooden chair handy, near the door. The kind of chair with legs & cross braces and a back you can get a real solid grip on. Hit IKEA, or garage sales to find a cheap one if you must. If, Buddha forbid, you ever have to throw the bolt on the door, grab the chair & stand near the door, just out of sight (if the door has a window). If the door opens into the room, try not to stand behind it.

        If your lock gets shot off, turn 90 degrees away from the door, and with the chair on the ground, swing up and toward chest height as soon as the door opens. Once you make contact, twist the chair down (if the chair is held out from you with the legs pointing away, pretend it is a long cylinder & twist along it’s long axis. If done right, you just rang his bell something fierce. If you are lucky, the rotation just disarmed him. Repeat until he stops moving. Unlike the movies, a good, sturdy chair will not break into pieces when you hit somebody with it.

        Practice with a coworker a few times if you can, so you know where to stand for best effect (obviously pulling the hit). Have your partner hold a broom or some other gun analog so you can get a feel for how it works.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        The way my room is setup, that technique would be impossible. Immediately adjacent to the door is a shelf. Meaning I can’t stand flush against the wall that the door is on. To stand as close to the spot you describe, I’d have to put myself directly in front of the window which seems subideal. I do have a huge book shelf next to the door which I would likely tip to block it entirely in the event something happens. We have a secondary exit that goes directly outdoors so we wouldn’t be trapped.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kazzy says:


        Fair enough, but I think my point is made, in that there are ways to use what is around you in effective but unconventional ways. Some people just need help to think about it that way.

        A bookshelf is good (I’d push it so it was half over the hinge straight away), and the second exit is better.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        Agreed. I mean, I’m a PreK teacher… half my job is looking around my room and figuring out what the children can kill themselves with and then neutralizing that. But I also remember what’s where. Fire extinguishers, large chairs, long-armed tools… plus I have a bin full of pretty sizable rocks and shelves and shelves of wooden blocks.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kazzy says:


        Good! Then you a further along the curve than a lot of people.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        Dude, I’m the kid who used to walk home from school and figure out how — if the situation called for it — I’d carve out an uninterrupted path of electrical wires with which to zip line to various destinations. Because, ya know, I might need to do that one day. Always prepared!Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kazzy says:


        Were you a boy scout? That’s where I got into the habit (back before they got all wierded out about gay people in the ranks…)Report

  11. Avatar Francis says:

    If this is such an effective way to halt an attack, why doesn’t it happen more often?

    Because mass shootings are still incredibly rare, and each one is different. First aid / CPR is (a) non-violent, (b) reasonably likely to be needed by a reasonable percentage of trainees, and (c) pretty easy. Teaching effective response to a shooter, by contrast, is none of those things.

    There’s also an element of Lord Farquaad (“Some of you may die, but that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.” ) in the whole ‘we need to be good citizens’ thing. If you want to run towards gunfire, have at it. If you privately want to encourage your fellow citizens to think about how to respond effectively when they hear shots fired, go for it. But the idea that it is a sign of good citizenship to have gone through that kind of training is actually pretty repellant to me. Lots of countries have paramilitaries and they’re rarely nice places.

    And people make mistakes all the time. In an event as rare as a mass shooter, you are going to pile up a whole bunch of false positives if this kind of training takes off. What’s the most likely outcome — the rare shooter more rapidly detained or a spread of vigilantism? We are already seeing the outcome of Stand Your Ground laws in Florida. So, to be blunt, how many more dead black kids do you want on your conscience?Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Francis says:

      If I may perhaps respond on @mad-rocket-scientist ‘s behalf, I don’t know that he’s equating “running towards gunfire” with “good citizenry”. I understood his point to be “seeing yourself as a part of the solution when a social/societal problem arises is the mark of a good citizen.” And I agree with him 100%. Running towards gunfire is probably one of the more extreme examples of that. But if you saw someone who fell and was lying in the road or someone who was obviously lost or some trash on the ground in arm’s reach, taking steps to address those problems would surely put one on the path to good citizenship.Report

  12. Avatar Zac says:

    I have a question here for Burt and any other lawyers around these parts:

    I live in Washington State, which has both an “open-carry” law and a “Stand Your Ground” law. Let’s say I see someone openly carrying a firearm. I feel that this threatens my life. May I preemptively execute them with a firearm of my own, on that basis? Having just skimmed the relevant parts of the RCW, it would seem to indicate that, despite how insane (or delightful, I guess, depending on your perspective) that would seem to be.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Zac says:

        You’d have to deal with the lawsuits afterwards.
        Although, if you’re a vet with PTSD, you might just get off with psych treatment.
        (as you’d be able to make a credible case that “I saw him moving towards his gun” — and I just /reacted/)

        I have seen folks attempt to draw guns when fireworks went off. I have known folks who have pointed guns at folks firing fireworks, as they thought they were under attack.

        I do not think we ought to encourage these activities.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Zac says:


        Where are you in WA (I’m in Bellevue)?

        The relevant part of WA law, which is absolutely NOT a SYG law as they have implemented recently, is this:

        “when there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design on the part of the person slain to commit a felony or to do some great personal injury”

        Which, when it was explained to me, means you have to be able to convince the police that the person you just shot was going to assault you (or someone else) with the means &/or intent to cause you (or someone else) grave bodily harm. In short, if the gun is in the holster, the threat is not reasonable, even if the guy is screaming in your face. Until he takes a swing or draws his weapon, you have no justification. And even a swing is pretty dicey ground to be killing someone on.

        Even if he is black.

        Now, those guys in TX who were openly carrying rifles at the ready, they were all kinds of stupid & lucky they did not get shot. I mean, if was carrying my pistol & saw someone carrying a rifle at the ready walk in to the building I was in, I’d be inclined to draw on him & order him to disarm. You just don’t do that, not even during hunting season.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Zac says:

        In short, if the gun is in the holster, the threat is not reasonable, even if the guy is screaming in your face. Until he takes a swing or draws his weapon, you have no justification. And even a swing is pretty dicey ground to be killing someone on.

        I don’t find this to be a reasonable standard, myself… which is one reason I find this whole legal problem space batshit insane.

        If someone is screaming in my face, and they’ve got a weapon, I would say it is eminently reasonable to suppose a clear and present danger to your person. Screaming in your face (barring pretty extreme exigent circumstances) indicates a clear loss of normal societal behavior. When coupled with “packing heat” (or carrying a large blunt object, for that matter), I’m perfectly okay with assuming the guy/gal is working themselves up to violence.

        That’s just me.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Zac says:

        If someone is screaming in my face, and they’ve got a weapon, I would say it is eminently reasonable to suppose a clear and present danger to your person. Screaming in your face (barring pretty extreme exigent circumstances) indicates a clear loss of normal societal behavior. When coupled with “packing heat” (or carrying a large blunt object, for that matter), I’m perfectly okay with assuming the guy/gal is working themselves up to violence.

        I wouldn’t draw, since that very act has, in most jurisdictions, significant legal consequences if the police are summoned. But you can bet my hand would be looking for the metaphorical brick, while I did everything I could to de-escalate.Report

      • Avatar Zac in reply to Zac says:

        @mad-rocket-scientist “Where are you in WA (I’m in Bellevue)?”

        I live in Seattle, on the east side of Capitol Hill, near I-90 and Judkins Park.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Zac says:

        @zac and @mad-rocket-scientist Man, I’m really sorry I left the PNW before getting the chance to spearhead some regional get-togethers.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Zac says:

        I am in Kirkland at this moment, but I’m flying back home tomorrow after work. The plane departs SeaTac at 6:45, so I’m planning to leave around 2:00.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Zac says:

        “working yourself up” is a legally actionable offense (“simple assault”), presuming they are saying stuff like “I’m going to kill you.” The appropriate response is to vacate the person’s personal space (if possible), and to always call the police.

        [This will probably engage your standard “drunk patrol”]Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Zac says:


        Nice area? I’ve never had cause to drive through there, and you can’t really see it from I-90 (because, you know, tunnel). I’m on the hill behind Factoria (Somerset). I don’t have the view, but it’s just a couple of blocks away.

        What brings you to Kirkland?Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Zac says:

      It depends: which of you has darker skin?Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Zac says:

      In my humble legal opinion, we need to fill In the blanks left behind by SCOTUS in the McDonald case that says states can adopt “reasonable rules and regulations.” But it’s a damn near blank canvas now.

      Some dude walks in to the burrito shop behind me with an AR15 slung over his back and I’m telling you what, I feel threatened. If this burrito shop is n a military base and the guy who’s carrying is in uniform, maybe not so much. But some random white dude with scraggly facial hair and a dorky hat? I’m thinking I don’t need a burrito that bad, not right now.

      The issue will be with vagueness and over breadth: a Law that forbids public carries in circumstances where a reasonable person would fear the commission of an act of violence could be, effectively, a ban on all public carries. Which if there is also a ban in practical effect on concealed carries may leave the gun owner with no right to “bear” the firearm at all.

      I’d rather have concealed carries with carry licenses given out to those who pass a criminal history and mental health background check, pass a firearm safety class, and maybe post a bond or file some other evidence of insurance. And not so much open carries.Report

      • Evidently the fact that you feel threatened means you’re bullying the guy with the AR-15.Report

      • Avatar Zac in reply to Burt Likko says:

        So I’m still kinda unclear here. Let’s say burrito-shop-dude walks in with his AR-15 and I, a (for the purposes of this hypothetical) legally registered CC’er with my pistol on my person, find this to be exactly the sort of terrifying shit I carry my pistol for. If I walk up behind him and put one in the back of his skull, have I actually committed a crime? To my eyes, I’ve probably just saved the lives and burritos of every other patron by putting down the madman who just walked in with an assault rifle. And it’s not like he’s a position to testify against me. Would the state have any legal grounds on which to prosecute me?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Burt Likko says:

        If he’s an SF cop, you definitely saved everyone’s burritos.Report

      • Avatar A Teacher in reply to Burt Likko says:

        If you ask me, we ought to go all the way back to what the founders (in my historical if not legal opinion) intended:

        Everyone has a right to a military grade firearm, and they should be enrolled in a trained and organized militia, answerable to a chain of command and expected under both law and social norms to gather with their unit on a regular basis for the purpose of training, organizing, and of course beer.

        What’s frustrating to me is that regulated in a 18th century military context meant “trained to fight as as cohesive unit” and did not necessarily mean “having government legislation and control”. You had “regular army” which marched and volleyed in formation, and you had “irregular army” which used open order, fired at will, would break and run, etc.

        I got into this last night at a bar because someone tried to explain to me that we won the revolution by hiding behind trees instead of marching in formation and getting killed. It hurt to have to correct him. A little.

        Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if the phrase “well regulated militia” came out of the fact that Irregular Militia were incredibly unreliable and unpredictable and that to have an effective army you had to have a trained military. It’s worth noting that up until the Civil War there was incredible resisitance to a standing Federal Army, and that many of the units we talk about from the CW were, at their core, “well regulated [state] Militias”.Report

      • @a-teacher

        I think the issue is a little different. To my knowledge, when the constitution was written and then ratified, the US did not have a standing army, or at least not a very large one. That is in contrast to your (very good) point about the era of that unfortunate war over luxury taxes, where the colonies did establish their own army and with the help of some of the French, et al., won on-the-field battles.

        If I’m correct, that probably goes more to support your “historical” point. The militias were part of US defense. It also might have been a local thing, a way for localities to defend against a potentially encroaching centralized government. I’m thinking about the Whiskey Rebellion and suspecting that’s the kind of thing some of the supporters of the 2d might have had in mind.Report

      • Avatar A Teacher in reply to Burt Likko says:


        You’re spot on, in fact the establishment of national troops did not happen until the Civil War and were highly resisted. Even though it was called the “Federal Army”, each regiment of men in the CW was mustered, trained and funded by a state as part of their shift from “every man will serve in the militia” to something more like a regular standing army still under the control of the governor’s office.

        Really among questions that should be asked of the framers, I would say that explaining the wordage of the 2nd amendment would be top. If the unabated right to own any form firearm is indeed a right, why qualify it with “Because having a trained citizen army is really important to keeping a country/ state safe” (as I would translate the first half of the amendment)?

        The problem is that if you go to the extreme, that being that every man should be part of a trained citizen army, providing (as they did 200 years ago) their own military hardware (which then was a musket, cartridge box and bayonet), today they should, own, really, an AR15, a kevlar vest, battle helmet, and other gear.

        A scary thought to have in every household, ya know? A lot has changed about armies in the last 200 years and our constitution isn’t keeping pace, if that is the intent of the 2nd amendment.Report

  13. It’d be real nice if emergency responders had better training in non-lethal methods to begin with instead of responding to everything with lethal force.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Nob Akimoto says:


      Another thought, if most citizens were able to carry less-than-lethal means of defense, and practiced in the usage, I wonder how many such shooters we might take alive, which would help us better understand the pathology, since not all of them leave long, meandering rants.Report

  14. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    Interesting post. While I am a pretty big proponent of gun safety classes being taught in schools and I am 100% in favor of concealed-carry, what we’re talking about here is still (thankfully) a rare situation. It’s hard to imagine mobilizing a nationwide effort to convince people to engage shooters when this happens.

    I’m an extremely experienced shooter. I have shot just about every kind of firearm available in the U.S. from .22 all the way up to .50, rifles, pistols and shotguns. I’ve done a lot of shooting at animals, sometimes in ‘high-pressure’ situations where it was all about reflexes and years of practice. They key point though: no one was shooting back. I really can’t say what I would do in that moment. If I was armed with a firearm and had a safe shooting position? Yeah, I want to believe I would be calm enough to do what has to be done. But without a gun? That sounds like a scenario I could never be certain of.

    I keep my concealed-carry gun in my truck while at work. Kentucky law makes that legal and there is nothing my employer can do about it. So what if someone goes on a rampage in my workplace? I have two options: A) Make a run for my car, gear-up and then head back in to try to stop the situation B) Try to organize some kind of group effort to stop the attack.

    So the first scenario… I am in management so my desk is in our office space and close to several exits. Provided the shooting is not taking place in my immediate area (with the way our hourly employees feel about management most of the time we would probably be their primary targets) But let’s say I make it out. I retrieve my gun and a extra magazines. Maybe the tactical tomahawk I also keep in the cargo area. But you know what I am going to think about before I charge back in? My wife. My kids. I’m out. I’m safe. Do I have the courage to charge back in? I honestly don’t know.

    In the second scenario I stay inside and try to convince some other folks to rush the shooter. How is that going to go? The closest I have ever been to something like that is back in my paintball days. I remember back then trying to organize players on the fly to charge a position. They know they aren’t going to die if they get hit. It’s a game. You know what happens when you make your move? The plan goes out the window. Discipline breaks down. This doesn’t just happen on paintball fields. It happens in the military. It happens with police officers. No amount of civilian training is going to overcome that tendency of people. Yes, there are plenty of examples of people rising to the occasion, but I don’t think a few training classes is going to overcome that.

    I admire your intent here MRS. I think you know that you and I are allies in the gun debate and you have my complete respect on the topic of guns. While I like the idea of people having readiness training, I just think this is a bridge too far. I think stopping these situations has to start at the root cause, not as a reactionary strategy and unfortunately I think what you are suggesting falls into the latter.Report

    • Avatar A Teacher in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      “No plan survives first contact with the enemy intact.”

      “Plans are useless. Planning, however, is essential.”

      Where’s Ike when we need him?Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mike Dwyer says:



      The chances I’ll ever have to perform CPR are vanishingly small, but millions know how to do it. The chances I’ll have to survive the aftermath of a major earthquake, such that I won’t be able to get help, or even get to the grocery store, is pretty small, but I’m ready for it. The cost of being ready is soOoOoOoO much smaller than the cost of not.

      Really, the primary goal of any such training would be to teach people to survive the moment. If you manage to get out & run away, that is, of course, optimal. If you rally & return to counter, dude, you get Fishing Medal & the survivors name their kids & dogs after you.

      But what if the guy is right there, between you and the exit? What do you do? Do you lay down & die? Or do you grab the paperweight off your desk & throw it at him while running for cover? Even if you don’t hit him, he has to react to the heavy object coming at him, which fouls his aim and forces him to spend time doing something besides killing people. Have you thought about what you have nearby that could be re-purposed into a weapon or a significant distraction, should you be able to reach it? Does your office have any walls that would stop handgun rounds? Rifle rounds? Can you get behind one & force him to come to you?

      That is what I am talking about getting people to think about.

      And you & I know how guns really work, but most people get their gun knowledge from the news or Hollywood, neither of which is usually accurate. Or worse, video games. Did you know that most people have no idea how loud guns actually are, and if Hollywood is your only source of information, everyone can hear just fine immediately after a gun is fired right next to them (apparently everyone has those really cool ear plugs that filter out loud noises & let you hear everything else just fine)? I could spend a morning giving a lecture just myth busting guns (or I’d just make everybody watch those MythBusters episodes). If you know such things, you know that after the second shot, the shooter is deaf & will be for a little while, so if he isn’t looking at you, start moving. He can’t hear you anyway.


      Again, & I can’t repeat this enough, it’s not about what you specifically would or would not do. It’s about arming people in the aggregate with the knowledge of how to think about survival, be it escape or resistance. It really only takes one person who is keeping his head & looking for opportunities to carry the day.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        General survival training I can get on-board with. But I think logically speaking you have to stop at just trying to keep those people alive. I can only imagine the outcry I would hear if our HR folks said, “The best strategy is to rush the shooter.” Our employees would flip out.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        MRS has mentioned firefighting tools. I say we teach folks how to disable shooters with firefighting tools (eminently doable, and storing those around schools is less likely to get “temporarily upset” kids in jail)…

        And rushing the shooter is poor tactics, by and large. I don’t think anyone’s saying do that except in extreme emergencies.Report

  15. Avatar Stillwater says:

    I’m down with this post, just so long as it’s not an endorsement of more CCers, more armed citizens.

    And I’m not saying that was part of your message here. But the fact that the shooter was subdued by pepper spray is an important part of the story. Something deserving more than an footnote, it seems to me.Report

    • Avatar Citizen in reply to Stillwater says:

      What do you consider armed? Was the fellow carrying mace armed?

      I don’t know where different people are drawing that line. Is concealed carrying sling shot or a sword the same as carrying a gun concealed?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Citizen says:

        A general rule:
        Any ranged weapon counts as being armed (including doggie mace).
        Any edged weapon also counts as being armed (including a switchblade).
        Anything electrical with the specific aim of harming another person.
        Anything area-affect generally counts as being armed (light-based weapons, sound based weaponry)

        “Not Armed, but Certainly Dangerous” — anyone carrying a staff, or other blunt weapon. Anyone carrying a weapon that is reasonably characterized as “not normally a weapon” (farming implement, yoyo, etc.). Anything electrical that is not specifically tweaked to harm people.Report

      • Avatar Citizen in reply to Citizen says:

        Weaponized cheese whiz?Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Citizen says:

        Cheese Whiz Grenade!

        (I bet that violates the Geneva Convention, somehow)Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Citizen says:

        Geneva is a French-speaking city, so vaguely cheese-like substances are illegal there regardless.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Stillwater says:

      Again, my two goals is to argue for:

      1) Eliminating laws & policies against the carry of less-than-lethal self-defense options. It should not be Guns or whatever you can do with your hands & feet. I think you’d see some reduced push for more liberal gun laws if people had access to all the other options. But since guns are protected by the 2nd, that is what is pushed for by everyone who wants to carry something, because that is what the courts are protecting. It seems silly to me that such options are often outlawed.

      2) Arm people with information about how to evade & escape & possibly resist an attacker. Have them practice it. Encourage them to think about it. Once they learn to think that way, they are empowered to survive.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Can I make a small distinction?
        There is self-defense, and then there is “other-defense” — and yet a third category, called “home-defense.”

        Self-defense is best carried out under the assumption of surprise, and possible inability to identify direction of threat.
        Damon’s right when he says that “area affect weaponry” is asking for lawsuits. And if we eliminate lawsuits for “you hurt me (an innocent! a baby!) while trying to protect yourself”, well… erm… we got a lot of problems. You want to go there?

        Home-defense is probably best seen with the use of traps (though a good cleared field and rooms with easily gettable guns would work just fine in rural areas).

        Other-defense is probably best used with some sort of directed, directional weapon.

        I point this out, because it’s very easy to talk “nonlethal” — but pretty hard to actually justify most of the more effective weaponry out there.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Stillwater says:

      One thing that I find interesting is the Media is constantly saying that the guy who stopped the SPU shooter was a School Security Monitor. As far as I can tell from searching the schools website, no such thing exists. At best he may have been part of the facilities emergency response team, but those are people trained to evac people and provide assistance to the injured once clear of the building (in case of Earthquake, etc.), not confront attackers.

      I wonder if this is just a mistake constantly repeated, or if there is some desire to make this guy be one of the “Professionals”?Report

  16. Avatar Patrick says:

    I think you misunderstand the nature of these decisions. I really highly doubt it has anything to do with “let the professionals handle it”, that’s the decision-making process of a rational decision maker.

    People in these sorts of situations don’t process decisions that way. A good 10-30% of them are going to just freeze, outright… they’re not going to attack the guy with the gun, and they’re not going to run to save themselves, their brains just go into vapor-lock.

    Another large chunk of folks basically revert to flight, because again, they’re not engaged in rational decision making.

    The people who can actually *act* rationally under such circumstances – especially without any training at all – are really remarkably rare.

    It takes an enormous amount of stress training to become marginally competent under these sorts of scenarios. Most civilians make terrible soldiers, most soldiers make terrible special forces candidates (well over half wash out of MFR/Seal/Ranger training), and most special forces candidates actually still require years in the field before they get any damn good at what they do.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Patrick says:

      No, I understand the thinking.

      Again, I’m not envisioning everyone suddenly rising up & attacking like a viscous pack of wolves. I’m trying to arm people with knowledge they can hopefully make use of, even if it is just to escape smartly. The more people so trained, the more likely we will train those rare few who can think in the face of such stress, & they may effectively resist the attacker, or they may effectively direct an evacuation, depriving the shooter of targets much faster than otherwise.

      The cost of training is ALWAYS orders of magnitude lower than not training.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        If we can identify the competent folks, we ought to just issue them band camp uniforms.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Well, hm.

        While I can empathize with the underlying idea, I can think of all sorts of hanging fruit that hangs a lot lower than this. For an accessible version bypassing the need to do a lot of psych research, check out Amanda Ripley’s book “Unthinkable”.

        She spends a chapter talking about building evacuations, in the context of 9/11, which covers some of the issues, and another talking about airplane evacuations, which is similar.

        If you don’t actually have realistic drills, where people actually exit the building, go to their rally point, etc., what you find during actual building evacuation scenarios is that people don’t have that info embedded in the part of their noggin that is accessible during stress scenarios. People who have been flying all of their lives, but don’t read the seat-back card and don’t pay any attention to the evacuation drill speech at the beginning of a flight? Considerably less likely to exit properly than people who pay attention. Granted, we’re not sure which is the cause and which is the effect, but there you are.

        You can probably get a lot more mileage from having people take a CPR and a CERT class, like you mention above, and have them buy an AED, than you ever will off of trying to do realistic shooter scenario drills…. because it appears that in order for them to work, you have to do them over, and over, and over, and over again… and nobody wants to do that.

        Hell, we get people who read all this lit griping about fire drills here at ‘Tech. If you can’t get smart folks who know the research to do it, you’re probably not going to get buy-in for any sort of organized program.

        Much easier to rant about banning guns or carrying guns.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        Perhaps. I have a book at home that talks about the research done with regard to mentally preparing yourself for a life & death situation, and it isn’t drilling, but just mentally tackling the scary situation in the safety of your own head and thinking about what you could do.

        The important thing is to get people thinking about what they would do. Take your airline example. The people who pay attention & think about how they would evac a plane will do better than those who never do, even if they never drill it. When I suggest above the idea of role playing, it would not be to drill people into a response, but to give them a safe place to think about what they would do, and an opportunity for a professional to show them critical mistakes.

        Once they are thinking about it, and they have critical knowledge, they can run permutations through their head, building something of a decision tree that they can draw from.

        That person, if they are not paralyzed with fear in the moment, has an advantage over the person who hasn’t thought about it, or who refuses to.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Patrick says:

      I think you misunderstand the nature of these decisions. I really highly doubt it has anything to do with “let the professionals handle it”, that’s the decision-making process of a rational decision maker.

      No, that’s the response of a detached decision-maker, that is, one who is not engaged in the immediacy of the situation presented them.

      Another large chunk of folks basically revert to flight, because again, they’re not engaged in rational decision making.

      Flight is very rational. So is “wait till hi kills lots of other people who will try to stop him.” So is “wait till he runs out of bullets killing other people and flee when he reloads”. There are all sorts of “rational decision-making” in this scenario, no? What decides which one is the *right* one?Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Stillwater says:

        To clarify, Still:

        If you respond via flight without thinking about it, you’re doing lizard brain stuff. It may actually be the right decision from a rational decision-making standpoint, but you’re not taking the time to do a risk analysis. You’re just doing.Report

  17. Avatar Kim says:

    Just to meld a few threads, over in a different thread zic’s talking about being casually sexually assaulted.

    Am I wrong to assume that if one has just been assaulted (and the attacker is moving on with his business), that it is illegal to attack him? That, in order for “self-defense” to be an option, he still needs to be impinging on ones… “personal zone”?Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kim says:

      That is my understanding. I suppose one could argue some kind of extenuating circumstances, etc., but I’m not sure it would be read as a clear case.

      In short, if you shot him in the back, it’s going to weaken your case for self defense.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        oh, lord, i wasn’t even thinking guns. Just giving the bastard a good punch in the kidneys. “He was behind me, officer, and had just casually assaulted me. I had sufficient reason to believe another assault was likely.”
        (actually, the rules on citizen arrest might start to come to play. You can probably detain the person with a gun, and shoot him if he makes violent moves towards you.)Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Not sure, talk to a lawyer.Report

    • Avatar Citizen in reply to Kim says:

      My wifes solution to that type assault is a little sketchy. Something about men have to sleep sometime and most women have a 2 pound cast iron skillet in the kitchen.
      The lethal/non-lethal application probably depends on whether the man exposes the back of his head while sleeping and whether the woman has a stern belief in the double tap.Report

  18. Avatar greginak says:

    FWIW i’ve read that in the recent Las Vegas shooting where a married couple of “patriot” Bundy right wing nutbags/ domestic terrorist types killed two cops they also killed a third guy who was an armed citizen. The third victim saw the male kill the cops and went to help but didn’t see the wife who shot him repeatedly. He may have had the best intentions but, by definition, active shooting scenes are chaotic and dangerous, so he may have gotten himself killed.

    If true it doesn’t prove one side right or wrong. It does suggest the NRA Good Guy with a Gun ad campaign is a wee bit over simplified. There are no easy answers for any part of this debate.Report

  19. Avatar Kazzy says:


    I briefly participated in Scouting (I believe only at the Cub level) so I don’t think I got it there. It’s more likely that a combination of innate independence and being the third of four children to two parents who combined to work three jobs before separating when I was about 9 that I simply developed a mindset whereby I always make sure I’m taken care of. This includes an eye toward preparedness in all situations.

    Come to think of it, this sort of dovetails with your main point. Because I couldn’t (or didn’t feel that I could, more accurately) rely on my parents (“the authorities”) I developed a certain skill set to fend for myself.Report

  20. Avatar notme says:


    I sincerely hope the uni charges the guy with the pepper spray. It will be the best point they could possibly make about the absurdity of the no weapons whole thing.Report