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Active-shooter, active-killer, school-shooter or mass-casualty incidents are just some of the terms used to describe one thing: one or more persons actively trying to wound and/or kill the maximum number of people as quickly as possible. The excuses used by perpetrators of such attacks may vary, but regardless of their motivations, they must be stopped as fast as possible. Unfortunately, in attacks such as these time equals body count, and the attacker knows this.

Pre-Incident Prep
When I started researching and training for such incidents, I had thought that there would be a kind of mystique involved with preparing an effective response. But I learned there really was no mystique. Being able to effectively respond boils down to three things: the individual’s proficiency with his or her chosen weapon platform, the use of basic tactics, and the willingness to take the fight to the attacker.

Determining your skill with your weapon platform just involves the basics: sight picture, sight alignment, trigger press and grip. You need to be able to put multiple, accurate shots on target quickly, shooting until the attacker is no longer a threat. Basic tactics comprise your ability to move to the shooter’s location while maximizing use of cover and the element of surprise. Many people fail to understand what will and won’t stop bullets or shrapnel. Maximizing use of cover means incorporating cornering (a.k.a. slicing the pie), dropouts and unconventional shooting positions.

Willingness to take the fight to the attacker means that you must decide ahead of time what you are and are not willing to do, should you become involved in such an active-shooter incident. The choice is yours, but once you commit to countering the attacks, you must be willing to fight with everything you have in you—a half-hearted response is not an option.
To take your skills, ability, tactics and mindset to a whole new level, consider choosing a training group or venue that makes force-on-force training a regular part of its curriculum. Force-on-force training incorporates role players and participants using realistic weapon platforms that fire projectiles made from plastic, soap or paint. There is a small amount of pain possible with this kind of training, which does increase the stress level. However, a safe, well-designed force-on-force training program will allow you to get as close as possible to a real encounter without the threat of serious injury.

Heat Of Battle
So, you confronted the attacker and you’ve put him down with several well-placed shots. The incident is over now, right? Wrong. There are still several issues to address. First, are there other attackers or just the one you have neutralized? Historically, only 2 percent of these types of incidents involve multiple attackers. But that doesn’t mean we drop our guard. In law enforcement, we have what is called the “plus one” rule, which states that if you find one of something, it’s more than likely there is at least one more. Keep that in mind. Also, we know that many of the people who perpetrate these kinds of attacks have studied previous incidents and look for ways to “improve” on them. So, we need to prepare ourselves accordingly.

Your next consideration is preventing responding officers (and other armed citizens who are present) from viewing you as a threat. Be aware that there is nothing that I can tell you that will guarantee that they will not mistake you for the attacker. Unfortunately, undercover and plainclothes officers are accidentally shot by uniformed officers on about a yearly basis. Know this before choosing to intervene in an active-shooter incident.

One way to try and mitigate the chance of being mistaken as the attacker is for you or someone you trust to call 9-1-1 and give the dispatcher an accurate, detailed description of you. Whoever calls for help must be as detailed as possible about your appearance, especially about the fact that you are armed. The caller must reiterate that you are NOT the attacker.

While moving toward the attacker, consider keeping your gun holstered until you are close to the attacker’s location. Keeping your gun holstered will definitely keep it from being grabbed or knocked out of your hand, either purposely or by accident. This practice may also keep you from being mistaken as an attacker by first responders or other armed citizens.
Another safety precaution for you as a responder is to pull your weapon back to your body and holster it as soon as it’s safe to do so. Once the threat has been eliminated, you need to make yourself as nonthreatening as possible. Having your weapon holstered and your hands raised in the surrender posture can lessen your chances of being mistaken as the attacker by responding officers.

Be prepared to drop your gun immediately should police arrive on scene, especially if you’re ordered to do so. Also, avoid the temptation of running up to the attacker and picking up his gun. This may make you appear to be the attacker to responding officers or other citizens. When the police arrive, you may consider standing on the attacker’s gun with your hands up and empty. However, do not do anything that you think will put you in greater danger. There is nothing wrong with holstering your firearm and waiting behind cover until the police arrive.

Along with all of the above, you must be prepared to be handcuffed, placed under arrest, Mirandized and questioned.

The Aftermath
Fortunately, I have never had to shoot anyone, and I am OK if I can get through my life without ever having to do so. However, I have several friends who have been forced to shoot, whether as a part of military or of law enforcement service, and I have witnessed the aftermath. The ones who have mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually prepared themselves to shoot ahead of time have coped much better with the effects of such incidents.

One way to better handle the repercussions of a shooting incident is to have a solid support system in place with family and friends. Also, if you have any kind of spiritual beliefs, then having a person to talk to who has similar beliefs will help as well. Another way to prepare for your reaction to the shooting is to have legal defense options in place. If you fire your gun, or in some cases even threaten someone with it, you must assume that some kind of legal proceeding will follow. It could be criminal, civil or both. Organizations such as the NRA, the Second Amendment Foundation or the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network may be good options.

The preparation you do before such an event occurs, such as quality training, having a support system in place and having legal counsel options already established, will help you and your family prevail when the real thing happens.

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