What to Do When Gunfire Erupts
Updated: Jul 18
What should you do (or teach your kids to do) when a psycho opens fire in a public place?
Be aware of what’s going on. Many of these situations seem to unfold the same general way -- a disaffected person makes threats or threatening comments. He shows up at school (or work) dressed in military style camouflage clothing, pulls out a firearm and starts calmly and methodically firing. Be aware of the gossip surrounding these types of people at work. Look for people acting strangely or dressed inappropriately (like wearing military-style clothes or a long trench coat on a warm day.) It's not uncommon for many people to report after the incident that the murderer had said or posted threatening comments. Take a look at the video above that showcases how parents and students saw red flags of the Columbine murderers.
Believe yourself. Your eyes see the event unfolding, your ears hear the gunfire, you feel the impacts of bullets around you, you see glass shattering, people running, screaming or falling. Yet many people report they thought the event wasn’t real. They think it’s a joke. Or firecrackers. If you have been aware of what is happening around you, your body knows something is wrong -- heed the warning!
Hit the ground! Your first priority is to get out of the line of fire, get on the ground immediately! Do not hesitate, move! Find cover. Get behind something that will stop bullets. Unfortunately, many bullets can penetrate a large amount of common materials. Just because something conceals you from the gunman, that doesn’t mean you are behind cover. Look for brick walls, planters, mailboxes, cars, thick trees. A table top or a typical interior wall most likely will not be suitable cover.
Get distance. Your chances for survival in a gunfight rise dramatically the further you are from the gunman. Crawl away from the shooting and try to get better cover or escape out a door or even a window.
Escape! Often there is a noticeable, dramatic silence in the shooting when the gunman has run out of ammunition and is either reloading or switching to another weapon. This is your chance to make a move for an exit to escape. Several incidents like the Springfield, Oregon, the Luby’s cafeteria, and the deranged man shooting at the White House with an SKS carbine were terminated when the gunman continued to try and fire an empty weapon and was subdued.
Shoot back. There are examples of citizens stopping active shooters -- the FBI praises their decisions as "selfless actions likely saved many lives". This is a tactical decision you will have to make on your own depending on the exigent circumstances and threats being presented to you and your loved ones. You can use the reasonable amount of force on an attacker when defending a third party (someone else) if that third party would be justified in using that amount of force to defend themselves.
Chances are you will never need to follow this advice. However, there are bad people in the world, some watching the news coverage and seeing opportunities for copycat type of killings. With additional fracturing of social and political norms, we are probably going to see more of these incidents.
You are responsible for your own #personalsecurity. Keep your guard up and stay safe.