Fighting Words

Political candidate Ben Carson is drawing some criticism for his advice to people who in the future find themselves in an active-shooter situation.  He challenged people to be less passive in such situations, if necessary to face death fighting against the shooter(s) rather than allowing themselves to be executed without a fight.

Personally, I’ve marveled over how rarely shooters face opposition.  I’ll go ahead and use the same caveat that others are throwing around as they criticize Carson – I’ve never been in an active shooter situation and therefore I can’t be sure how I would react in that situation.  However I like to think that if I found myself in that situation – and my vocation certainly makes that possible in a variety of ways – I would be willing to risk my life to save others.

Carson is being criticized because fighting an active shooter is widely considered to be a last resort.  And certainly, if you have the option of running, maybe that’s your best first option.  If you have a good place to hide, maybe that’s a reasonable second-best option.  Then again, these are very good options for protecting your own life, but they won’t be of much help to anyone else.  I can understand that some people are not going to be very effective at neutralizing an armed gunman, but I would certainly think this ought to be something people contemplate at least a little bit, as opposed to simply saving their own rear ends.

If you’re in a classroom on a campus, your options of hiding are pretty slim.  In which case, why not have a plan to fight?  I’m pretty sure if chairs or desks or textbooks started flying at the door as the shooter tried to enter, he would likely seriously consider another classroom.  Sure, he might shoot blindly through the door, but his odds of fatally wounding someone will be a lot lower than if he walks in unopposed and gets to play executioner.

The psychologists can babble all day long, but my take on these scenarios is that they are power trips.  The shooters are people who feel emasculated or disenfranchised or powerless or otherwise hopeless about their life situation and how to deal with it. The power the killer gets in the moment, and the fame they hope to achieve in a life they’ve otherwise determined isn’t going to amount to much, is the psychological rush and motivation.  For the span of their killing spree, they are the ones in control.  They decide who lives and who dies and on what criteria.

Preparing people to cower in a corner is not the best response to such a situation.  A great deal of attention has been given over the past few years to the issue of bullying and those who stand up to bullies are lauded as heroes and role models.  Yet for some reason, in this ultimate act of bullying what is taught is compliance and docility.  These don’t, at least based on media coverage of mass shootings, seem to be very helpful.

People who kill other people are extreme bullies.  I’m not saying charge a shooter if you have a better option for getting yourself and others to safety.  But if you’re cornered in a classroom or another environment with no way to hide, then psyching yourself up for battle is not an unreasonable option, and certainly not one that should be publicly ridiculed.  I’m not aware of shooters in these situations who simply decided to quit killing people.  They quit killing people when they were either subdued, killed by police, or injured so badly that they decided to kill themselves.  They don’t get bored.  They don’t appear very swayed by emotional appeals.  If he hadn’t been injured by gunfire, the latest shooter would undoubtedly have kept killing people in that classroom.

So I agree with Carson.  Sure, no need to be reckless.  But do start thinking about whether your goal is to fight or to hide.  Take some time to learn a little bit about trajectory and how to minimize the chances of being struck with a random bullet.  Try to organize others who seem able and willing to join. Grab desks or chairs or textbooks.  Pens, pencils, potted plants, staplers, cell phones, whatever.   Do so quietly, in case the shooter passes by.  Have someone standing behind the door, hopefully out of sight with a laptop or something sturdy to try and hit the person in the head with.  It may sound like a long shot, but once the shooter enters the room unopposed, the odds of dying go up drastically.

You might die.  But wouldn’t it be better to die fighting, and perhaps succeed in dissuading the shooter from his goals, or even incapacitating him so that he can’t continue?  If you’re going to possibly die, wouldn’t it be better to do so in an effort to save the lives of others?

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One Response to “Fighting Words”

  1. 6 big ones Says:

    Kill the bastard, or he will kill you

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