After the carnage like we’ve witnessed in American cities such as San Bernardino and Orlando, and more recently in Europe, the national conversation tends to shift temporarily back toward gun control legislation and how to best protect ourselves in the homeland from future terrorist attacks.
Sadly, however, what is always absent from these post-tragedy conversations is any mention of one change with enormous potential to save lives—one which would not require controversial legislation, millions of dollars, nor procurement of expensive advanced technologies. This change includes an overdue re-examination of how unarmed civilians should respond during these events, including how federal, state, and local authorities tell the public to respond.
Most every American has at some point either discussed or practiced an “active shooter response” based on guidance developed by the Department of Homeland Security.
Originally created, in part, as a buffer against potential lawsuits in the wake of a Nebraska mall shooting in late 2007, the guidance teaches us to run away if possible, hide if you are unable to escape, and fight back only as a last resort.
Today, “Run, Hide, Fight” is taught to everyone and mandated not only by the DHS, but also by the FBI, law enforcement…and even the military, including for its own members. Fear of lawsuits (by grieving family members of victims who fought back) still drives this and indirectly paralyzes everyone into watching helplessly as the active shooter and terrorist menace rampages. . . .
The mindset that we are helpless without weapons is not only self-defeating, but dangerous, and government policy that reinforces this perception is a flawed one.
A September 2013 FBI report found that of the 160 active shooter incidents in the U.S. between 2010 and 2013, 21 (13.1 percent) ended after unarmed citizens made the “selfless and deeply personal choices” to confront the active shooters. In each of these cases, the citizens “safely and successfully disrupted the shootings” and “likely saved the lives” of many others present.
Another compelling reason to consider change is because future attacks are inevitable, and relying on police rescue might actually lower your own chance of survival.
The 2013 FBI report found that of those 160 active shooter incidents—incidents that generated 1,043 total casualties—60 percent ended before police arrived. These disturbing numbers warrant attention, especially when examined alongside CIA Director John Brennan’s recent remarks: “ISIL has a large cadre of Western fighters who could potentially serve as operatives for attacks in the West … our efforts have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability and global reach … [and] we judge that it will intensify its global terror campaign.”
Yep. The real first responders are the people who are already there. Related thoughts here.