My regular readers know I am a strong proponent of gun rights and that I carry a firearm or two every day. I do not intend this post to be a political piece or an argument for the Second Amendment. It is a preliminary look at lessons that preppers and others interested in self-defense can learn from recent mass shootings, including the one in the Buffalo grocery store and in the Texas elementary school.
If writing this so soon after the events offend some, then you have my apologies, but I believe the sooner we learn from these tragedies, the sooner we can prevent a repeat.
Lesson One: Don’t Count on the Police
While information about the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, is still developing, it appears that the local police failed the children and their community by refusing to enter the school and confront the killer. I am disgusted that these local law enforcement officers reportedly handcuffed and even tased parents who tried to access the school yet did little or nothing to confront the gunman for the better part of an hour. How can they have had their priorities so bass-ackwards?
This is sadly similar to the inaction of the Sheriff Deputy at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., who allegedly took cover rather than enter the building and confront the shooter.
If sworn law enforcement officials refuse to confront a criminal who is shooting children, a horrific crime, what are the odds that they will come and save you in your hour of need?
The Texas school shooting shows us that even when police are on the scene, they might not do anything to stop an ongoing threat. Instead of confronting the shooter, possibly interrupting his shooting rampage and saving lives, responding officers called for backup because they were afraid of being shot.
I’m sorry, but running towards gunfire is part of the job. It’s what you signed up for. When you put on the blue, you put a target on your back. In my opinion, any cop that can’t say they are mentally and physically prepared to risk their life to take down a bad guy who is killing innocents should reconsider their position on the force.
You need to be prepared to protect yourself because you can’t count on the police.
Lesson Two: Don’t Rely on Passive Security
As of now, I don’t know how the shooter gained access to the school or to that particular classroom. If he was outside shooting at the school for twelve minutes, as has been widely reported, then why wasn’t the entire building on lockdown? Why was a classroom door unlocked?
The lesson here is that you may have the best locks, the highest walls, and the loudest alarm, but they will not necessarily save your life. These devices can slow down an attacker, but they might not stop them. Use that time to ready yourself to fight back.
Unfortunately, no one in the elementary school was in a position to fight back, and that leads us to our next lesson.
Lesson Three: Have a Gun
The only thing that can consistently stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Multiple good guys with guns are even better.
Too many mass shootings take place in so called “gun free” zones, like schools. The laws prohibiting the carrying of firearms are, like many others, flouted by criminals. Why? Because criminals break laws and gun-free zones are full of potential victims that cannot shoot back.
I can’t count the number of videos online of armed robbers who had the tables turned on them by the clerk at the liquor or convenience store who had a gun. Yet we leave our children virtually unprotected. That’s a sad statement about our priorities.
In Israel decades ago, Palestinian gunmen would attack schools. Israel responded by arming teachers. School attacks dropped. Most teachers I know would risk their lives to protect their students, something the cops in Uvalde were apparently afraid to do. Arming our teachers is an obvious solution to mass shootings in school.
This lesson applies in your life as well. You can’t predict when a threat arises, so you need to be armed at all times. I don’t leave the house expecting to shoot someone or something, but I leave the house knowing that should I have to defend myself against man or beast, I am mentally prepared and physically equipped to do so effectively.
Guns are the great equalizer. They allow a 102 pound woman to deter an aggressive 240 pound male, but only if the gun is within reach and the woman knows how to use it. If you own a gun and have a concealed carry permit, why aren’t you carrying it?
Lesson Four: Practice Head Shots
In the grocery store in Buffalo, a retired police officer working security engaged the bad guy early in his shooting rampage. The officer’s bullets were apparently ineffective because the shooter wore body armor. From what I have read, the shooter in Texas had a load-bearing vest that offered no ballistic protection, although it may have looked like body armor.
Because AR500 steel armor plates cost only a couple hundred dollars, shooting the perp in the center of mass, as we have been trained to do, may be ineffective. You should practice head shots, which means aiming at that small triangle formed by the eyes and nose. That requires accuracy. Accuracy requires practice.
Set up a 4-inch steel target at head height and stand at least 10 yards back. Draw your gun and fire one shot. If you hit it, you live. Do that ten times in a row. How many times did you live? Are you satisfied with those odds? Practice weekly until you can live with the results. Remember, don’t practice until you can hit the target, practice until you can’t miss it.
Consider Pelvis Shots
If a headshot is too difficult because of the size or motion of their head, then aim for the pelvis. A good shot to the pelvis or upper legs might knock the shooter down, could impede their mobility and slow their attack, or could even cause them to bleed out. Those all sound like pretty good alternatives to letting them continue with a mass shooting.
An instructor I trained with in the late 1990s taught us a technique to “zip up” a target, starting by shooting at the belly button and letting the gun rise with recoil, up through the chest and finally to the head by the third or fourth shot (assuming they were still standing). It may be time to re-evaluate that tactic of shooting below and above any possible body armor to stop a shooter. I think the idea of “zipping up” a target has merit if you are shooting a pistol.
Lesson Five: Attack an Active Shooter
We’ve known since Columbine in 1999 that an active shooter must be engaged and taken down as fast as possible, rendering them incapable of killing others. They need to be engaged and, if not killed, at least distracted, to prevent them from concentrating on killing innocents. Police train for active shooters. They even run drills in schools.
The responding officers in Buffalo didn’t hesitate. They ran into the store and stopped the shooter. Those officers are heroes who saved lives.
Why the local law enforcement in Texas didn’t do the same is a mystery that will no doubt lead to lawsuits. Those officers could also have been heroes. Now they go to bed every night wondering how many children’s lives they could have saved if they had acted more boldly.
If you, a private citizen, are caught in a situation where you are in a grocery store or other crowded public structure and someone starts firing a gun, you have three options: Run, hide, or fight back. What you do depends on many variables: Are you with your children? Are you in immediate danger? Are you armed with a 5-shot .38 revolver or a 15-shot 9mm? If there are multiple shooters, can you determine who is the bad guy? Does this look like gang activity, or is it a mass shooting targeting innocents? What are the chances that a responding officer will shoot you by mistake?
I will not second guess a private citizen for running in this scenario. Their job is to protect themselves and their family. But if running isn’t an option? Be prepared to use your gun to save your life.
Cops, on the other hand, I expect more from.
Lesson Six: Have Access to a Long Gun
It appears that in both these cases, the initial responding officers used pistols. I’ve always been taught that you carry a pistol because it is concealable. But you use your pistol to fight your way to your long gun, which is more powerful and has better fight-stopping capabilities. This, of course, implies you have a long gun. I don’t know whether the first officers on the scene in Texas had rifles.
Police should have rifles in their vehicles. Police started moving away from shotguns and towards 5.56 rifles and carbines in police cruisers after the North Hollywood Shootout in 1997, where bank robbers in body armor were unharmed after being shot repeatedly by police armed with pistols and shotguns. The 5.56 caliber bullet can penetrate concealable vests rated to stop only pistol bullets.
As a prepper, you need to have access to rifles and carbines in a caliber that can penetrate soft body armor. Rifles are also more accurate than pistols, possibly allowing you to make that head shot. Again, it takes practice that builds confidence in your skills and your weapon.
In a home invasion robbery, for example, draw your concealed carry pistol and engage the robbers while retreating to the room where you have heavier weapons. Then use that more powerful weapon to stop the attackers.
If you are already in a situation without the rule of law, then keep your rifle close at hand. In that scenario, your pistol becomes a backup weapon, not your first choice.
Depending on your personal situation, where you live, and the laws in your state, you may want to consider carrying a rifle or carbine in your car.
Lesson Seven: Don’t Become a Willing Victim
Most of us will never have the opportunity to become a hero, but there are many opportunities in which we can choose not to be a coward. Don’t be a willing victim. Take steps to protect you and yours and you may find yourself in a position to protect those that are too young, too old, or otherwise incapable of protecting themselves.
People who consider weapons bad or fear guns are ignorant. They don’t realize a gun is no different than a hammer. It is a tool, good or bad, that can be used by people who are good or bad or misguided or crazy.
We have to accept that there are hundreds of millions of guns out there and that they will not go away, no matter what. Banning guns will have even less success than banning drugs. Likewise, there is no shortage of people with bad intent. Whether they are evil or mentally ill doesn’t matter. What matters is that when they try to break into a school, a business, or a home, they should be met not with screams of panic but with a hail of gunfire. That can only happen if enough of us who can legally carry a gun do so and have the training to use it effectively.