With the spate of mass shooting attacks the last couple years, I’ve had a few people ask my thoughts on responding to a mass shooting as an armed citizen. Someone else asked the same question on a forum recently, and I’ve decided to give my opinion.

When someone asks, “If I wind up in a mass shooting, should I go after the shooter?”, my answer is, “You’re the only one who can answer that.” Only you know your level of skill, experience, toughness and willingness to act. If you know you’re not skilled enough, don’t engage. If you’re not experienced enough, stay back. If you know stubbing your toe makes you fold like origami, keep your distance. If you’d like to engage the shooter but are worried about missing your favorite TV show later that evening, chances are you’re better off doing what most armed citizens would do: getting yourself and your family the hell out of the area. That’s not what I would do, but it’s not wrong.

For the sake of this discussion, let’s assume you’re confident in your abilities, you know there’s a big difference between drawing on a convenience store robber armed with a knife versus going pistol against AR-15 in the crowded Pulse Nightclub, but you’re not real clear on what factors are involved with engaging a mass shooter. So I’ll identify a few things I think you should know and consider. My opinion is based on 22 years of police work, a couple trips to war, and some time spent training police officers how to respond to mass shootings. Please read it, decide for yourself if it’s valid, and do what you think is best. The points below aren’t all-inclusive; there are numerous other factors to consider. This is just a brief summary to get you thinking.

But I won’t stay far away and expect to Glocksnipe him. That’s a fantasy. In some situations it makes sense to keep distance and just report, but if your plan is to put “bullets on bone”, you have to close distance. 

POINT ONE: YOU MIGHT GET REPORTED AS A BAD GUY.

A mass shooting is pure chaos. That chaos leads to bad or contradictory reporting. Bad or contradictory reporting means arriving officers don’t really know what’s going on, or even worse, makes them think a good guy is actually a bad guy.

Imagine this: a middle-aged woman with no tactical experience whatsoever is eating lunch at a mall food court. From the other side of the food court she hears sudden screaming, then rapid gunshots. She looks that direction in disbelief and sees a crowd of people running in all directions. Behind the stampede she briefly glimpses a white man in a black jacket standing still, hands out of view behind a table. He’s the only man calmly standing among the panicked crowd, and looks to her like he’s holding a gun. Her immediate impression is “He’s the shooter.”

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Chris Hernandez is a 22 year police officer, former Marine and recently retired National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com and Iron Mike magazine and has published three military fiction novels, Proof of Our ResolveLine in the Valley and Safe From the War through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at [email protected] or on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ProofofOurResolve).