“If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen: a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath–a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? Then you are a sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.” Dave Grossman
There were two general reactions to the cowardly shooting in Colorado. The sheep thought “Thank God I was not in that theater, I would have died”. The sheep dogs thought “If I had been in the theater, maybe I could have done something to stop him”.
No one can plan a response to such an unpredictable attack. We can, however, think about how to think. We can prepare and strengthen ourselves so that when we are there, we will be prepared to do all that we can do. I don’t want to speculate about what happened or second guess anyone’s actions, but we can have a discussion about what we should think about for the next time.
I have seen film of the Nazi’s leading people to the edge of a hole where they were executed. One body would fall in and the next victim walked to the edge and repeated the process. I always wondered why they didn’t fight. They were in denial and hoped that things would turn out OK if they just cooperated.
The first thing I want to do in a shooting is dismiss the false hope that everything may work out if I do nothing. If I freeze like prey, maybe he will move on. There is a school of thought among some police officers that when you are off duty, you should be a good witness and not intervene. What do you do when they are killing witnesses?
Once you get rid of false hope, you are left with action. When you have to eat a shit sandwich, bite the corner where it is mostly bread. The truth is, your best odds are to rapidly asses, come up with a plan and do ANYTHING which seizes initiative and initiates movement.
Tony Blauer has done more thinking and study on ambush than anyone I know. He has three golden rules for an unexpected attack:
1) Accept what is happening It is human nature to avoid the unpleasant and ignore the incomprehensible. Have the courage to face reality.
2) Get challenged No matter what the odds, you need to rise to the challenge. Don’t accept a no win situation.
3) Keep moving and thinking Countless millions have spent their last moments on Earth paralyzed by confusion. Don’t be counted among them.
When we are confronted with any problem, the human mind scrolls through our knowledge base searching for information on how to react. This is often described by survivors as “my life flashed before my eyes.” Your brain is scanning it’s data. “Man with a gun”, is there an app for that? Merely reading this article makes you more likely to respond effectively. Imagine what a little training could do.
FBI statistics on police shootings say that over all, about 85% of shooting victims survive. The important lesson: you may not be hit and even if you are hit, you probably won’t die. If you can feel pain, you can still fight.
Your best move may be to take your family away from danger. If you aren’t a cop, you don’t have a duty to act. No one can blame you if you take care of your own. You could hit the floor and shield your loved ones with your body. What happens after you are shot? Your children may have to watch you die and leave them helpless.
There was noise and smoke and darkness. People were panicked and confused. Those who noted the location of the fire exits as they sat down that night had an advantage. The first to recognize a man coming in the fire exit with smoke bombs had more time to plan and act. Situational awareness is the primary survival skill. Recognizing the problem is the first step in solving it. The first to move probably escaped.
What if the bad man blocks your way? As I see it, your options narrow to one. There needs to be what Tony Blauer calls a “predator-prey reversal”. Armed or unarmed, you must plan an attack. This is not a foolish act of bravado, it is the only logical alternative to probable death for you and perhaps your loved ones.
If you have never studied a fighting style, you have the rest of your life to develop one.
The noise, darkness and confusion affect the bad guys too. Side Show Bob was wearing a gas mask and target fixated on his victims. This made him vulnerable. There will be a pause for reloads or jams or distractions. Look for them and be ready to act.
Even if you have a firearm, you may not have a shot. Body armor might negate center of mass handgun shots. You need to get close. If you don’t have a gun you shouldn’t just wait to die. I may get shot trying to take his gun, but I may get his gun. If he is fighting with me, my loved ones can escape. It buys time for others. I have trained for this fight all my life, he is a coward with a gun, I bet I will win.
I have been asked “What if you act and the police shoot you in the confusion?” If the cops shoot me in the back saving a theater full of people, that is a fair trade. I’ll be drinking blood wine with Kahless in Sto-Vo-Kor before the next sunrise. I just hope they don’t hit me in the spine and just cripple me. I will be a tragic hero and Woody Harrelson will probably play the role of me in the anti-gun film version.
I cannot imagine how the families and survivors must feel. My heart and prayers go out to them. More terrible than death would be the thought that I could have made a difference, but failed to act. My guilt and shame would be eternal.
We can’t stay safe in a bunker or carry enough guns to protect everyone, everywhere. We can actively look for danger, recognize and avoid it. We can mourn the innocent, but we can’t change what happened. Let us reflect on our fitness and training and prepare for tomorrow. When we are confronted by evil, we will respond as we have trained and mentally rehearsed.
“Chance favors the prepared mind.” Louis Pasteur
In the wake of the Aurora, CO shootings, SOFREP wants to raise YOUR awareness to your personal safety. Please continue to read:
- A Green Beret’s Response to the Aurora Shooting
- Navy SEAL Lessons Learned From Aurora Colorado
- How to Travel Safely in Foreign Countries
(Featured Image courtesy of Yadvashem.org)
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