Research on mass shootings over the last decade has bolstered the idea that people at the scene of an attack have a better chance of survival if they take an active stance rather than waiting to be rescued by the police, who in many cases cannot get there fast enough to prevent the loss of life.
In an analysis of 84 such shooting cases in the United States from 2000 to 2010, for example, researchers at Texas State University found that the average time it took for the police to respond was three minutes.
“But you see that about half the attacks are over before the police get there, even when they arrive quickly,” said J. Pete Blair, director for research of the university’s Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center and an author of the research, which is set to be published in a book this year.
In the absence of a police presence, how victims responded often made the difference between life and death, Dr. Blair said.
In 16 of the attacks studied by the researchers, civilians were able to stop the perpetrator, subduing him in 13 cases and shooting him in 3 cases. In other attacks, civilians have obstructed or delayed the gunman until the police arrived.
Police used to advise that if you find yourself in a mass attack, call 911 and wait for help. If you do that, your chances of getting killed increase. Soft targets in gun-free zones have turned out to be bullet (or knife) catchers.
This research needs to be made known as widespread as possible. Its advice to flee, hide or fight runs counter to the old call and wait for help plan. The Aurora Joker killer researched and targeted the theater he attacked because it was advertised as a gun-free zone. Its status as a soft target attracted him. If we’re all potentially hard targets who are determined to act, though, how likely are these cowards to attack?