10 Lessons for Armed Citizens From the Aurora Theater Mass Murder
The Survival Mom
LISA: In the days and weeks following the movie theater shooting
in Aurora, Colorado, I’m sure I wasn’t the only mom
in America who wondered, “What would I have done? How could
I have protected my kids?” Some of us have made the decision
to carry a handgun with us everyday or just occasionally. Would
a loaded handgun in the hands of a legally armed citizen have made
a difference in Aurora? This article contains some great insights
and food for thought in answer to that question.
our defensive handgun students to study media stories about violent
attacks to find lessons, consider options, and conduct mental rehearsals.
There are still many facts and details the public does not know
about the “active shooter” attack in a movie theater in Aurora,
CO, on July 20th. However, in its immediate aftermath,
there does seem to be enough information to reap valuable lessons
for legally armed citizens to learn or re-learn about preparing
for, identifying, and reacting to an “active shooter” (AS) event.
These include lessons about mindset, gear, and tactics. To limit
the size of this article, I offer ten. For simplicity, I will refer
to the Active Shooter (AS) and the armed citizen as “he” or “him.”
an AS begins his attack, it may not be immediately obvious to you
and others what exactly is happening. After many AS attacks,
witnesses have stated that they initially believed the gunshots
they first heard were fireworks, construction, or some kind of prank.
Even for those of us who shoot often and are very familiar with
the sounds of gun shots (although usually altered through hearing
protection), that sound in a crowded public place would be extremely
uncommon or a new experience for most people.
In the Aurora
AS attack, this confusion was amplified by the darkness of the theater
and (at least somewhat) reasonable assumptions by many witnesses
who initially believed the smoke and shots were special effects
or some surprise special promotion by the theater for this special
midnight premiere of a hyped-up action movie. Although rare and
bizarre, we must keep the AS attack mentally filed as the possible
cause for sights and sounds we experience in public. The more
quickly we realize and identify an AS after he begins shooting,
the more quickly we can react to protect ourselves and other innocent
AS attack can happen in low-light and darkness. The vast
majority of AS attacks I’ve researched have occurred in daylight
or in well-lit indoor locations. Two exceptions (until now) that
immediately come to mind are portions of the Mumbai (India) attack
by teams of multiple shooters and the AS who turned off the lights
in the aerobics workout room in a Pennsylvania fitness center before
shooting at women inside. The Aurora AS attack occurred inside a
dark theater at night.
Had an armed
citizen been in that theater, a tactical light would have been very
useful (maybe a requirement?) to properly identify and engage the
AS, if the decision was made to do so. Because many companies
are making tactical
lights that are small, lightweight, bright, and reasonably priced,
keeping one with you is now easy to do. Gear will do nothing
by itself, so knowing how to fight with your handgun while holding
and using a tactical light would be a critical skill in such a low-light
attack. Night sights would, of course, also be extremely helpful
in engaging the AS in a dark environment, after you have positively
identified the threat.
armed citizen may get a “long distance” handgun shot at an AS.
Many of us have heard the statistics about the “average” distance
of a self-defense shooting being very close – within the 1-5 yard
range. And we are told the vast majority of such shootings are within
7 yards. This seems correct and reasonable since most self-defense
shootings are against attackers who must get close enough to touch
you. So it seems logical for armed citizens to spend most
limited training time and ammunition on the most likely self-defense
scenarios, those that are within spitting distance.
But I have
heard some armed citizens say that practicing defensive handgun
shooting beyond seven yards is a waste of time, because you could
never, “justify,” shooting someone at that distance. An AS scenario
would be an exception to that theory. If you had been in the back
half of that Aurora movie theater, or on the side opposite the exit
door the AS entered, you very well might have been 20-30 yards away
from him. This long-distance engagement could occur in any AS attack
location, such as a parking lot, school, mall, or church. So, to
be prepared to act on and end an AS attack, the armed citizen may
need the ability to, under severe stress (and other adverse conditions),
shoot at and hit (maybe multiple times) the killer at distances
that require increased skill.
A gun fight
is a balance of accuracy and speed. At a defensive shooting
distance of two yards against someone trying to kill you, speed
is extremely important in that balance. While you must get solid
hits, they do not require precision, and time is extremely limited.
At longer distances, the accuracy-speed balance tips toward accuracy.
These are precision shots, especially against smaller body parts
or a moving target. Rushed and missed shots against an AS fail to
stop the mass murder, allowing the number of victims to increase.
Missed shots also waste your ammunition, draw attention to you (more
on this later), and cause danger to innocent people.
So, to prepare
for the possibility of engaging an active shooter, the armed citizen
needs to train at longer distances. How far? The question might
not be, “How far away from the target should I train?”, but instead
know how far you are capable and confident of getting hits. A suggestion
is to start with the handgun you carry at a close distance, then
increase the distance incrementally by a few yards at a time. Each
shooter doing this will discover, with his skill and chosen gun,
at what distance he loses confidence in getting hits. That
is an important thing to know. If an armed citizen then encounters
an AS at a distance beyond where he feels confident, he has three
choices: escape; hide or find cover and wait for the AS to move
closer; or advance towards the AS until the armed citizen feels
confident in his ability.
to hit a long-distance target under stress requires proper training
and proper gear. Armed citizens carry a wide variety of handgun
types that have a wide variety of capabilities. Small guns with
short barrels and small sights are less suited to long-distance
hits under stress. So armed citizens who want to be prepared to
engage an AS at longer distances should choose, carry and train
with a handgun that gives them the capability, with proper training,
to do so. Imagine how an armed citizen would feel if he was inside
the back corner of such a theater when such an AS attack began,
with only a North American Arms .22 micro-revolver in his/her pocket
or purse? Our gear and our training are the only variables armed
citizens have control over once an AS attack starts, so we should
AS may be wearing body armor. If initial media reports
are accurate, the murderer in the Aurora theater attack is at least
the third active shooter (not counting the L.A. bank robbers) to
be wearing some type of body armor. Most armed citizens who might
engage an AS would probably attempt torso shots. If successful at
achieving torso hits, they likely would not stop a murderer wearing
a protective vest.
Using a handgun
to engage an AS with a protective vest would require precision shooting
while under stress. If the AS protective vest is visible and obvious,
then all shots should be aimed at points other than typical “center
of upper chest” for which most of us train. But it might not be
so obvious. What might happen is the brave armed citizen, attempting
to stop the AS, is frustrated and puzzled as to why his initial
shots are not stopping the AS. This supports a decision to carry
extra ammunition. The armed citizen might assume he is missing the
AS, and not alter sight placement. If you are confident in your
sights and trigger press, and are seeing no effects of several torso
shots, consider the possibility of body armor.
of when you realize or suspect body armor on the AS, immediately
move the location of your aim. Possible alternate bullet placement
options (if exposed) include the head, shoulders, armpits, hips,
legs or arms (but they can be armored as well), and ankles or feet.
All of these require precision shots against small targets, all
of which might be moving. Having confidence in one’s gear and skill
would be essential for such hits, which requires training.
the rest of the article
© 2012 The
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