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Friday, July 20, 2012

What to do in a mass shooting situation

There are no simple rules for every mass shooting situation, but in most of the worst of the incidents we have seen in recent years, there is one response that almost anyone can make that is most likely to hold down the deaths and injuries:

Swarm the assailants!

That is of course contrary to the panicked instincts of most people in such situations. It is also the opposite of what the assailants expect and for which they are prepared. Yes, it could get one killed or injured, but people need to make the protection of others their priority. Better to die or suffer major injury than to spend the rest of your life agonizing over the possibility that you could have taken action that could have saved someone.

The wise try to anticipate how things can go wrong and prepare for how to deal with that. There are many such things, and no one can anticipate them all, but this is one for which people can prepare themselves mentally, by conceiving response plans, rehearsing them, and if the occasion arises, carrying out the plan. There isn't time in such situations to develop plans. One has to have one's plans ready.

Now some ways of swarming are better than others, and it helps if others join in doing so. Perhaps the best thing we as a society can do is to decide among ourselves that the first person aware of the danger yell out "Swarm him" or "Take him down" or something similar. Then do it immediately without waiting for others to join in. Assume you are going to have to take the lead.

If possible, try to secure the direction of the main weapon, such as by knocking his gun arm upward, to keep the firearm pointed in the safest direction, which is usually upward. Try to pin the arm or the weapon and take it out of his hand.

Needless to say, it also helps to have gotten some combat training in taking down assailants. Many martial arts training programs cover such techniques.

There is a two-step rule in combat: Distract, then attack. You want to divert the attention of the assailant from you before you reach him. There are many ways to do that. It could be a loud shout. It could be throwing something at him. In a restaurant that could be a plate thrown like a discus, and it doesn't matter if it still has some food on it.

Be aware of the possibility of there being other assailants you haven't seen yet. You may need to disarm the first assailant and use his weapon against his associates.

Many people call for more people to carry weapons to deal with such situations, and that can be important in some cases, but one has to train oneself for situations assuming one does not have a weapon, or that it cannot be drawn or safely used. A truly well-trained person does not rely on having or using a weapon, but prepares to act without one, because that is the situation in which one is most likely to find oneself. Habitually carrying can encourage a mindset of dependency on the use of a firearm. Too many police officers develop that mindset, and the result is more use of firearms than is appropriate, especially since most of them are not very skilled in the combat use of firearms. Even persons who regularly carry are likely not to have it when it is really needed. So plan for not having it.

It also helps to have the right mental attitude. I have long said, "No one can be truly free who has not said goodbye to life." Once one has done that one can face anything without fear, and focus on doing what has to be done, on doing the right thing, regardless of personal consequences.

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