As seekers of knowledge, we look to these events not to criticize, but to analyze. We do not necessarily seek to assign blame, but rather seek to locate the decision points where things could have been done differently to get a more desirable outcome. How can we grow as problem solvers to be come better at solving problems? When I look at something like the Aurora, CO theater killings, I think that most of us have only a few options available to mitigate the damage to others and ourselves . . .
Clearly, regardless of the kind of trouble we face, if we can avoid it that is always the best scenario. “We win 100% of the fights we never get in.” That said, should we live in a cave and not venture out to enjoy life? Is it unrealistic, foolish, or careless to expect to have an evening out at a movie with family or friends? No, not until this past week was this even a serious thought.
When looking at avoidance, I follow the “S3 Theory.” I do my honest best to avoid stupid places, stupid people, and doing stupid things. While many get enjoyment out of a night at the movies, I find more comfort in my home with family. I know I am safest there and do not have to deal with the general nuisances of theaters like loud talkers, cell phones, and unruly kids whose parents see the movies as a cheap babysitter.
Regardless, in this case, the actual event was unavoidable by any realistic measure. Therefore, it is not a true option for the incident.
I am sure if you ask the corporate spokesperson about the “no firearms” signs on the doors of the theater, they would say that they are to deter events such as this…well, most criminals are not easily deterred, especially ones with a plan and dedication like this one. Once the commitment was made by the murderer, there was really no way to deter him…or was there?
Given the fact that he gave up to police without incident, which is highly uncommon for murderers in these types of situations, is it plausible that had someone began to engage him with fire, even though he was allegedly wearing “body armor” (as current reports show media mislabeled a basic nylon load carrying vest as ballistic when it clearly is not, though being black, it fits the media’s definition of both tactical and bulletproof), he might have reconsidered his commitment to his cause?
With absolutely no resistance, there is no reason to reconsider. However, with even minimal resistance, most criminals will end the attack.
His uncharacteristic submission to police without incident speaks to a desire not to die. If he was a suicidal murder, it would have been much easier to strap a bomb to himself and blow it in the theater. However, his actions lend credibility to the theory that he was looking for notoriety rather than some type of martyrdom. With the precept that he did not want to die, engaging him, thus making death a possibility, may have made him retreat from that possibility, thus ending the fight at a lower body count.
I think it is fair to say there was no talking this murderer down. Once he came in shooting, he was committed to the fight, and nothing short of direct action against him would have stopped him in my opinion. Furthermore, it is impractical to think given the tear gas, chaos, and gunfire that anyone could realistically communicate with him anyway.
Escape or Retreat is always an option. One must always weigh the cost vs. benefit of standing and fighting versus turning and extracting themselves from the encounter. Clearly escape was the option most obvious and chosen by many.
That said, when you enter a public place, do you look for alternate exits? Do you look for those exits that the other 99% of people who are not as aware as you will not default to? I do. That said, once the shooter murderer started specifically targeting those he noticed were attempting to flee, he certainly removed that option from those without a back-up plan.
Escape in the context of a large confined space like a movie theater, sports stadium, large restaurant, or auditorium adds additional cause for concern. Where are you seated relative to the exit? Is it possibly better to hide and shelter in place, hidden among the chaos? This was not an option for those in the first few seats of the rows the murderer decided to target. For those higher up and deeper into the seating, perhaps it was.
There are rare times in life when submitting is the best option. However, in cases like this, when the final outcome is clearly death, in my opinion, submitting comes off the table, because what do I have to lose? If I do nothing, I will die. If I at least attempt to escape, deter, deescalate, or eliminate, then maybe I will be lucky or good and win.
When death is the consequence, elimination is almost the only thing worth trying at that point.
Lastly is eliminate the threat, and do so by any and all means necessary, in an efficient and expeditious manner. At this time it is looking like the only thing that stopped legally armed concealed carry permit holders from carrying in that theater and being physically prepared to eliminate the threat, was the signage on the theater door.
While I support the right for private property owners to institute whatever rules they like on their property, here we see the consequences of some of those policies, and choosing to patronize those businesses that support those kinds of hamstringing policies for lawful customers to be prepared for their own defense.
Given the known circumstances of the situation, could the average, or even above average, CHP holder have effectively neutralized the threat? Who knows? However, what we so painfully know now is that without any good guys with guns in the scenario, we never even have the chance to try.
What about the threat that engaging the murderer might result in an innocent being hit? Well, this is where we have to weigh probable with possible. If someone is definitely actively killing someone, I think that DEFINITE threat far outweighs the possible chance that the good guy might accidently hit another good guy.
In fact, if you have a clean shot and for some reason I am not effective, shoot through me if that will end the carnage. Of course we will do whatever is in our power to not harm other good guys, but a little collateral damage, while undesirable, is reasonable given the totality of the circumstances.
That is a hard pill for many to swallow, but we send our sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, and brothers and sisters, to do just that in faraway lands for people they do not know. The same is asked of our domestic police. The same crackhead that an officer arrested yesterday is the same crackhead he may take a bullet protecting tomorrow.
So is the life of those whom have chosen a profession of service. These men and women truly understand that sometimes bad things happen to good people, and while we cherish in this country the individual over the group, it is the soldier, Marine, officer, and deputy that truly understand the concept of the greater good over the individual.
There is plenty more about politics, situational awareness, defensive firearms use, mindset, and a plethora of other topics that this unfortunate tragedy forces us to dig deep into and make some hard decisions about. Nothing can bring back the dead from this event, but if we ignore the lessons to be learned for the sake of some emotional sidestepping, then I feel a greater tragedy is had in that their deaths were in vain.
We honor their untimely passing by using their death as a blanket of intellectual protection against future similar incidents. Let the sacrifices they made stand as an encyclopedia of lessons learned the hard way. Let every drop of blood they shed pour into the heart of a warrior via his contemplation of what can be done better next time to save lives.
For those of us with an eye for awareness and a nose tuned to reality, we cannot help but ask ourselves the question: “What would I have done?”The truth is none of us know. What I do know is that:
1. I will always do my best to avoid conflict.
2. When avoidance is not an option, and conflict finds me, I will attempt to de-escalate to a peaceful resolution.
3. When de-escalation fails and deterrence has proven futile, I will look for an expeditious escape.
4. As a last resort, when all other measures have failed or were never afforded me, I will weigh submission and elimination.
When faced with my own death or the death or serious injury of a loved one, submission is no longer an option. At that point, the harbinger of unjust violence has forced by hand. I will marshal every fiber of courage, call upon every minute of training, and I will unleash Just violence upon him in a manner that completely and without contestation eliminates the evil he has willfully decided to bring upon me and mine to the best of my ability and until my final breath.
If Fates summons upon me that I must die for my family or for the conscious decision to protect my own life or the life of another, then I will meet Fate with bloody hands, a clear mind, and a heavy heart. For I regret not the Just violence I have laid upon the wicked, but the fact that such action was forced upon me and failure was not an option.
[Brannon LeBouef is the CEO of Nolatac Firearms Training. Click here for his site]