It's been recently brought to light that one of the witnesses to the shooting at the IHOP restaurant in Carson City, Nevada was armed with a pistol. According to reports:
"The owner of the BBQ across the street had a clear shot of him walking into the IHOP after he killed the lady motorcycle rider but didn’t take it, citing "it was a pistol against an AK, what was I going to do?""
This revelation resulted in a number of comments, some supportive and not so much. I won't comment on second-guessing the BBQ store owner's decision, because, frankly, it was his to make.
Every now and then, I hear someone say “Wouldn't it be great if there was a person with a legally carried handgun present at one of these active shooter incidents?” Well, despite the best efforts of the press to ignore it, it's happened several times.
1997 – Pearl, Mississippi: Assistant Principal Joel Myrick used his .45-caliber pistol to stop a 16-year-old who had shot nine students, two fatally. Myrick had to run to his car parked 1,000 feet from the school to retrieve his gun before he could run back and use it.
2002 – Grundy, Virginia: at the Appalachian School of Law, an adult killed a professor and a student and wounded three classmates before two college students retrieved their firearms and stopped the killer, who surrendered at gunpoint.
2005 – Tacoma, Washington: When a gunman opened fire in a shopping mall, Brandon (Dan) McKown, drew his lawfully carried pistol and verbally commanded Maldonado to put down his gun. Maldonado's response was to fire on McKown, striking him once in the leg and four times in the torso, damaging McKown's spine and leaving him paralyzed.
2005 – Tyler, Texas: after a gunman shot and killed his estranged wife on the courthouse steps, handgun permit holder Mark Wilson drew his gun and confronted him. Wilson was killed by the gunman.
2007 – Salt Lake City, Utah: when a gunman opened fire at the Trolley Square Mall, he was stopped after exchanging fire with an off-duty police officer. The officer was out of his jurisdiction and for all intents and purposes acting as an armed citizen.
As we see from these incidents, the outcome in these cases is never going to be good! At best, a person who intervenes in a shooting can expect to be ignored (the fantasy of heroic recognition is a false one). At worst, you can expect to be seriously injured or killed. Worries about being arrested or sued pale in comparison to the very real threat that, if you get into a gunfight, you might get shot!
If the gunman is threatening you or your loved ones, that's a no-brainer. But should you run towards the gunman instead of the door?
In our classes, the question inevitably comes up, “what should we do?” Our advice is to consider the following:
Is this for real?
A colleague of mine once told me of a case where a well-meaning student of his drew a gun during what he thought was a robbery – and turned out to be the filming of a crime-prevention commercial. Before you get involved, make darn sure those are real guns and real danger – and not some juvenile prank.
Is there anyone here who I am personally responsible for?
As a husband and father, it's my responsibility to care for and protect my wife and son. If they are with me, I'm getting them out before considering anything else.
So, let's make it easy. You're sure this is for real and you're by yourself. Should you engage the bad guy or not?
One important question is, can you take him? In the incidents above, one person got killed trying and the other one was grievously wounded. Do you have the training to handle this situation? Unless you are absolutely sure, I'd advise you to get out.
In addition to injury and death, you can't ignore other liabilities. You could get shot (by mistake, I hope) by responding police. You could get shot by another permit holder who is unaware of your intentions. If you are wounded, nobody but YOU is going to pay your medical bills. Assuming you get through unscathed, you can expect to get sued, investigated, arrested, and charged. It's not a decision to take lightly.
Whether you engage or run for the exit is ultimately going to be up to you. What you need to do NOW is decide under what circumstances you are going to act, and if your training is adequately preparing you for your planned course of action.