This past August we had three mass shootings of MSM significance. As per usual, people on the left and the right started jumping to conclusions and coming out in droves in support of more laws or more guns. A few things always present in the days following a mass shooting or terrorist attack. First is the assumption is that more laws will remedy the situation. The second is that more lawful conceal carrying people would fix this. The last is that the main problem is guns. These are the primary issues that are pervasive in the conversation almost as soon as each event hits the news cycle. Sadly, none of these ever come up with a useful solution, just a bunch of chest thumping on both sides. What’s worse is that most of the subjects talked about or debated do not help in any way whatsoever.
Every time there is an attack there is a predictable pattern of reactions to the event itself. Prayers are given, anger is shown, Congress comes out and takes advantage of the tragedy (on both sides, but this isn’t about politics). It stays dominant in the news cycle for about a week or two, and then we go back to business as usual. Some new laws are proposed, some get passed, others don’t. The failure is that no one does anything to mitigate the damage of an attack, or to prevent it. This includes the laws that are passed, they never actually do anything to mitigate or prevent anything at all.
How is that so, when laws are made? Well for one, there’s over 20,000 laws (federal, state, and local laws of varying relevance) restricting the possession or use of firearms. Some of these laws are made and enforced by people that are not duly elected officials that represent the interests of their constituents. State to state these laws change, sometimes drastically, leading to confusion for a lot of people. So with that many laws, why hasn’t anything changed? For one, those laws are almost always knee-jerk reactions to a tragedy of some sort, and do nothing to actually prevent mass shootings, terrorist attacks, or pretty much anything else. What those laws do accomplish is removing the ability for law abiding citizens to defend themselves. More laws won’t be effective, as we already have made murder illegal, and that is still a problem after all.
The next big thing is the TAPS act, which essentially provides the framework for Red Flag laws, which again prevents law abiding citizens from exercising their Second Amendment rights. As a brief synopsis the TAPS gives the government the framework to confiscate firearms from people based on vague definitions of being a risk to others or self, with little evidence or due process involved. Worse, Red Flag laws at the state level so far have zero due process, a clear violation of the Constitution.
At first glance, Red Flag laws almost make sense: anyone with existing mental disabilities that make them dangerous to themselves or others should not be allowed access to tools which could exacerbate that issue. The problem is the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, basically the guide book for the mental health field) changes often and sometimes drastically. Whereas it may be great for use in diagnostics, relying on it to determine who should and should not be allowed to exercise their rights its dangerous. Twenty years ago someone that is homosexual would likely be denied their rights to own or carry a firearm since their “condition” made them more likely to commit suicide or have higher rates of domestic violence (depending on the study). When the Sandy Hook shooting occurred, one of the most commonly repeated ideas on why the shooter did what they did was that he had ADHD.
Another issue could be how easily someone can be denied rights due to a label, without regard to the level of severity of the issue that person might have. Someone who might be slightly depressed due to significant life events (like a loss of a job followed shortly by a death in the family) might be forever marked as a risk and denied their rights for the rest of their lives, even if they are fully over the depression from that period of their lives. Maybe they have a slight case of bi-polar disorder, should that be reason to deny rights? Anger issues? How about OCD? Basically any mental instability can at some point in the future be used to deny rights in this way. The potential for abuse is enormous, and can be influenced by whomever is in control of either the government or the psychological health community.
Then there’s the issue of legality of ownership. Most guns used in gun crimes were not legally acquired. We have laws against this, but clearly they don’t work as well as hoped. Thats that thing about laws; criminals, especially career criminals or people that are desperate, don’t care about laws. They already intend on breaking them. Same goes for narcotics and various other families of drugs, they were outlawed decades ago but are still used pervasively throughout society. Drugs are used with little to no negative consequences when limited to psychedelics or weed. With guns, however, the important thing to note is that when you make more laws to restrict them, law abiding citizens are made more vulnerable and not safer. Further, more laws that infringe on our rights just makes more criminals, usually without their knowledge.
Action is always faster than reaction. The reason is simple, yet often completely missed by those who don’t plan for the unknown. Action and reaction are in a constant race for the finish line. Action always has the lead on reaction, and that’s where the issue presents itself. Without training, planning, and preparation reaction will never catch up to action.
In the world of Sayoc Kali, we call this the “Reactionary Gap.” The concept is simple: an attacker is outside of your Reactionary Gap so long as you can deflect or avoid their attempts to do you harm. Once they can successfully land a strike or hold, they are inside that gap. The same approach can be used in all areas of threat mitigation. If you are racing to catch up to the threat, that threat is inside your Reactionary Gap. The best way to keep threats outside of that gap isn’t what most people think it is; it is not a shiny new gun, knife, or pepper spray. Those tools help, but the reality is they are usually just a small part of a very large and complicated set of variables that need to be addressed and worked on.
So what do you need to do to keep threats outside of your Reactionary Gap?
First you need to overcome a few fallacies that our culture has embedded in our cultural belief system. Someone will help you, someone is coming to save you, and everything will be alright. Once you realize that all three are effectively lies, you’re on the right track. The next one comes from people new to the world of violence (read: self defense) and what they believe their responsibilities are. Your responsibilities are to you and your loved ones, no one else. If you can save others, do what you can. Just remember that this isn’t an action movie, and once the screen goes black there are no credits rolling.
In order to act we must first set our priorities straight. We can’t simply hope that when the time comes, we will be ready, we have to have a plan. This is another area where most people fail to fully comprehend what is needed in order to survive an attack. Action is great, but action without a foundation or plan is foolish, and will lead to tragedy unless lady luck is on our side. I don’t know about you, but I prefer not to rely on luck to win. I prefer to rely on myself.
When the time comes, IF the time comes, we all should hope to be part of the story where the hero saves the day. We want to be the good guy that takes down the bad guys, and save lives. That’s an interesting concept, on the surface that’s what most of us see as the morally right and just thing to do. But what about your family? What about the people that depend on you to provide for them? Being a hero (when there is a choice) doesn’t always work out the way you want it. Best case scenario you have your face on the news and in the paper. You get a few attaboys and perhaps even some congratulations from important people. Worst case scenario it doesn’t work out the way you had hoped, and you are killed in your valiant attempt to save lives. Thats a lie though, as that is a selfish mindset, the worst that can happen isn’t that you die, it’s that you barely survive. We should all strive to help others, especially when it’s within our ability to do so. The issue becomes when you are now the one that is in need, and instead of supporting your family, the family is now forced to support you.
Live Another Day
My mission has been clearly defined for me for a long time: make it home and take care of my family. My mission is not to be a hero, but if that happens incidentally I won’t complain. How can I reconcile these two things? It’s easier than most would think.
When and if an active shooter decides to present themselves wherever I’m at, the first order of business is to identify the threat, or at the very least the direction of the known threat. A lot of people skip this step at their own peril. Most of us know the OODA loop, and preach its wisdom, but fail the proper initiation of the loop. We must observe before anything else. If you skip any of the steps, you will set yourself up for failure. Without observation we can’t know if we are going in the right direction, and may either run to danger or run to a dead end.
Once we have identified where the threat is coming from (to the best of our ability) then we can decide one of two things: run towards the threat or run away from it. Both have merits. But range and options dictate the “decide” portion of the loop. If I’m backed into a corner, its game on. When I have options to evade without confrontation, that might be the best choice. However, If I am separated from loved ones or my team, well then things just got interesting. I’m going to work my way to my family or team methodically and deliberately. Once I have them, chances are I’m going to do what I can to get out. If that means going through the enemy, well then I’m the surgical wrecking ball. If no threats present themselves, then I’m going to do what I can to take as many people with me and get out of there. Other variables will affect my decision making, but at the end of the day I’m no good to my family if Im dead or needlessly disabled. For me, that is the most important aspect to consider.
All things considered, we should never create an “every man for himself” situation, and you never know who you could be saving. Save who can be saved. Destroy anyone else that’s in the way. Make it home, and remember to cherish every moment you have with your family. The mission is them, and that is what you need to understand and embrace. Play scenarios in your head on what you would do, how you would do it, and what you are willing to accept as a loss at the end of the day. Whose responsibility is your safety? Your family’s safety? Who is coming to save you, and if there is someone, how far away are they? Don’t fool yourself. You don’t have the time nor the luxury to rely on others to save you, and no one else does either.
For more on effective response to an active shooter situation, consider taking a few courses we offer.