I was reading an article today about addressing an active shooter. This is one of about 5,000 articles I have read on the subject, but I still read everyone that I can. It allows me to see what others are thinking, learn things I may have missed or how to say things in a manner I have never said it, but more importantly it helps me to see the overall “tone” of the community and how people are viewing these issues.
This article was written by a mother, who seems to have her blog focused mainly on the topic of being a mother. Which is awesome. It’s always great to see articles like this pop up in places you wouldn’t expect it. I am excited to see people talking about it. Admittedly, I also get very nervous when I read these articles, you never know what they are going to say.
As I made my way through this article (which you can read HERE) it was filled with a lot of good insight. Nothing new or mind blowing for those that have studied this topic, but it was good information. She did a great job of pulling information from other sources and explaining it in her terms. She talked about awareness, and how we freeze, and how bad guys act, and how we are likely to act. Good stuff for the most part.
But when we got to fighting there was a very interesting line that stuck out to me.
“Now, if you have small children with you I don’t suggest this. However, research shows that unarmed bystanders can subdue or chase away an assailant if they are in numbers. Even a trained shooter (which most mass shooters are not) would not be able to fend off people from every side. If you have small children with you, fighting would require leaving them unattended which is not acceptable. If running or hiding are not options, other adults in your party may want to engage, but stay close to your kids and shield them.”
The last two sentences are troubling. They are honest. I don’t blame her for making these statements. Yet, they are still troubling.
“…fighting would require leaving them unattended which is not acceptable.”
The unadulterated need for accountability from parents and school teachers is something that in 99.9999% of situations is a good thing. However, if you are in a situation where someone is trying to harm you and them, it may actually make more sense to in fact leave them. For the sake of this article, let’s stick to the context of an active shooter. There are thousands of variables in play. In most cases, I certainly want to make sure that I am with my children and leading them. However, when we talk about fighting in these situations, the general assumption is that you could not simply run or keep the bad guy away. So if I find myself in a room and I know that my ability to keep the bad guy out is minimal. What are my options? Let’s say that you find yourself in the bathroom of a mall during a shooting. If there is no way to easily lock the door, the best place for you to be to fight is at the entrance. If the attacker comes in, you need to be able to grab onto them. Does it make sense for you to have your children glued to you at all costs?
Depends on their age. Is your son or daughter 16 or older? They are in the same situation as you. They have to fight for their life, it might make sense to have them at that door ready to fight together. If they are very young (as she mentions in this section), that might not make sense. If they are mobile and can listen to basic commands, maybe I tell them the second I start to fight the bad guy they are to run out of the door as fast as they can and look for the men in uniforms. If they are too young to run and I have to fight the bad guy, is it unacceptable for me to be away from them? Maybe I walk into the hall or try to get to the bad guy before he enters the room. I don’t know. Every situation is different, but saying that it is unacceptable to leave them unattended is impractical, and in some cases can actually be dangerous.
If in that same situation the attacker is closing in and there is a small window out of the restroom that your child can fit through but you can’t, is it acceptable to think they might have a better chance of surviving if I help them through that window and tell them to run? Or even just have them NOT in the bathroom anymore. I don’t know. Is it possible they get harmed outside? Certainly. These are things that you will have to determine based off your child’s age and ability, the situation you find yourself, and your perceived knowledge of how imminent the threat is. But again, limiting your child’s safety to being glued to you, is not always the best route.
What if you are injured and can’t run quickly? Maybe you’re 50lb overweight and slower than your 13 year old. Are you willing to slow your child down from being able to get away because it is unacceptable to leave them unattended? What do you consider “small children” and when is it acceptable to leave them unattended in your eyes?
Look, I could go on forever. The idea is not to shame the concept of actively protecting your children, but instead to show you, that sometimes it may be safer for them NOT to be right next to you. You must respect these options and understand how they apply.
“If running and hiding are not options, other adults in your party may want to engage.”
First off, no sane person WANTS to engage. We all want to simply get to safety. That being said, this idea highlights the biggest issue we have in our world today, and that is the idea that someone else will save us. The majority of our plans are built around waiting for Law Enforcement to come get the bad guy. Waiting for EMS to come stop the bleeding. It’s never our job, someone else will do it.
The reality is, what if NO ONE in your party wants to engage? Or is willing to engage? Or what if they SAY they are willing to engage but when push comes to shove they don’t? What if they do engage but they fail? What now? Are you really willing to bet the lives of your children on someone else? Is that your standard for protecting them?
What if you aren’t with anyone else? What if no one is there to save you and no one is on their way? If you truly love your children it is your responsibility to protect them. That doesn’t mean you don’t utilize help from others. It doesn’t mean that it’s not possible for others to protect you. It means, at the end of the day you are the one that must care for your children, and if they fail, or if they aren’t available, are you prepared to do what is necessary to keep them alive?!
“…but stay close to your kids and shield them.”
Let’s recap. You couldn’t run. You couldn’t keep the bad guy away. You’re not going to fight them, and at this point others have failed to stop the bad guy as well. How does shielding them keep them alive? We are talking about a person willing to kill. Is your body going to be able to stop bullets or shield them from a knife? I understand the desire to “shield” and the thought process behind it. I truly do. But it isn’t helping. It’s like closing your eyes when you are about to get punched. Sure you can’t see it, you can deny it’s happening, but it’s still going to do damage, and it limits my options for responding. Me needlessly putting my body between my kids and a bad guy, without action to stop that bad guy, does nothing but delay the inevitable. As parents we want to hold them, hide their eyes, keep them from evil, save them from pain, but you can’t do that just holding them. If you want your kids to stay alive to see another day, you must be willing to take action. Your body makes a piss poor shield, I promise you that. You can however be a very effective weapon. As an effective weapon you can draw the bad guy away, disrupt his ability to do harm, and possibly even end the threat completely.
Discussing the idea of preparing for mass violence is scary. Discussing the possibility that your kids may be involved is terrifying. Denying reality and ignoring the true options for saving your kids is not a good idea. Sometimes you must take a step back and attempt to remove some of the emotion from these plans. In my book How to Survive an Active Killer, I talk about the difference between what makes sense tactically and how emotion drives decision making. If you don’t understand both, you may find yourself not acting on anything. Understand what makes the most tactical sense. Detach emotion and look at what gives us the best chances of survival. Then put yourself in that situation and weigh the emotions and instincts that come from being there and protecting your loved ones. How do we take the tactical and apply it in the face of emotion? It’s an important question and one you must ask yourself. But respect both sides, don’t ever rely only on one.
I hope this article has caused you to ask yourself a few questions. I hope it forces you to think about what your plan is. I hope it inspires you to not just make plans, but to train. I hope it creates conversations with you and your family.
Be pro-active. There’s never a great answer when you find yourself in the thick of events like this.
Be good, train hard, stay safe