The Department of Homeland Security released a video entitled “Options for Consideration Active Shooter Training Video”, wherein the narration gives instruction on what to do if an active shooter situation is occurring around you. For the most part, the advice is solid, makes sense, and is very intuitive. Get away if you can, hide if you can, confront the active shooter if you must.
It is that last sentence that has made the internet abuzz with disdain over the video. In a brief 10 second portion (occurring at 1:48), the narrator says “You might consider trying to overpower the shooter with whatever means are available.”, while showing someone grabbing a pair of scissors in a drawer.
Is this reasonable?
In short, the answer is: Yes. While it is always preferable to “outgun” an assailant with superior weaponry, today’s polarized political climate makes it difficult to be in a position to do so. Pro-gun places like shall-issue states have plenty of CPL licensees that may respond to an active shooter scenario. Anti-gunners like to argue the resulting “Wild West” scenario that would ensue, but history has simply not shown this to be the case. (As an example, there were 7 documented CPL licensees at the Representative Giffords shooting, and none deployed their firearms because of the crowd and mayhem occurring. This is not proof of ineffectiveness, but rather of responsible use of force decision making.)
Most workplaces, however, will not allow employees to possess their firearms in their buildings and sometimes on their premises (which generally includes parking lots). This creates a “soft target” for an active shooter, an environment where the most damage can be done before any reasonable risk to himself. Other places, such as schools and theatres, are often designated pistol-free zones, subjecting students and patrons to higher risk.
To avoid this situation, one must become as much of a “hard target” as they can. Recent active shooter scenarios seem to show the shooter either kills himself when he is faced with armed resistance, or he runs out of ammunition, or he gives up when either of the above occurs.
The simple but unpleasant truth is that if you are spotted and targeted by an active shooter, chances are you will be shot. A logical conclusion, then, is that you must act to save others. If your life is now forfeit because of this evildoer, why not ensure you do as much damage to him as possible? Taking shots to temporarily occupy a shooter’s time is folly. Going on the offense loses nothing, and may force the shooter to end his attack (through defeat, damage, or self-termination).
In fact, this total commitment to a final act of valor goes back to the samurai (and probably beyond). Entering a battle or war, they accepted their death was at hand. By doing so, they came to grips with their own mortality, and prepared themselves to pay the highest price that could be asked of them. The result was that they were willing to go farther, sacrifice more, and pay a higher price than their enemy, and thus often won the day against an enemy with lesser resolve.
If by setting one's heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he gains freedom in the Way. His whole life will be without blame, and he will succeed in his calling. -Hagakure
In modern weapon training, simple hand held weapons are covered fairly extensively. We are more likely to have a pen, scissors, flashlight, etc on our person or in easy reach than a pair of sai or nunchaku. Understanding this weapon form factor has been highlighted extensively in this column, and this video addresses the need for this training yet again.
It boils down to mindset. Would you take up a pair of scissors and engage a shooter if you had to? If you knew your life was measured in only seconds, would you make those seconds count? Those that scoff at the scissors may not think the sacrifice is worth it, but if the sacrifice is going to be made either way, what would you do?