Lately there have been people who get their hands on guns and proceed to kill innocent people for political or personal reasons. This is a huge threat today with the rise of Islamic extremism and radical beliefs both foreign and domestically. People in general still don’t grasp the reality that no place is safe from this reality. No amount of security or legislation is going to prevent these people from killing many people. This is most evident in gun-free zones where no one is allowed the basic liberty of being armed in order to defend against an active shooter. This leads to easy pickings for those that want to go on a killing rampage. Even the UK, who has a complete ban on all firearms, has a lot of issues with shootings. Amazing how criminals find a way around the laws to commit armed crimes anyways, huh? This also was evident in Paris with the massive casualties that resulted from the well-coordinated attacks that could have been prevented if France wasn’t so afraid of offending people.
We have seen that the only way to respond and stop an active shooter is to shoot back. This has been shown in such events as in the Oregon mall where a man went into the mall and started shooting at people before someone with a concealed firearm confronted the man and returned fire. This effectively ended the shooting and caused the shooter to not only flee, but to take his own life once he realized his act of terrorism was over. The people that are aware of these threats are trying to arm themselves with training and gear that can help them respond effectively to an active shooter situation. This is a very good thing to see, but we must be wise about how we are preparing. Sometimes people take things out of hand and have fantasies about how they are going to save the day as a lone operator like Bruce Willis in Die Hard. They carry a ridiculous amount of little pocket things like they are about to go to war with the town. They will be carrying things like three pistols, ten magazines, two knives, 550 cord, flashlights, etc.
If you are serious about remaining prepared to confront an active shooter, there are a few things that you must be aware of. First thing is that we must remain aware of the reality of what can happen during an active shooting. The response by law enforcement is most likely going to be immediate and very aggressive with cordons and active armed responses to those they see with firearms. There are a lot of people that are carrying full loads of body armor with hundreds of rifle rounds in molle pouches and have a rifle ready in their vehicle to respond. They also are stashing full trauma kits in their vehicles and other gear that you would only see in a SWAT officer cruiser, who must be ready to be called up at any moment in time.
This kind of preparation is unnecessary and the idea of having time to gear up for an active shooter and rush to the rescue is foolhardy at best. The idea of running around in body armor and a fully loaded rifle through a mall will undoubtedly get you engaged by law enforcement or a person who is carrying. You will look like the active shooter, and unless you are screaming and shouting, and making yourself a target yourself, you may end up getting shot in the process. Then there is the variable of taking the time to get geared up. Firstly, people I hear talking about this are under the impression that they will have time to run back to their vehicle, get geared up, and come back to be a hero of the masses. If you flee the scene and then return, you are asking for trouble and it is just irresponsible to think that is practical. The time it will take will just end up with more people dead while you’re gearing up like a weekend operator.
The next thing is the idea that they will drive up to a place where an active shooting is taking place and then get geared up for a fight. Again you run the risk of taking friendly fire in the process of responding. Even if all you do is grab a six magazine bandoleer and a rifle or shotgun to respond, you are still going to look like the active shooter who came geared up with the purpose of shooting a lot of rounds. This can cause law enforcement to be very suspicious of your actions and rightfully so. And again you’re using up valuable time that counts. Seconds count in these situations and it isn’t going to help people to show up late in all your gear.
It is feasible that you could be on scene for a public shooting or a massive accident where you could be the first responder and need to provide medical aid to people. I have been there a few times in my life and it will require good training and a cool head to react and respond with good judgment. I found that a full med kit actually was quite useful for me when providing sustainable aid until paramedics or other medical professionals arrived. Now as far as people keeping trauma kits in their pocket while walking in public, I have no idea where this became a trend, but it is growing. I can understand a pocket med kit with band aids and gauze with some disinfectants and pain killers, but I prefer to go light and use things around me to assist if I should need to provide aid on the spot. There are several ways that a person can provide temporary aid without all these pocket kits. You carry them on you daily when you get dressed to go out. Your T-shirt and shoe laces or belt are a field expedient bandage/pressure dressing and tourniquet. It is not ideal but it is effective if you have nothing else. That being said, yes I believe it is good to try and provide aid to people, but only if they are close to your reported position. Running away to your vehicle and then reentering to provide medical aid is an unwise and fantasy based idea.
If I should find myself in a situation where I should need to respond to an active shooting, I prefer to keep my weapon holstered until I have positive ID on the threat. This will allow me to retain my appearance as an unarmed bystander to anyone else who may be armed. It isn’t advisable to run around a public setting with your gun drawn until you have begun engaging your threat. Also keep in mind that police can’t respond unless they know the situation. Now with this in mind, your first and most important asset and job is to get on that phone and provide as detailed of an explanation as possible. Information such as the situation, the shooters dress and weapon type, the shooters race and relative height, the shooters location and direction, your location and dress, your situation and response to the shooter are very important to report. Remember that you want to paint a picture of the situation with words. Give estimates as to the casualty numbers and perhaps any specific targets, where the shooting started, etc. Details will help them respond to the situation more effectively and quickly instead of having to go in blind.
An example of what your report to dispatch, or an officer you may be transferred to is: “There is an active shooting at ******. The shooter is near the fountain at the east wing wearing blue jeans, a black hoody, and is armed with a bolt action rifle. There are about a dozen people wounded and still responsive to my calls and about five dead from what I can tell. I am pinned down behind the pillar on the north wing and have exchanged fire with the shooter while moving to this position and he/she is currently on the ground wounded. My name is Don and I am wearing black pants and a green hoody. There are still some people in some of the stores to my left and right next to where the shooter is. I am covering him/her in place and do not intend to move from my position of cover. What do you want me to do?” This is just an example of the kind of detail that you should provide to the dispatch right away, as soon as you can grab your phone and call. Now some locations will want you to flee, while others will tell you not to move.
It may take up to an hour before any entry is made, depending on, based on the time it takes for the response teams to arrive on location and make a plan of entry based on your provided information and details. They will most likely still sweep the whole building on the way to you and the shooter in case there is a second shooter. This is standard active shooter response procedure. Once the response team shows up, you can expect to be handcuffed, as with everyone else in the area. This is normal in order to maintain strict control of the situation. You may be treated like the shooter and be greeted with several rifles aimed at your head and chest as you are given loud and quick orders. Follow every one of these orders very quickly and keep those hands very visible. If you argue or make any awkward movements, you will get a sample of how quickly your local law enforcement applies deadly force.
If you are involved in responding to an active shooter, it isn’t advised to move from your position, even to provide aid to the wounded. This may sound heartless and selfish, but this is for your own safety. You can provide aid to those that are in your immediate vicinity, but your job after delivering an armed response is to limit your movement. This can have an effect on your legal standing, especially if you advance on the shooter when he/she is down. You should not provide aid or make an armed advance and attempt to disarm the shooter. In some areas, you can be charged with being the aggressor. This is why you should remain in place and let law enforcement take control. You are probably going to have to justify every action you perform in court later on.
All in all, in order to remain prepared, we must keep in mind the reality of what it takes to stop an active shooter. Yes you must remain proficient with your carry piece in order to limit collateral damage, but it is equally important to know how to report the situation to dispatch. This can make a huge difference in the turnout of the situation and how you are treated post shooting by law enforcement. Know your laws, know the SOPs for responding to an active shooter, and most importantly, practice being detailed and reporting small details that can be important for painting a picture of your situation. Don’t overthink it, don’t think you’re going to have time to suit up, and don’t be ridiculous with expectations. Be the silent, swift, detailed, and ready guardian. This is just my take on this subject, so you may disagree. Just keep these things in mind before you start preparing.
David served in the USMC for a few years. Deployed twice and got wounded. Retired and moved to Alaska. Has a passion for reviewing and testing guns and gear of all kinds. Enjoys working to dispel myths and show that you can train and practice in a realistic, safe, and practical way.