I have a fair bit of experience shooting under stress; enough to tell you this- it isn’t easy. Especially if you’ve never done it before. Adrenaline causes degraded fine motor control. You get tunnel vision. Time will seem to go into slow motion. These are all things that can be overcome with training. That’s the important note there- the training. Without it your reactions are likely to be, shall we say, highly unpredictable. They aren’t going to be a certainty even with training, but you are a lot more likely to do something appropriate.
As I’ve noted previously in this blog while the overall threat of violence is much diminished the scope of the threat has increased greatly. The Paris shootings heralded a new era in terrorist attacks, as we saw in California and Orlando. A mass shooting attack takes relatively little planning, is easy to equip for and is very difficult to detect and stop in advance.
Understand, if you are Joe Average living in Typical Town USA you are statistically more likely to be eaten by an alligator than to be caught in one of these incidents. But because responding to them is what this article is about let’s say you are. What should you do? Heroically open fire? No. If you aren’t trained you are likely to miss with most or all of your shots. Those bullets will not vanish if they miss the bad guy, and he’s there because there are a lot of people. In this situation every bullet that doesn’t hit the bad guy has the potential to kill an innocent. Probably best not to start shooting- unless the bad guy is on top of you and you have no other option. It’s only moderately likely to be useful, but at least you’ll go down swinging.
If you are in a crowded area with no cover available and the gunman is close your best bet is to charge him and hope that others join you. Seriously, mob the shooter. In the rare cases that civilians stop a mass shooting that’s almost always how it happens. Incidents of armed civilians stopping these attacks are vanishingly rare. Most people are not armed, and even those who are often realize it is not prudent to intervene- not the least because the police will have trouble differentiating them from the shooter. Several people at the university in Oregon were armed and had the presence of mind not to draw their weapons and rush in when it was likely that the most they could accomplish would be to increase the confusion.
So what should you do?
The first thing is take cover (or concealment at least.) Try to locate the direction of the threat. If you can establish that look for a way out. If you find one get out and take as many others with you as you can. It’s not going to get a movie made about you, but it’s probably the most productive thing that you can do. If you are armed you might deploy your weapon while you do this- strictly to cover the retreat. Keep the weapon inconspicuous though; it would suck to get shot by the police while you are helping others to escape. As soon as you are clear put the weapon away- same reason.
This is not exactly a comprehensive guide, I know; these situations are highly variable and individual. There’s no telling when or where it’s going to happen, or wether you’ll be in a position to do anything about it, escape or whatever. The thing is to be mentally prepared, have a realistic assessment of your own abilities and if at all possible leave the shooter to the professionals.
I’m not going to tell you not to carry a gun, or not to use it. That’s an individual choice, and we do have a responsibility to our fellow citizens; the chief of which is not to make things worse. As an armed citizen your weapon is only one of the tools at your disposal, and it’s a lot less important than good sense and a plan.