When contemplating the aftermath of a mass shooting like the Orlando Pulse nightclub slaughter, gun rights supporters point out that a good guy with a gun may have prevented the tragedy, or at least limited the carnage. In fact, an armed security guard rushed outside the club as Omar Mateen began his attack. There was an “exchange of gunfire.” Mateen, equipped with a SIG SAUER MCX and a GLOCK 17, entered the club. Officer Adam Gruler, equipped with a handgun, left.
Lt. Scott Smith and Sgt. Jeffrey Backhaus arrived at the Pulse shortly after Gruler called for backup. The two officers immediately entered the club and exchanged gunfire with the killer, who retreated to a bathroom — with hostages — and stopped firing. The officers failed to press their counter-attack any further, but dragged victims to safety.
There are plenty of people who would have done the same as Gruler, Smith and Backhaus: retreated and called in the cavalry. Yes but– Gruler was an off-duty cop getting paid to protect lives. And given the body-littered floor, Smith and Backhaus knew that as long as Mateen was breathing he was a grave threat.
The same knowledge possessed by the SWAT team that responded to the shooting. And waited three hours to take out Mateen. While victims bled to death.
It’s hard if not impossible to know what you’ll do in a high-stress life-or-death situation unless you’ve been in one. But if you’d been the paid security outside the Pulse, do you think you would you have re-entered the club in pursuit of a well-armed homicidal maniac?
By the same token, if you were Smith and Backhaus, would you have confronted the killer in his last redoubt? Remember: you’d have to live with your decision for the rest of your life.