Active Shooters

By Bob Campbell published on in Defensive Tactics, Safety, Training

Our personal defense and firearms expert takes a hard look at a difficult problem. The problem is not the lack of a plan. The problem is being willing to implement the plan. When a discussion of active shooters and mass shootings comes up, the right-minded among us want to do something and to have a plan. 

Black handled Glock 19 9mm in a black holster with a red decoration on a light gray background

A compact 9mm, such as the GLOCK 19, will meet the needs of most shooters if properly deployed (shown in a pinkpistolholsters.com holster).

Unfortunately, each event is unique, and a plan does not fit every scenario. And a plan is not as good as having a prepared person willing to act. Often, there is some warning the event is coming, other times not. I think we are past any thoughts of relying on police to stop the event. The police have proven good at cleanup and counting bodies. We will not rehash Columbine, where the police gathered their forces while students died. Nor will we consider the actions at Virginia Tech. Witnesses saw heavily armed police pointing guns at the buildings. There was a warning that morning, with two homicides, but there was no increase in security nor did authorities lock down the campus.

Would it have made a difference?

We do not know, and for each of these events, singular as they are, we need to have a willingness to take  immediate action. Since the killer picks gun-free zones, there will be victims and no police, or perhaps incidentally, there will be police. If you are unarmed, then you cannot participate in your own rescue, much less rescue anyone else.

Your options are to:

  • Prostrate yourself before the event
  • Hit him with everything you have

First, you must ask what your position is. Are you a target, the object of the monster’s rage, or are you one among many? Escape looks good if you do not know what is going on. After all, we do not wish to intercede in a gang battle. If my family is with me, nothing is more important than them. I will fight to safety, find an exit and spare their lives, if possible.

If you know what the situation is, are armed and able to act, then the situation changes. And hopefully, you will be well armed and able to respond. A .380 automatic is not useful at 25 yards. In my opinion, the sub-caliber pistols are of little use at bad-breath range. An aberrant or drugged mind makes for a body difficult to stop. You win the fight if you kill the shooter before he kills you. Simple enough.

Black compact 9mm, barrel pointed to the left on a white background

The compact 9mm is a formidable handgun in the hands of a skilled shooter.

A rapid presentation into a stable firing position and getting a solid hit with a credible caliber works against a rifle-armed shooter. If you miss, or the 9mm does not do the business, then you may be dead instead of the person shooting at you being dead. If the range is close, shooting between the eyes looks good. Head shots can actually be a problem since the lower jaw may absorb a lot of damage. The area where the base of the skull meets the spine (occipital ridge) is resistant to small-bore rounds.

You are under no requirement to warn the shooter or to tell him to stop shooting. In fact, if you yell at him, you are asking to be shot. So make sure your shot is deliberate and accurate. If you have practiced point shooting, do not fire in a crowd, but now it is too late to learn traditional marksmanship skills. If you have the arms and the skill to stop a murder—or a mass murder—you should if you are mentally prepared.

The only choice is to run, get out of the way—or die.

If you have decided to be armed, you should be adequately armed and well trained. Nothing else is morally acceptable.

Gray haired man in green shirt, blue jeans and red ear protection practices his shooting skills with wooded area in the background.

Practice hard and practice often.

I understand that there are places where you cannot be armed, and at those times, perhaps a knife is acceptable. A good knife is a respectable personal defense instrument and better than tooth and nail.

The point is—you must act. And if by acting, you save lives; then, in my opinion, morally and legally the shooter must die.

As many of you know, my background includes some study of psychology. In psychology, we wonder why the miserable individual does what he does. For self-preservation, we cannot consider the motivation, only the problem.

And the problem is the person must be stopped.

Have you been in a life-or-death situation where you had to act, or die? Known someone who has? How did you handle it? Share in the comments section.

SLRule

Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooter’s Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.

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Comments (22)

  • Knight2

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    CCW a Glock 30 with two magazines. Since I have started carrying I now scan the people wherever I am, the exits and doors and look for a possible cover if needed. Guns do not make me nervous when they are holstered, but once they clear the holster, that all changes. I look for any signs in the entrance of a business, if it says No Weapons/Guns I leave and spend my money elsewhere. The first rule in a gun fight is to have a gun and I’ll not keep mine in my car when I can legally carry in my state.

    Reply

  • John Sayler

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    Bob–Great article.
    This article should be more wisely available given the recent tragedy in Las Vegas, with the ambush of 2 Metro officers while eating lunch in a local pizza parlor and the unfortunate death of a CCW holder Joseph Wilcox in a Walmart. According to police reports, Joseph confronted one of the active shooters but lost his situational awareness and failed to notice the female companion to the active shooter. She shot an killed Joseph from behind before Joseph could engage either shooters.
    I wholeheartedly agree that placed in the situation, the active shooter must die. We CCW holders have a moral obligation to protect others. But situational awareness MUST be paramount.
    Being well trained is the responsibility of every CCW holder.
    Situational awareness is the key to survival.
    Thanks,
    JS

    Reply

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