Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author alone and do not reflect the opinions and views of bulletsafe.com
This article was previously published on gunlove.com and has been updated as of January 24,2023.
In the early weeks of January 2023, three separate mass shootings rocked the state of California within 44 hours, but those are only the ones that received media attention. In reality, there have already been 47 mass shootings this year, and it's only January.
As of this writing, there have been 5,182 mass shootings in the United States since 2013, with 549 in 2022 alone. More than five thousand people have been killed in a mass shooting, while only about 200 people have died from lightning strikes within the same time frame. According to the mass shooting tracker website, an average of 1.96 shootings happen every day. In these uncertain times, when it’s literally more likely to die from a mass shooting than from a lightning strike, it should be the responsibility of the average American to prepare for the worst.
The very fact tragedies like this happen so often should be a wakeup call to everyone. Nothing stops a bad guy with a gun better than a good guy with a gun, but the problem seems to be there aren’t enough good guys willing to carry guns.
To survive a mass shooting and save the lives of the innocents around you, a firearm by your side is the best insurance policy. Based on a study of the police response times of the ten most populated US cities, it takes the police an average of 8.6 minutes to arrive at the scene of an active shooting, while it takes mere seconds for a well-trained shooter to draw his or her weapon and neutralize a target. A mass shooter is usually either inexperienced, drug-addled, overconfident or all three. A well-trained good guy with adrenaline pumping through his veins will be able to end a threat well before a police officer arrives on the scene. Within the first five minutes of a mass shooting, everyone in the area will run for cover. It usually takes five minutes for someone to remember to call 911, and by the time first responders arrive, the incident will have been well over.
If, for some reason, you find yourself at an establishment which does not allow you to bring in your firearm, and in the event you choose to follow the establishment’s guidelines (unlike Elisjsha Dicken, hero of the Greenwood Park Mall shooting), you may find yourself at a distinct disadvantage in case a raging lunatic bursts through the doors and starts blasting away.
Fortunately, the FBI has a detailed step-by-step plan to survive such an event. Simply called “Run. Hide. Fight,” this plan is designed to help the average unarmed bystander avoid the carnage of a mass shooting.
If you are completely outmatched in a fight, the most obvious thing to do is run. There is no shame in running if the alternative is death. You don’t necessarily need to find marked escape exits – these are designed for fires and natural disasters. The threat here is mobile and can go wherever you go. The nearest exit is always your best option. Windows that exit to street level (for example, those in a classroom) are probably a quicker escape path than the main exit.
Begin running as soon as you hear gunfire and feel threatened. Do not attempt to reason with the shooter. Yelling at him to stop will do nothing but make yourself a target. Criminals are rarely – if ever – deterred by words alone, and attempting to negotiate with a man who sees you as nothing but a target is a bad idea. Do not wait for everyone around you to react. If you are carrying anything, drop it. You will run faster if you are unhindered by a shopping bag or a backpack. Help others escape if possible. If you end up making a wrong turn into a room without a backdoor, do your best to barricade it.
A mass shooter can shoot at locks and hinges, so it may be best to rely on improvised barricades. The old “chair under the doorknob” barricade only works if the door opens outwards and not towards you. It’s important to note that the backrest should be between the door and the door frame. Piling heavy objects up against a door can be unsuccessful against a door that opens inwards unless the heavy objects form a solid block to the other end of the room.
It should also go without saying that you should remain as quiet as possible. Phones should be completely silent – vibration should be off. If possible, hide behind objects you were not able to use for your barricade. Your hiding place should be out of the shooter’s view and provide sufficient protection just in case the mass shooter gets through.
That said, not many types of household furniture will stop a bullet. A 9mm hollow point round will go through more than a dozen layers of dry wall, which means a shooter blasting away at the poor unfortunates in the room next to yours could still injure you. If you think the steel door between you and the shooter is enough to stop a bullet, know that most steel doors are less than an inch thick and will likely be penetrated. An office cubicle offers concealment rather than cover, and just like walls, bullets will pass through multiple cubicles before stopping. Turning over a table to use as cover like they do in Hollywood will not provide protection from even smaller calibers like 9mm rounds. However, a .223 or 5.56x45mm round can be stopped by a cinder block or a sturdy wall made of cement or brick. It’s a good practice to lie as flat as you can on the ground, since the shooter will most likely be shooting from a standing position and his shots will land above the waist level.
Once you believe your room is secure enough, turn off all the lights and hope the shooter will believe the room is empty.
When all else fails and you have nowhere to go, be prepared to fight.
If your room is completely dark, you have the advantage. Set up an ambush position in the blind spot of an inward facing door to attack the mass shooter as soon as he steps into the room. If you have others with you, attack him from multiple directions. He can only shoot at one target before someone else gets to him.
If your state allows it, try your best to always carry a blade with you. They aren’t typically limited in the same ways firearms are, and usually prove very handy in everyday situations, even more so in a life-or-death scenario like this. In a pinch, you can also use a fire extinguisher to distract the mass shooter by both spraying him with it or hitting him over the head.
If you do have a knife, keep in mind the mass shooter may be armored. Target your assailant’s hands so he drops his weapon; alternatively go for the eyes to blind, the groin to incapacitate or the throat to kill. This is a mass shooter – no sitting jury would ever rule against you. Fight dirty, your life is on the line. The human body is not limited to punching and kicking. Choke or bite your assailant if you can.
When the chaos is over and the police arrive, be sure to put your hands up and follow all instructions. It can still go very badly for you if you don’t. As a historical example: in 1976 during Operation Entebbe, Israeli commandos rescued their countrymen being held hostage by Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. The commandos entered the room where the hostages were being held and ordered everyone to get down. One hostage, Jean-Jacques Mimouni, leapt for joy when he saw his rescuers and was immediately shot dead, having been mistaken for a hostage taker.
With this in mind, keep your hands visible at all times, discard any weapons you might have with you, and know that help for the injured is on the way. Alert the authorities to any casualties or people who you know are missing from your group and follow their instructions to evacuate from the active crime scene.
Now that you know what to do in the event of a mass shooting in your area, hopefully you will be better prepared for it should it ever happen to you. However, the best policy, in this author’s opinion, is to be armed and ready to return fire at a moment’s notice.
For additional resources, visit the FBI’s active shooter page here.