Self-Defense Tip: Don’t Let the Police See You Holding a Gun During A Terrorist Attack

Anti-gun rights campaigners dismiss the notion of armed self-defense during a terrorist attack. They claim an “untrained” armed civilian will shoot the wrong person (by accident). Puh-lease. Anyone with half a brain knows it’s better to shoot at someone killing people en masse than not, even if you kill some innocents in the process. That said, this gun blogger can’t recall ANY examples of an armed civilian killing a bystander whilst trying to shoot a bad guy. In contrast, there are plenty of examples of armed police shooting the “wrong” person. Yes, there is that . . .

Since the Columbine school killing, the police no longer try to establish a perimeter at an “active shooter” event and proceed with caution. Negotiation? Ha! If there are innocents in the vicinity – and maybe if there aren’t – the police rush in and shoot anyone holding a gun. The rules of engagement used by our armed forces don’t apply. It’s point and shoot.

Clearly, you don’t want to be collateral damage in the police’s entirely understandable effort to end an active shooter or shooters’ killing spree. If you’re holding a gun when the cops arrive – BAM BAM BAM – you’re toast. So . . . don’t be holding a gun. The moment you see a cop enter the killing zone, drop it like it’s hot.

Unless that’s a bad idea. I mean, the bad guy could kill the responding officer or officers and then what? Maybe it’s best to reholster and conceal your gun. Or just kinda hide it. Or maybe drop it somewhere where you can pick it up again if needs be. I dunno, the situation sucks, really.

Especially when you consider that you’re likely to be suffering from tunnel vision: the natural tendency to focus on a single threat in a life-or-death situation, to the complete exclusion of everything else around you. In other words, you may be so zeroed-in on the bad guy or guy that you don’t see responding law enforcement until you’re already well on the way to being dead.

If there is a rule of thumb, it’s that you have at least a minute before the cops arrive; time you can use to engage the active shooter or shooters without fear of being perforated by the police. OK, sure, the Parisians trapped in the concert hall with Islamic terrorists had an hour before les flics entered. And you could have less than a minute before a cop responds to an active shooting event, depending on your location.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: IF you engage an active shooter, be aware that you only have so much time to kill, wound or pin-down the bastard before the police will come looking to kill you. Not you per se. You holding the gun. It’s a situation where you MUST scan for multiple threats, and understand that responding cops will kill you just as soon as look at you – if you’re holding a gun. Never mind pointing it.

comments

  1. avatar Rusty Chains says:

    Plenty of cops would shoot first and ask questions later. Lots of off duty cops have been shot by their coworkers.

    1. avatar tdiinva (now in Wisconsin) says:

      In force protection training we were advised to hit the floor and stay there when Seal Team Six or Delta showed up to rescue us. They would shoot anybody upright and/or moving. The also warned us to expect very “rude” handling until everything got sorted out and they could separate out who was who in the zoo. All active shooting situations are shoot first and ask questions later.

      1. avatar Joe R. says:

        In all my military training, but especially in Iraq, we were taught that anyone late to the party was a secondary attack. Watch your a_ _ on the creep and peep. If your 5-O call it out, THEY assume your coming to get them, I ain’t assuming your coming to help me specifically, if my bacon is already in-it. Again, and still, you watch your a_ _.

    2. avatar Nicks87 says:

      Rusty, don’t make generalizations. Your statements are total bulls**t.

      1. avatar Bob says:

        Nicks87, Try to be a little more polite and diplomatic. What you said may or may not be true, but the way you said it was 100% rude. This blog also expects one to present some evidence when they attack what another person said. You just attacked, with NO evidence to support your attack. BAD form!

        Therefore, most of us chose to just ignore what you said. I chose to try to educate you, in the hope that you will not make the same mistake again.

    3. avatar california richard says:

      Agreed…. Too many generalizations….. Out of 450,000 cops youre going to get “shoot first” types in the mix…. If I read the tone of a lot of articles/comments here correctly, then the police (in your world) are: incompetent and know nothing, over reaching and know everything, blood thirsty, too timid, hesitant, impulsive, over active jocks, stupid lazy fatties, racist toward minorities, and biassed toward minorities…… I guess the cops are what ever you need them to be inorder for you to not like them….. In this case too quick to run in and pull the trigger…. Which is funny because I read an article on this site a few days ago where the police were too slow to run in and stop the terrorists in Paris.

      1. avatar Bob says:

        True.
        However, I think we could all agree that when the police do come in to stop the mass shooting (whether that is in a couple minutes or in a couple hours), they are going to be so adrenalin-charged that they are not going to be thinking clearly. In that mental state, there is a very high probability that they would shoot anyone with a gun, even a good guy. They might regret it later, but the good guy will still be dead.
        As someone else wrote here, their first priority is to get the situation under control. Then they will start sorting the bad guys from the victims and good guys.

        1. avatar Hinshelworld says:

          You might think so, but look at things like the Navy Yard shooting AAR and you will note that despite a large number of people running around the facility in street clothes and with no visible badge or other identifier there was no friendly fire. They were able to successfully not engage the wrong target despite many opportunities to do so…

        2. avatar california richard says:

          There have been pleanty of active shooter responses where regular looking people with guns (either citizens or cops) HAVE NOT been shot. The cops coming in and blasting the wrong person durring an active shooter is extremely rare but (like all things negative that are shooting related) gets the most press. There have been tons of active shooter incidents, but they don’t get wide press unless there is a massacre or a lot of press footage to show….. Most cops (like most everyone else) will hesitate for a moment before yanking the trigger, hoping that the guy on the receiving end will drop it…. Now if your response is “cops shouldn’t/don’t hesitate,” then I’m afraid your world is divorced from reality.

  2. avatar C.S. says:

    I’ll take the risk and the consequences, but may it never happen.

  3. avatar ThomasR says:

    You’re talking minimum 5 minutes. Probably much more.

    Five minutes is an eternity, when in the zone. The situation should be decided, for good or yourself wounded or dead, in that time.

    Afterward, if you’ve survived, holster and wait for the chalk line drawers. (Depending on circumstances).

    1. avatar AdamTA1 says:

      Exactly what I was thinking. Most likely in the time it takes the police to arrive; assuming you were in the area the guy started shooting; he, you or both of you are probably going to be on the ground bleeding out.

    2. avatar Mr. AR-10 says:

      “holster and wait for the chalk line drawers”

      Not so sure about that. You better be dammed sure the threat is gone, then place gun on floor and be somewhere else. Or perhaps remove mag, and slide and put on floor near you.

      Then check your shorts. I hope it never happens to me, but if I does I hope I am able to do the needful.

      1. avatar ThomasR says:

        I’ve thought about that. This is the part about when I said “depending on circumstances”. What happens if after the first five minutes, you have killed the terrorist and you aren’t bleeding out from a serious bullet wound. Then you unload your weapon and have the pistol away from you, but the cops take half an hour or more to show up, and then the other partners of the bad guy shows up and you are essentially defenseless until you get your pistol back in operation? What then?

        Or wait for the cops to show up with a loaded weapon, then as you are handling the weapon to unload it and put it down the cops see you with a gun in hand and they end up shooting you.

        There are more scenarios that end up badly not having a loaded weapon on you, concealed, until the cops show up. Then sit down and put your hands on your head until you can inform the cops you are one of the good guys.

        1. avatar Mr. AR-10 says:

          Yes, point taken. Dangerous business no matter what we are talking about.

        2. avatar LarryinTX says:

          Your gun is to help you survive this moment, and only this moment. Then you can worry about the next moment. I think it might be considered a good idea to keep your gun combat ready, even reload, but hide yourself somewhere, and get on the phone with authorities so they can tell you when to disarm and appear.

  4. avatar mike oregon says:

    Good points/ advice . I have made peace with this reality, I will take whatever actions I can to preserve my life and the lives of my family. If I’m shot by the police or another CCW person I chose to roll the dice.

  5. avatar Jay in Florida says:

    Police miss?? Who are you kidding??? Such highly trained marksman as the LEO of America are. Miss their intended targets. Never happens.
    Sarcasm turned off now,

  6. avatar ACP_arms says:

    “And you could have less than a minute before a cop responds to an active shooting event, depending on your location.”

    It’s more like 5 minutes, it took 6 for the first cop’s to arrive for the UCC shooting.

    You’re lucky if it’s a 1 minute response.

    1. avatar Scott says:

      The only place in America where you have a reliable police response for plebians that is a minute or less would be the local court house because they literally guard the doors. Outside of there, cops can show up between a minute and a half-hour. Your guess is as good as mine.

  7. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

    Where have I been? All these years I’ve been holding the butt stock of my rifles against my shoulder. It would have been nice if someone at the range would have pointed out I was doing it wrong.

    1. avatar Another Robert says:

      +1–what’s with this buttstock-up-in-the-air stuff? Is there an operational operator rationale for that?

      1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        It looks cool and utterly tactical, dude.

        Don’t you even operate operationally?

        1. avatar Another Robert says:

          I guess not–but I do own some camo pants. It’s a start, maybe…

        2. avatar anaxis says:

          Real operators have tactical beards.

        3. avatar n64456 says:

          Fake operators (or wanna-be’s) wear balaclavas

        4. avatar Timmy! says:

          Mmmm, baklava. Love that stuff, except that the honey makes my fingers all sticky.

        5. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

          Sticky fingers and giggle switches are a bad combination.

    2. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

      They’re used to rifles with the shoulder thingies that go up.

    3. avatar Timmy! says:

      I like how the guy on our right is so concerned about keeping his booger-hook off the bang-switch that he indexes ALL his fingers on the side of the receiver.

      1. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

        They told him it was an RPG.

    4. avatar Tom says:

      To those commenting on the way the officers in the video are holding their weapons, it’s a technique usually called “short-stocking” that has been taught for use in close quarters with full-size rifles (i.e., M16 as opposed to M4) since at least Vietnam. In context it’s a valid technique.

      1. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

        I don’t question the validity of the technique, I question the ability to hit your target with the butt stock over your shoulder.

      2. avatar MeRp says:

        Ok, let’s call this valid with a full length rifle with low recoil (such as an M16). So, why are they doing it with an SBR (with a folding stock, no less) and a shotgun? With the SBR, just fold the stock and you have basically the same thing, but without the awkward position. With the shotgun just live with the length, because you will not want that thing on top of your shoulder when you fire (or, rather, sitting behind you and your trigger finger broken after you fire).
        I think the operators operating operationally answer is probably the correct assessment here, unless you have more info about this technique and how it applies to SBRs and shotguns.

  8. avatar NYC2AZ says:

    I think the Trolley Square incident was a really good lesson on how to make an attempt to try and not get shot by responding officers. Granted, Kenneth Hammond was an off duty officer shopping with his wife, but his wife had the wherewithal to call 911 and tell them who her husband was, what he looked like, and what he was wearing while also trying to describe as much relevant information as possible on the shooter to the dispatchers. I understand this doesn’t guarantee responding officers are not going to shoot at you, but throwing on a phone headset and getting on the phone with dispatchers (if you can) should probably be something to at least think about in order to try and mitigate being ventilated by responding officers.

    1. avatar FedUp says:

      ” Kenneth Hammond was an off duty officer shopping with his wife, but his wife had the wherewithal to call 911 and tell them who her husband was, what he looked like, and what he was wearing while also trying to describe as much relevant information as possible on the shooter to the dispatchers.”

      I’m not LE, off duty or otherwise, but I can imagine claiming it if doing so reduces my chances of getting murdered.

      1. avatar NYC2AZ says:

        Yeah… I’d say your 100% correct on that one. I wouldn’t count on any guarantees on dispatchers relaying the information on an armed civilian, but it still would be worth thinking about what you would do and say beforehand.

    2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      OK, look, I need to blow the whistle here.

      Anyone who has been a “first responder” and who has been on the receiving end of information from a dispatcher knows that they often fail to communicate important details, especially on the first exchange.

      I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to be en route to a scene and be getting information in dribs and drabs. And I’m not responding to an armed situation (altho I have responded to the scene of a drive-by shooting). Sometimes, there is information that has been withheld that is of the “Oh, NOW you tell me” sort. A central failing of most dispatchers is not telling ancillary units on the repeater/channel to STFU and let the dispatcher deal with the most important units at that time on the channel.

      Now in places like Wyoming, add in dual radio systems, with the cops and some EMT’s on one, other EMT’s and FD’s on another (the result of an utterly brilliant bit of planning by our state legislature at the behest of law enforcement – ie, one group of people who know nothing about radios asking an even bigger bunch of radio-ignorant idiots for a state-wide system that can be brought down by a backhoe), and you have all the ingredients for a gold-plated cluster flop.

      Summary: Just because you’re on the horn with a dispatcher doesn’t mean jack.

      1. avatar NYC2AZ says:

        That’s why I tried to preface my comment as best I could. I’m well aware of the shortcomings of dispatch… at least on the fire side. And Wyoming and Montana are f’ing horrible with their local VFire21, Red, Yellow, etc color-coded system that are always breaking squelch with some nails-on-a-chalkboard sound at the worst possible times. That being said, I’d still rather make an attempt to get some information out if I think I’m going to be there when the cops show up.

    3. avatar Scott says:

      Agreed, but that would be something to do after the shoot out has been won. If it’s lost, you won’t really need to worry about looking like a threat anymore.

  9. avatar Matt says:

    All the more reason for anyone who chooses to engage the bad guys to wear a vest.to improve your chances for survival.

  10. avatar MKK says:

    I am not ex LEO/MIL. I am not the guy who will charge into the next theater over that is getting shot up. My main concern is to GTFO with loved ones. I carry for that reason, and that reason alone. Not to run around hunting terrorists. If I can nab the SOB while I’m on the way out, fine. If he’s still breathing/killing…oh well. More people should have been carrying.

    1. avatar ThomasR says:

      Hmmm, well, all I can say to that is that it’s a good thing our Founding Fathers didn’t feel the same.

  11. avatar RickA says:

    At least a minute before cops arrive? Better be prepared for a 5 minute to 20 minute wait before the arrival of the first patrol officer(s), and 45 minutes to 2 hours if the active shooting event you’re stuck and it has been handed over to SWAT.

    Got to laugh when I see SWAT practicing for active shooter response. Unless they are already on scene at a hostage job gone bad when the SHTF, neutralizing an active shooter is a patrol officer first responder event. But of course some SWAT teams have to justify their existence by not recognizing their own turf and practicing for the job they are geographically and chronologically too far removed from to effectively accomplish….

  12. avatar Ralph says:

    I’m not aware of any US terrorism cases where cops shot the defender, although it could happen in the future. So, the cops might shoot me, but the Jihadidiot will certainly shoot me. You pays your money, you takes your chances.

    1. avatar SurfGW says:

      In the Chattanooga situation, LCDR Tim White delayed the police response because the police vectored in on the first person they saw with a gun. He is lucky not to be alive. The moment responders arrive, anyone with a gun is assumed to show hostile act and hostile intent. That is why the Navy wanted to charge him.

  13. avatar Mack Bolan says:

    If LE is indiscriminately shooting anyone who may possibly be armed in a terrorist situation, exactly who are the terrorists then?

  14. avatar Another Robert says:

    Hey, didn’t the cops “establish a perimeter” at Sandy Hook? Or am I mistaken? I mean, that was well after Columbine….

    1. avatar RickA says:

      Allegedly, the first responding police officers at Sandy Hook heard so much loud gunfire they thought they were under attack and hunkered down behind their patrol vehicles. The gunfire stopped within five minutes of their arrival.

      Arriving police busied themselves for the next five minutes after the gunfire ceased interrogating a citizen out in front of the school (was a parent) and chasing someone running in the woods behind the school (was a reporter arriving after hearing the event unfold on a police scanner).

      Somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes after the first patrol officer rolled up entry was made and the shooter found soon afterwards dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound – which supposedly occurred soon after the arrival of the first wave of patrol vehicles.

      1. avatar Another Robert says:

        Thanks for the info. I recalled something about the length of time between the first call and the actual entry. Hell, Lanza could’ve used muzzle-loaders and switched to clubbing people with the butts and still accomplished a massacre.

  15. avatar Kyle says:

    Its kinda sad that, in the days “300 million guns in america” the police can’t come up with a procedure to help them differentiate a bad guy from an armed citizen.

    No I haven’t either, but I only just considered the above situation. You’d think the police would have thought the matter through some and come up with a better option than, “Shoot anyone holding a gun on site.”

    1. avatar Mr. AR-10 says:

      Perhaps our CCW should come with some of those nifty jackets like you see all the cops wear saying ‘POLICE’ or some such. Ours could say ‘ARMED CITIZEN’.

      Yes I know that Mr. Bad Guy could just get one of his own, but he can do the same with the POLICE version now anyway?

      I think it’s a fair question.

      1. avatar RickA says:

        Schools, office buildings, and any place that houses a large number of people having a formal coordinated active shooter emergency plan with their local LE first responders are all perfect candidates for marked identification made available to the armed good guys who work in those facilities.

        I envision simple colored fabric front and back bibs – similar to what marathon runners wear in competition. Every year the police choose a new color to be worn by licensed CCW carriers who keep it folded up in their possession.

  16. avatar gsnyder says:

    If I found myself in such a situation I’d hope for the best. It’s a matter of variable circumstances. Get on the ground if possible and don’t appear to be a threat. If you are caught in the middle it will be the toss of a coin and may be a good day or bad day. Live your life to protect and use your firearm responsibly. If you die with honor in the process it will come out and you’ll be vindicated, it may be the best one can do.

  17. avatar J says:

    I would expect the police to announce their arrival as loudly as possible. Then I would know the danger of being mistakenly shot exists and act appropriately.

  18. avatar Martin says:

    As I’ve mentioned under a different post today, I’ve been to a police-run course dealing with active shooters in schools a while ago. And I’m talking about Czech Republic here.

    And I’ve had a chance to talk to one of the lecturers afterwards so I’ve also asked him about armed good guys. He told me that yes, the police do realize that any random civilian can pack a gun and yes, they are aware that they might encounter good guys with guns, be they teachers or parents or random visitors – they’ve actually simulated such scenarios and trained for them.

    So not all police forces share the attitude that anyone with a gun should be shot and questions should only be asked later. However, I’ve also been warned that the officers involved might be quite, ehm, forceful and that not following their orders immediately can be fatal. And, of course, that it is better to holster the gun *before* the police see one or at least do one’s best to appear sane and unthreatening.

    So while I’m happy that the police here *know* they might encounter armed citizens, I’m not forgetting there’s no guarantee they’ll hold their fire long enough to distinguish who’s a good guy and who’s not.

  19. avatar Nicks87 says:

    If you choose to carry a firearm and use it when necessary, then you should be prepared for the possibility of injury or death while using that firearm. If not, then leave the gun at home, locked up in a safe and let those of us that are prepared for such consequences deal with the threat. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

  20. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

    “That said, this gun blogger can’t recall ANY examples of an armed civilian killing a bystander whilst trying to shoot a bad guy.” Well. The blogger’s personal recollections aside, what does the actual, professional research show?

    “How often do gun owners accidentally shoot a family member in the course of defensive gun use? Again in Targeting Guns (p. 310), after reviewing studies, [Florida State University criminologist, Gary Kleck, analyzing data from the Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey (1992-1998)], Kleck claims this kind of accidental shooting is rare. He estimates that less than 2% of fatal gun accidents occur during defensive gun use. With approximately 1,000 fatal gun accidents annually, that would imply 20 per year.”

    This is 2003 analysis based on 1992-1998 data. Concealed carry licenses have flourished since the 1990’s, as has firearm ownership in general; particularly among those never before exposed to firearms ownership. Given that, it stands to reason that the incidence of innocent bystander shootings would exceed the 1990’s rate of 2%. The raw numbers of fatal, unintentional homicides has declined, however despite the expansion of gun ownership and the proliferation of public places where legal carry may occur. So who knows?

    What is clear is that firearms are dangerous business. Innocent bystanders killed during a defensive gun use are rare. Then again, so are the terrorist attacks and spree shootings, among other scenarios, that we prepare to defend ourselves against. Potential injury to an innocent bystander, therefore, shouldn’t be smugly dismissed; but realistically prepared for and mitigated in the context of its, albeit minimal, likelihood.

  21. avatar MD says:

    Interesting combination of gear used by the entry team in the video. Plenty of sub guns, as mentioned by the Sergeant, but also at least one shotgun and one AR. The AR operator was running iron sights, which I thought was an odd choice for a SWAT team member.

  22. avatar James Lee says:

    If it means dying anyway i’d take some jihadis with me, and probably some cops who think anyone with a gun is a bad guy. Just kiddin.

  23. avatar Dave says:

    Considering how long it takes for the cops to get their asses over there, you will have PLENTY of time to holster your weapon after neutralizing the shooter. If you’re properly trained and equipped, you will be treating gunshot wounds for the victims when the police arrive.

  24. avatar Garrison Hall says:

    “Breaking News: An man armed with an AK 47 entered the Down Home shopping mall and began firing at holiday shoppers. As he continued to stalk people in the mall, he was immediately confronted by a armed jewelry store owner and two patrons of the Academy Sports store who were also armed. They exchanged fire with the active shooter who, shot several times, ran into a storage area where police later found his dead body.”

    It’s only a matter of time before something like this or something similar to this happens. Unless they are on the scene when the shooting starts, it won’t be local patrol officers or SWAT teams who stop a spree killer. Armed citizens are the best defense against a spree killer or terrorist.

    1. avatar Garrison Hall says:

      Poor editing. I should have said: “it won’t be local patrol officers or SWAT teams who can immediately stop a spree killer or terrorist.”

  25. avatar William Burke says:

    Robert of whoever handles this, please note I did not receive any TTAG posts yesterday or today.

    The reason may be that when I was on my iPad yesterday, I went to trash a post and accidentally hit the SPAM folder, instead of the TRASH folder. I didn’t intend to report it as SPAM or unsubscribe. Darn tiny screens!

    Thanks

  26. avatar Chase D says:

    If you act and get shot and you die you will die a hero. If you don’t act at all you are a coward.

  27. avatar Sian says:

    100% non issue. The police don’t show up until 5-20 minutes after the shooting starts. By then, if you have a gun, you’re either out of there, the terrorist is assuming room temperature, or you are.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      From what I’ve seen, “establishing a perimeter” usually includes remaining busy doing make-work until gunfire is no longer heard, before ever entering the risky area. If I put a shooter down, and saw no others immediately, I would reload if applicable and then exit the area, reholstering. You’d have to be nuts to think cops will enter killing everybody. I would not put my gun on the ground or whatever, another shooter might come around the corner.

  28. avatar george from fort worth says:

    great post !!

    thanx.

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