Frontline Debriefs: Active Shooters

The active shooter is a relatively new phenomenon in the grand scheme of things. In the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, this scenario did not occur with the frequency or violence of today.

From Sandy Hook, Aurora and the very recent LAX shootings, one can clearly observe that this phenomenon is here to stay. Motivations for such shootings range from isolation, disenfranchisement, and anger at governmental agencies to emotionally disturbed thought patterns. In other words, these events can and will occur for any number of reasons at any time and in unpredictable locations.

There are no easy answers to any of this. If police happen to be on scene, that would be fortuitous, but it will most likely not be the case. Should an off-duty or retired officer be on scene, this would also be fortuitous. In either of these situations, such an individual would be on their own. They would need the skill sets and motivation to take action. This doesn’t always happen.

Many individuals possess the motivation and yet lack the skill sets to successfully resolve the event. Others possess the skill sets yet lack the motivation or decision-making ability to take action. The two working in concert with one another is rarer than one might think.

There are plenty of officers who carry a two-inch, five-shot .38 caliber revolver while off duty. Others carry compact .380 autos. These might be sufficient as backups to primary weapons systems but are sorely lacking for confronting an individual armed with a semiautomatic rifle.

Others carry compact versions of a primary sidearm with which they have practiced very little, if at all. Many do not carry spare magazines or speed loaders for any of these systems.

For those who complain about the weight and bulk of a full-size weapons system, I say, ”Work out.” If your answer is that this protocol is uncomfortable, I would answer that bullet holes are even more uncomfortable. So are autopsies.

Try running full-blown scenarios with a compact or .380 auto and the results will be more than self-evident. This is a very personal choice, so it’s up to you. You might want to re-think the issue if it applies to you.

These events evolve very quickly and require an immediate response. They require high skill sets so that the individuals you are attempting to protect are not struck by your shots.

After the LAX shooting, there were the usual talking heads on CNN pontificating all manner of solutions to this and that. Some have merit and some do not. Arm all TSA agents? Don’t have an answer to that one. From what I have seen, this may not be the best solution to the problem.

We cannot have armed personnel at every conceivable location. Many of those supposed “security” personnel are marginally trained and tactically deficient. It would be pure luck whether or not the “security” at your location could pull off a successful resolution.

How about those individuals with CCW permits? Well, in some jurisdictions there is no required training of any merit that allows one to obtain a CCW permit. I will not hazard a guess as to how many individuals who possess CCWs have the requisite training or comprehension of the law in concert with valid tactical training. I imagine not very many.

Many may be more of a deficit than an asset. Simple ownership has never and will never denote proficiency! I can own a Steinway grand piano yet not be able to hit a single note correctly. The other downside to this is that a CCW holder might be mistaken for an active shooter, which could also be problematic.

Knowledge and situational awareness are everything. Even the police are not immune to a failure to observe what is occurring around them. Those with no field experience would fall far shorter of situational awareness than those with experience.

For police departments, I conduct first-responder classes that are very much reality based and driven by real-world experience. For private citizens, I conduct classes that develop a response mechanism for those caught up in active-shooter scenarios. These classes are both realistic and intensely informative. You might want to check if something similar is offered in your area.

Nothing could be more infuriating than for you and your family to be at the mercy of a mentally disturbed individual whom you cannot effectively counter. This would be a bad day indeed. It might also be your last.

Active shooters are here to stay. Any nimrod can easily observe this from the news. Simple awareness of those around you can prevent your placement into such a situation. A talk with family members can also have positive results.

Unfortunately, news coverage of active shooters lends a certain degree of credibility in the mind of the mentally disturbed. In the future, we will probably experience more of these events rather than less.

Scott Reitz is a 30-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department and the director of the highly acclaimed International Tactical Training Seminars. Course information and schedules are available at their website at www.internationaltactical.com. Looking Back, a free monthly newsletter, is available by email at itts@gte.net.

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