The threat of gun violence in public spaces across our nation is disconcerting. Indeed, ideologically driven, lethal-shooter attacks represent a considerate threat to national security.
Since 1970, more Americans have been killed on U.S. soil due to gun violence than all wars combined.
A community need not overreact to security threats, but just hoping that Charlotte escapes gun violence is not a viable strategy. Consider this: While most banks, hospitals, and schools rehearse tornado and fire drills, few bankers, doctors, and students have died from tornadoes or fires in the past decade. Contrastingly, scant resources are devoted to preparing to counter violence in these facilities even when we know, for example, that there were 64 school shootings in America in 2015.
If such events are seemingly inevitable, but most end before police intervention, shouldn’t we ask what those in target environments could do to prepare?
Decrease high target areas’ vulnerabilities. According to the FBI, 70 percent of shooter incidents occur in an educational or business environment. Needless to say, Charlotte is headquarters to many large banks and corporations. These and other “high value targets” can become “target-free zones” by changing their vulnerability profile. This includes training employees to intervene. Why?
Prepare everyone to be a first responder. The majority of active shooter scenarios last 15 minutes, and 60 percent end before law enforcement arrive on the scene. In 83 percent of active killer incidents, the event only ends through use of force. In many cases, civilian bystanders bring an incident to an end.
Learn the steps to save lives. These steps for unarmed “active killer defense” provide concise, non-linear tips for bystander safety and intervention.
1. Clear: Leave the scene; help others if feasible; call 911.
2. Conceal self and others: Lock and barricade doors; find cover (bookcases, cabinets, etc.); be quiet; continue to evaluate other options.
3. Call 911: Call for help when safe without drawing attention; give as many details as possible about location of killer and injured.
4. Counter: If opportunity arises fight back, use the environment (chairs, scissors, laptops); if trained redirect weapon; commit to actions.
5. Care: When safe to do so, tend to injured; hemorrhage control should take precedence via direct pressure or tourniquet.
6. Comply: Once officers arrive, follow all directions; drop any self-defense items; raise both hands; remain calm.
While it is unclear what choices victims had in Orlando, it does seem clear that the killer presented several opportunities for bystander intervention – while reloading his weapon multiple times, making three phone calls for a total of 28 minutes, and checking his social media accounts on his phone. What if someone had actually been trained to counter him?
To paraphrase the words of Teddy Roosevelt, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing … and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” Active defense is often the least worst option but must be a consideration. We hope every Charlottean will be prepared to act in the face of such horror.