What To Do When Facing an Active Gunman Situation
Let's forget about Hollywood or even our own imaginations for a second. Every single day, in the United States, somebody somewhere is being subjected to illegal violent force. There are three basic strategies to facing off against a violent opponent: flee, fight, or roll over.
None of these are guarantees. There's no saying because you run, you live, and there's no saying that if you roll belly-up to your attacker, he will show you mercy. And lastly, just because you're a good guy with a gun doesn't mean you “win”. The closest definition to a “win” would be both parties leave, walking upright. Second to that is the attacking party is neutralized without injury to your party. And close to third would be that you live to see another day.
In this article, we'll take your commonly asked questions and talk about the immediate reaction and response to an active gunman situation.
“Do I Need To Call The Police Prior To Engaging?”
And if you have the time to get the hell out of the area, you should be on the phone with police helping to identify the gunman, any casualties, and any other supporting information you can provide.
Self-defensive shooting is for reacting immediately to a violent situation that you have been thrust into without your permission. And in that event, neutralize the immediate threat that you can identify. After neutralizing that threat, secure your area. That doesn't mean patrolling the vicinity or setting up a perimeter, it means visually securing the area around you and, if possible, moving to an easier position that gives you more of an advantage.
Don't worry about securing the downed opponent's gun or approaching him at all. If anything, give yourself space. Advise everyone else to give him space. He may not be dead. If he moves, warn him to stay put and let him know police are on their way. If he raises his gun, “re-neutralize” him. Do not expose yourself to additional risk. Do not be a hero.
If you hear shooting going on outside of your visual sight, call the police and move to the closest secure location where you can get cover and concealment. You are more invaluable as someone who can report the movement and location of potential bad guys than as another variable in an emergency police response.
MOST IMPORTANTLY: DO NOT JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER. In an active shooter situation, unless you see people shooting each other, you cannot assume a man (or woman) with a gun is a bad guy. It could be a plainclothes or off-duty officer responding to the scene, it could be another concealed carrier with a lot less sense than you. Don't try to reach out or make contact. Keep your area secure. That's it. No more, no less. Take cover, observe, report to police via your cell phone. Identify yourself accordingly when uniformed police approach. Go from there.
“Are There Ways To Train For It?”
Yes! Yes, yes, yes, and yes. It starts today with reinforcing the core principles of firearm safety and we heartily encourage you to consider attending an advanced pistol or self-defense workshop that implements safe approaches to handling situations with a loaded firearm.
• Advanced pistol and self-defense courses/workshops
• Monthly pistol range practice
• Unloaded draw and visual acuity drills
A concealed carry course is a great first step but learning is a life-long endeavor. You fight how you train. So if you don't train, your fighting will be very unpredictable. If you do train, your fighting will naturally gear to that training.
“Are There Legal Consequences For My Shooting?”
Yes! You are never “off the hook” for your performance with your firearm. If you shoot someone who is not the bad guy, you will be charged for shooting that person. This includes police officers, first responders, off-duty and non-uniformed police officers, bystanders... Everyone. There is no reasonable excuse for shooting someone who is not placing you under direct threat. That's why you ensure you are under direct threat prior to engaging a target.
Worst of all, if you open fire on the wrong people, they can and will return fire with absolutely no legal repercussions because you have placed them under direct threat. Do not be the direct threat to other good guys – make sure you understand the threat before engaging.
“What If I Miss And Hit A Bystander?”
Depending on the circumstances, you may be criminally charged with hitting that bystander. Even if the county prosecutor decides not to press charges due to the gravity of the circumstances you were placed under, you are still open to civil litigation from the family of the deceased or injured.
It is better to hold fire or take a judicious shot from cover than to try to do a stormtrooper assault on the bad guy's position. And whenever possible, train, train, and train some more.
About The Author
James England (@sir_jim_england) is the contributing editor for Alien Gear Holsters. He is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and private defense contracting in Afghanistan.