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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 . . .

Avoid

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.

Deter

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.

De-escalate

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

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.

Submit

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.

Eliminate

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]

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43 Responses to Self-Defense Lessons from Aurora’s Midnight Movie Massacre Pt. 1

  1. i agree that the owner of orivate property sets the rules for said property. but a private business is not allowed by law to discrimate based on race, religion or physical handicap. by law they have to make extra effort to accomidate the handicapped. in my home i make the rules, but in a business inviting the public in the law sets the rules. the only place legal cc should be off limits is secure government facilities.

    • Why in secure government facilities? Personally I do not believe the “law” should stop people from doing whatever they want on their private property, which includes their business’s, unless it impedes the right to life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness of another 9which you have no right to on my private property). WHile it would be a poor business decision and of questionable morals, if a business owner want s to prohibit men, fat chicks, blacks, cripples, or whatever group he wants, he should be able to do that on his private property. If that decision is not in keeping with the community standards, then his sales will reflect that. If people do not agree with his character, morals, ethics, or opinons, they will take their money elsewhere…look at both the support and resistance to Chik-fil-a.

      • There is a big difference between “your property” as a place of business, open to the public and your home. Your statement only applies to the latter. As for public spaces, they are no different than a street corner, because anyone may go there. No shop, park, resturant or business that isn’t accessible to the general public should be a gun free zone. As we have seen demonstrated, it’s an invitation to the cowardly sociopath seeking noteriety. We allready have a body of laws addressing who may enter a public place that supercedes “community standards” A.K.A local bigotry, break those laws at your peril.

  2. If someone tells you to disarm yourself on their property then THEY are responsible for YOUR security and counting on the 16-year-old highschool ticket-taker and a stupid sign to protect ALL patrons is nuts.

    I hope they get sued out of existence for their stupidity along with every other commie that tells you to disarm yourself.

    I have NEVER found a safer way to carry my guns than in a sturdy holster with the trigger completely covered and with a hammer strap tied down and NOBODY is going to get me to disarm myself and trust a complete stranger to protect my life and lives of my loved ones.

    I will watch movies at home and let the sheeple die in huge numbers.

    natural selection always finds a way.

    • “If someone tells you to disarm yourself on their property then THEY are responsible for YOUR security …”

      I disagree. While I could ask another person to assist me with my personal security, no one can demand that I give up my right to secure myself. That right is inalienable.

      • They can certainly tell you to keep off of their property unless you agree to their conditions – whatever those conditions might be. (“Open to the public” commercial private property statutorily excepted, of course.)

        If I invite you over to my house for dinner, you show up with a firearm, and I tell you you may not enter with the firearm, you have exactly two legal and ethical choices: you may either a) leave your firearm outside or b) leave my property.

        You don’t have any right to enter my property, at all – much less to enter contrary to the conditions I set. I, however, I most certainly have the right to set any conditions I please.

    • You are not legally correct. FIrst of all, NO ONE can remove your “right to self defense”. Your posts suggests you equate the right (or privilege on private property) to carry a gun with self-defense. A gun is an object. Your right to self-defense is an intangible concept that cannot be taken even if someone wanted to unless they render you physically incapable. In that regard, it could be argued they removed your right to self-defense.

      Furthermore, from a legal perspective, by asserting rules on private property, that person does not “assume responsibility” for anything. YOU assume responsibility, or actually never relinquished it, when you made a free-will decision to enter that place under known restrictions.

      Clearly I think “no gun zones” are idiotic and cause more harm than good, but so does affirmative action, political correctness, and spell-check.

  3. The idea that private property owners can do whatever they want and make any rules they want on their property is silly. Citizens have an inalienable right to life and to defend their life wherever they happen to be. That right is not a function of map coordinates or the name on the legal Title to a property.

    A responsible law-abiding armed citizen who carries their firearm responsibly does not harm anyone’s property or pose a danger to anyone other than criminals who would seek to harm them.

      • See my response to Don S below.

        Also, a person’s ability to defend themselves has no bearing on healthy social interaction. Any person who wants to disarm you is trying to curtail your life and/or liberty. Technically speaking that is criminal.

    • The rights of an owner of private property are [supposed to be] among the most sacred. At least equivalent to an individual’s right to armed self-defense.

      Your rights end when they infringe upon mine.

      • Rights are tiered in importance. Life is first, liberty second, and property third. Life is the most important right because life cannot be restored once taken away. Liberty is second in importance because it can be restored although any lost liberty can never be replaced. Property is third in importance because all property can be restored/replaced.

        Property rights are about the owner of a property being able to keep ownership of their property, use/change their property, and manage activity on their property. That said, there are limits to what a property owner can do. A property owner does not have the right to murder a guest (violate their life right) on their property. A property owner does not have the right to rape or imprison a guest (violate their liberty right) on their property. Similarly, a property owner does not have the right to deny a guest the means to defend their life (violate the guest’s life and/or liberty right) on the property owner’s property.

        • Similarly, a property owner does not have the right to deny a guest the means to defend their life (violate the guest’s life and/or liberty right) on the property owner’s property.

          The property owner has the right to deny access to the property based on any criteria he pleases*. If a “guest” wants to enter the property, he does so at the pleasure of the property owner, and is obligated to meet any and all conditions the owner might set. If the guest feels that his own rights might be infringed by meeting those conditions, he is certainly free to visit some other property that will have him.

          * Of course, this may not apply [legally] to private property that is “open to the public”. For example, a grocery store might be statutorily prohibited from excluding Jews, blacks, or women.

        • You were right until your last sentence. Again, saying no firearms is not removing a liberty. As well, you have a choice not to enter knowing that. You enter at your own risk. The responsibility is on you.

          CHoose better places to spend your time and money.

    • See my comment above. You have no right on my private property that supersedes my rights on my private property.

      Again, you never lose your right to self-defense on private property, however, when you choose to enter onto it, you may forfeit the permission to carry a firearm on it.

      • Brannon you contradict yourself:
        “You have no right on my private property that supersedes my rights on my private property.”
        “… you never lose your right to self-defense on private property …”
        “you … forfeit the permission to carry a firearm …”

        Let’s zero in on the trouble:
        A guest’s rights never supersede … but a guest never loses their right … but a guest forfeits permission [their right] … do you see the problem?

        As for your argument that a private property owner can impose any arbitrary limit they desire, if a private property owner can limit a guest’s ability to have and use a firearm to defend themselves, what stops a private property owner from telling a guest that they cannot pick up a rock or stick or use their fists to defend themselves? In fact what if the private property owner is a pacifist? Can they ban any and all forms of self-defense on their private property?

        Your key word was “permission”. A person never needs permission to defend themselves. A person never needs permission to use any readily available object to defend themselves. A person never needs permission to carry a readily available object to defend themselves.

        Your argument is what enables the anti gun-rights crowd to impose all sorts of limits on citizens. If you claim that a guest needs permission to have the means to defend themselves on private property, then the antis can claim that citizens need permission (from the public or government or whatever) to have the means to defend themselves in public. And whenever someone needs permission to do or have or say something, it is not a right, it is a privilege. Well you yourself said that self-defense is a right. Which is it?

        • Again sir, you equate the “right to self-defense” with the “right to keep and bear arms”, and you are wrong to do so. Until you can accept that point, you will continue to mistakenly think I am contradicting myself.

        • There are more contradictions than just that one, Branny. You can defend yourself, you just can’t have the means to. Catchy. The lefties must love you.

  4. In a way I feel like it should be Federal Law that any public business which does not allow for otherwise legal open or concealed carry in their establishment should be held responsible for any injuries or fatalities directly resulting from the aforementioned ban on legal carry!!!
    That being said I do see the pro’s and con’s of this( financial/liability, etc) but by their banning your right to carry they are in essence assuming the responsibility of your safety!!!
    I have a good friend and neighbor who will not allow ccw in his home but whenever we visit we always sit on the porch, in the shade and visit like normal good neighbors!!!
    Just a point of interest!!!

    • In a way I feel like it should be Federal State Law

      Fixed it for you… unless you know of a provision in the Constitution that gives Congress the power to enact such legislation (bastardized Commerce Clause doesn’t count).

      • Thank You for the fix!!! Wasn’t thinking of that and the Communist Count of Chicago when I said it should be Federal!!!
        Of course this could never be Fed level simply because it would not benefit the politicians, lobbyist, etc!!!
        One other good thing that Might come out of this is that just maybe the court system could put a stop or at least a serious dent in a lot of the frivolous lawsuits that clog up the courts on a day to day basis!!!!

      • Ready for a stretch? Although it has never and will never (most likely) be won in court, technically, one could argue that by infringing the 2A, they are breaking the federal constitution. The government could enact said legislation under that premise. It’s a super stretch and I don’t think it would ever be held up, however, maybe.

        Off topic, I do think national reciprocity could be upheld on this grounds, possibly paired with a bastardized commerce clause. The government shall make no law infringing upon the 2A, but, because the right shall not be infringed, then they could pass laws to shove it down some states’ collective throats.

    • I disagree. If they do not allow it, then you have a choice not to enter. Take accountability for your own decisions. If you choose to enter and spend money, knowing the place does nto allow firearms, then the consequences are on you.

    • How about we carry anyway and if some shit goes down and we stop the carnage they can chastise us afterwards and ask us to leave?

      • Ignorance and disrespect for the individual rights of others is why we are in the situation we are in.

        Your comments are very disappointing, but unfortunately pervasive.

        People like you should stay home and watch reruns, because your attitude and mindset displayed in your post tells me you are most likely more of a liability than an asset to those around you since you clearly do not get the bigger picture.

        • “People like you should stay home and watch reruns, ”

          People like me already do. I avoid large public gatherings, especially where an effort is made to disarm everyone but not to really provide any protection or security.
          You can frame my comments as an assault on the rights of the property owner to do as he wished, I prefer to hold them accountable for security. Which they didn’t provide.
          If my attitude and mindset in my post offends you , enjoy the movies without me. I won’t be there to provide any measure of protection you might enjoy, the point of an armed society is the collective security provided by armed citizens.
          You don’t know anything about any of us however are quick to draw conclusions. Just the type of person to be swayed easily.

    • Jake, I see your point. You have the right to intelligently discuss the topic instead of making sideways insults, yet you seem to lack the means to do DI. Your village must live you.

      Again, the difference in ability and access to tools is lost on you.

      You have a right to an equal education. That does not mean you have a right for a private college ro allow you to vmvring your gun onto campus.

    • Jake, I see your point. You have the right to intelligently discuss the topic instead of making sideways insults, yet you seem to lack the means to do DI. Your village must live you.

      Again, the difference in ability and access to tools is lost on you.

      You have a right to an equal education. That does not mean you have a right for a private college ro allow you to bring your gun onto campus.

      • Ohhhhhh snap! You must be real angry, I can’t make out a single dang sentence of that gibberish. Point is, once you start deciding you are the arbiter of every aspect of a person’s life and person just because they walked into your store/theater/restaurant you have decided to become a sick twisted control freak with nobody’s freedom in mind but your own. And nobody’s safety in mind period. Also probably way too antisocial and creepy to be in a business with lots of public exposure anyway. A granny who has a gun has the ability to defend herself from a thug. A granny who has no gun has no such ability. So it is clearly YOU who cannot discern there is NO difference.

        • No mad at all jake. Simply was trying to type with sweaty hands during my lunch break from teaching 20 motivated shooters that were trying to beat a hurricane and get some training in up to the very last minute.

          Nevertheless, you miss the point and would rather try to be witty than discuss the point like an intelligent adult.

          Furthermore, you clearly lack the proper understanding and respect of individual rights, which is what this country was founded on.

          You actually do more to support the agenda of the left than I do or you even have the capacity to recognize, though that is not surprising given your “posts” here.

          Luckily everyone else has been able to discuss their differing opinons with class.

          Best of luck Jake.

  5. Good post but, what about weapons other than firearms? (I live in CA where CCW is a crapshoot with each county having discretion on who gets/doesn’t get a CCW. So, in SoCal it’s mostly folks whose evidence of the ‘good judgement’ suitable for issuance was their large contribution to the sheriff’s re-election fund. Poor victims of domestic abuse/violence need not apply. ) Given distance/reaction time/motivation/determination/luck– like a 100rd mag jamming as you rush him– it’s not completely hopeless. And I note the Cinemark theater didn’t post any prohibitions against other weapons.

    • Obviously, if they prohibit “weapons” it would depend on what they and the jurisdiction define weapons as.

      In the situation, keys, a pocket knife, empty hand skills, all could have been used as weapons potentially.

      It is unfortunate they choose to restrict people, but they do and have a right to. That is why I support business’ with ideals I believe in. Also, I hate places like theaters because the opportunity for general shenanigans with “kids and others is too high. I am more comfortable and thrifty at my home.

  6. Bravo Brannon Bravo!!
    I thinkost of us would like to see open or concealed carry as easily obtainable as a capital one credit card, but depending on the state this may or may not ever happen. It is sad really. There are millions of good people out there that I think we can entrust with carrying a firearm. Unfortunately the whole idea of our streets running red with blood keeps getting driven home to everyone.
    One lessened learned in Aurora is that gun purchases and CCW permit requests went through the roof. Nation wide we see this trend as more an more people take armed self defense seriously. I the bygon days of old it was Cyotes and bears. Today it is gangs and thugs. The players might have changed but the same ideal is there.

  7. I agree that a business owner has the right to post a “No Firearms Permitted” sign, and enforce it with a Trespassing charge if you bring a firearm onto his property. However, every decision a business owner makes has consequences, and he should be held accountable for the consequences of that decision.

    If a business posts a “gun free zone” sign and then something happens that could have been prevented or mitigated by a CCW holder with a gun, the business owner should expect to be sued or even charged with something like negligent manslaughter. Although I could have chosen to not enter the premises, the business owner still has some part of the responsibility for the results of his decision.

    Sometimes my choice to not enter their premises with my gun, is so inconvenient that their gun-free-zone even borders on discrimination. When every theater in your STATE is a gun-free-zone (every theater franchise has the same policy), then what am I supposed to do – never see any movie in a theater? What if most of the restaurants in town posted gun-free-zone signs, or all of the grocery stores? When do you say that there are so many gun-free-zones that they rise to a level of inconvenience such that they become discriminatory?

    The Cinemark theater franchise should be sued out of business by the 71 victims of their reckless and negligent company policy. I can’t believe some ambulance-chasing lawyer hasn’t already filed this lawsuit. His company could make A FORTUNE.

    • Sir, it is a theater, Seriously, if they will not let you carry your firearm, then do not go. It is recreational. The same is true for your ridiculous grocery stores or restaurant suggestion– YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO GO THERE> Grow your own food. You are so removed from what a right really is that you do not even see the basic logic at play here. If it were a government building or even hospital (which are still generally private ), I could understand your logic to a certain degree, but you are attempting to argue that a recreational theater be sued because of their rules. They do not allow you to bring in your own drinks either, so if you choose not to buy soda and get dehydrated, should you be able to sue?

      It is because of opinons like this why we live in such a litigious society and people refuse to take responsibility for THEIR OWN ACTIONS. YOU CHOSE to enter knowing you could not carry a firearm there. If anything happens, it is YOUR fault for entering knowing the risks. You entered at your own risk.

      SOme of you have this completely fals notion that you have some kind of right to enter, but you do not. If you do not like the rules, then do not enter. If you accept them, then do so…at your own risk.

      The only true part of your whole post is that business decisions have consequences. Those should not be legal in nature, but financial. If you decide to make policies that alienate a large portion of your client base, then you get less sales, that is the consequence.

      Gun free zones are not discriminatory. Are “no shirt, no shoes, no service” signs discriminatory, or are they rules set forth by the property owner.

      Your final thoughts are a large part of what is wrong with this country and why many companies go out of business and make knee jerk reaction decisions to things for fear of people like you unjustly “holding them accountable” for something that they never should have.

      Would you agree that gun manufacturers should be sued for gun related deaths and tobacco companies sued for cancer?

      Seriously sir, think about it. Think about what an actual right really is. Not, what you have become accustomed to having access to and have assimilated as a right.

      You have a right to LIFE, LIBERTY, and the Pursuit of happiness.

      Failing to respect the rights of a private property owner so you can watch a movie in his building, on his property, and with his equipment is none of those sir.

  8. I listened to the tape. Absolutely riveting.
    I won’t revisit the discussion about property righs versus individual rights, except to this limited extent. A landowner generally has no liability for dangerous conditions on the premises absent reasonable notice of the condition sufficiently in advance to have prevented the injury. The issue of a landowner’s liability for the criminal activity of third persons on the property has been litigated extensively in California in a variety of contexts, both residential and commercial. They have generally held that there is no duty to provide security, and certainly no duty to engage armed security, even in a mall setting, unless the landlord actively creates a dangerous condition, or after multiple events, fails to take reasonable precautions. In this situation, we are dealing with a random act, probably by a person criminally insane; the cost of preventing such acts (armed guards, alarmed exits, etc.) compared to the risk of harm (this hasn’t happened here before) is prohibitive, and I suggest that a jury or judge would have great difficulty in attributing liability to the property owner.

  9. “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.”

    Hooyah Brannon!!! +1 Sir…

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