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Jeff Knox (above) of The Firearms Coalition writes at

I’ve been a shooter for most of my life, beginning when I was about 4, shooting BB guns in the back yard with my mom and older brother. When I turned 8, my brother and father presented me with my first .22 rifle, a single-shot bolt-action, hand-me-down, and I actively shot that as often as I could. A year later, my father gave me a brand new Browning lever-action, repeating rifle for my Birthday, and I have actively been shooting that rifle every chance I get for almost 50 years.

Growing up, I spent many afternoons after school, wandering the hills behind our house, hunting rabbits or shooting targets. In my teen years, my family was often at the range shooting benchrest matches or spending Sunday afternoon shooting skeet.

After a tour in the Army, I got serious about my shooting, working in one gun store, while living in a room in the back of another. That’s when I got heavily into action shooting, spending all of my extra money on ammunition, and going out shooting 4 or 5 days a week, with competitions on weekends.
Not only have I been an active shooter for over 50 years, I have routinely carried a personal protection sidearm for over over 30 years. In all of that time, I have never shot a hole in a floor, ceiling, or wall.

I have certainly never shot another human being, or come close to shooting another human being, either intentionally or unintentionally, and I have never even put a hand on my sidearm in a threatening situation.

I’m an active shooter. Not as active as I once was, and not nearly as active as I would like to be, but an active shooter nonetheless. And I hate the fact that law enforcement and the media have stolen the term “active shooter” to apply to deranged murderers attacking innocents.

Not only has a perfectly good description for me and millions of other recreational and sport shooters been purloined and redefined, the term now seems to apply to criminals who don’t use guns.

Late last month, a deranged young Somali refugee, who had expressed frustration about people being afraid of him simply because he was a Muslim, decided to prove those people’s fears about the “religion of peace” correct by driving his Honda Civic into a crowd of fellow Ohio State University students, then jumping out of the car to hack and stab people with a large butcher knife.

In the moments after the attack, the school sent out an “Active Shooter Alert” instructing students and faculty to “Run, hide, fight” until the situation could be resolved. The media followed the school’s lead, reporting that an “active shooter” had injured at least 7 before being shot by campus police.

This led to former Democratic Party vice presidential candidate, Tim Kaine, sending out a tweet saying that he was “Deeply saddened by the senseless act of gun violence” at OSU, and offering condolence to the victims and their families.

Two hours later, Kaine corrected his error, long after the media had realized their mistake, but the use of the term “Active Shooter” to describe any deranged criminal on a destructive rampage, remains the norm.
Most people don’t give the use of this term a second thought, especially when applied to someone who is actively shooting people in a criminal attack. In that circumstance it seems like a fairly accurate description, but to me, it is not only inaccurate, it is insulting.

It is inaccurate because it does not include any direct suggestion of criminality, using “shooter” to infer that, and it is insulting because by doing this, it implies that shooting is a criminal activity. Don’t call a rampaging murderer a shooter.

Call him a rampaging murderer, or a rampaging attacker, or even a criminal shooter or violent gunman. My brother Chris and our friend Alan Korwin both object to the use of the term “gunman,” making the point that it is part of the sensationalist and glamorizing vocabulary that the media too often uses.

But the term has held negative, criminal connotations since at least the 1860s, so I’m willing to let that one slide. The term “active shooter” on the other hand, has only come into vogue as a description of a mass murderer in the past 20 years or so.

It began gaining traction in the wake of the Columbine atrocity, and has now become so ingrained in the vernacular that it’s even being applied to attackers who are “shooting” with cars and knives.

Maybe I’m being overly sensitive and should just retreat to my safe space where I can pretend like this is all a bad dream that will go away if I wish it hard enough or whine loudly enough.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t work for me since unlike many of today’s college students and other Hillary Clinton supporters, I’m an adult, and a realist. Calling rampaging attackers “active shooters” is easy and accepted, so it’s not likely to go away anytime soon.

Nonetheless, I refuse to participate in this misappropriation of terms, and I refuse to abdicate the proper application of “active shooter.”

As George Orwell noted; “if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” I am an active shooter. I hope to be a more active shooter going forward, and to remain an active shooter for many years to come.

To all of my fellow active shooters out there I say, stand firm. Don’t let them shame you from who you are. Shoot on brothers and sisters. Be proud. Be loud. Stay active. And shoot! Shooter ready? Stand by…


Jeff Knox is a second-generation political activist and director of The Firearms Coalition. Founded by Jeff’s dad, Neal Knox in 1984, the organization provides support to grassroots activists in the form of education, analysis of current issues, and with a historical perspective of the gun rights movement.

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  1. “An active shooter incident is defined by U.S. government agencies as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.'”

    A very good definition if you are a law enforcement agency. It tells you what to expect. Unfortunately, it is used innacurately more often than not. A Somali with a Civic and a gun would not be an “active shooter” because the outdoors is not a confined space, for example.

  2. AMEN!

    The proper term is Active Killer. Killing is what they are doing whether with guns, knives, bats, explosives, etc.

    Law Enforcement researchers who seriously study these rapid mass murder events all use the term Active Killer as the descriptor because in many events once their gun runs dry they move onto other methods of murder.

  3. You sound like the whiny liberals we are all so annoyed with who complain about every little thing with very thin skin. Don’t be so perpetually offended like them. A shot was fired by a cop to stop the attack. In its haste to send out the message of danger, OSU mentioned an active shooter on campus before they probably had all of the information – the fact is a shot was heard which I believe triggered the active shooter warning. An active shooter can be someone who is shooting at targets at a competition, or a crazed person who is shooting at people. They are both “active shooters”. In this case, obviously the crazy man was not an active shooter, but that was clarified once they had the proper information.

  4. The truth is we all know they mean “gun owner” when they say “active shooter”. Because that is who anti-gunners fear — anyone with a gun who they don’t want to have a gun, which is everyone except themselves (via armed guards) the government, military, and police.

    Basically they want protection but don’t care if anyone else protects themselves. You know, they want to be the “elite class” with special priviledges when they have done nothing to earn the fictitious title.

    Like all “special groups” they want to deny people their rights while adding to theirs. It’s the usual PC scam that always starts by playing the victim.

    • It is not semantics. It is anti gun rhetoric. The public hears stories where guns are involved portraying the gun as the central object of evil. This happen all the time in news reports. Take these two of thousands of examples.
      The word “knife” appears once in the headline and only three times in the body of the report. The word “stab” does not appear at all.
      In this article the words “shot, shoot, shooter, shooting, gunshot” appear over a dozen times in an article of similar length.

      • This is just as silly as “sniper rifle” vs. “hunting rifle”. It’s a semantic argument over nothing other hand not having enough butthurt cream.

        “Active shooter” is a decent descriptor. It’s not flawless but nothing is. It’s not an affront to someone who likes to stay active in their shooting unless that person is a snowflake looking to get offended about something.

        This is stupid and I’m sick of it. The fact that OSU put out a message about a shooter is a reflection not of anti gun bias but a set of prefab messages that didn’t consider other weapons and were based on prior experience. People like cops are always fighting the last war and when you bring it up they get pissy because you’re mentioning things they haven’t even thought to think about. They base what they do on doctrine, one of the last refuges of the unimaginative.

        There’s no reason to get bent out of shape about any of this. It’s like planning the invasion of a country like Iraq and bitching that it’s hot or a country like Costa Rica and bitching that it’s wet or like the lady sitting next to me on this plane whining we’re an hour behind on takeoff. Whiney snowflakes worry about specific wording. Intelligent people of action look at that as bullshit which is to be expected and deal with it.

        • I don’t see the butt hurt as much as I see his point.
          I go beyond terms and point out the proclivity of media to emphasize the manner above the act when a firearm is involved and merely the act absent of a firearm.

        • How the media does what they do has been beaten to death in the pro-gun media.

          It’s not going to change. Nothing you, I or anyone else in the gun community does is going to change how the media treats firearms and reporting on them. It’s annoying but it’s a fact of life that we just have to deal with.

          Does it provide our adversaries with an advantage? Yes. However, you go to battle with the units you have on the soil that is contested against the enemy that exists. There’s only one of those things you can change. Complaining about the other two will do nothing useful in terms of advancing you forward and therefore is wasted energy. Complaining and wishing the enemy didn’t hold the high ground with their MG’s and mortars emplaced there doesn’t make those things go away. Wishing you had such an advantage doesn’t make it so.

          You have to figure out how to use what you have to destroy what they have and take what is contested. If you can’t do that then you’re fucked from the jump. If you can do that then you’re good to go. In neither case is whining, which is exactly what this is IMHO, a good use of your time and energy.

          Rather than arguing the semantics of the situation argue to get those damn GFZ’s done away, along with other common sense reforms, with so that people can defend themselves (and others) and thus we have less mass shootings with high body counts and less mass shootings that get to the “mass shooting” stage in the first place.

        • Property identifying obstacles to achieving the goals you mentioned is an important first step to overcome them.
          Public opinion is the number one reason we have bad gun laws. You won’t win this fight in the courts or legislature unless you win it in the court of public opinion first.

  5. Dude is butt hurt over semantics. Active shooter is common term in law enforcement. Got some advise for you Jeff, get over it.

  6. The term is accurate but too general: as pointed out, “active shooter”
    describes both the rampaging murderer and the firearms enthusiast.
    I’m going to give the would-be slave masters a pass on this one.

  7. Which conveys the message better: “There’s an active shooter at the University,” or, “There’s an assh0le shooting people at the University?”

    Yup, from now on, I’m going with “assh0le shooting people.” It’s far more descriptive.

  8. Meh…so what? What should it be? Dude(or dudette) with a gat pulling the trigger? I’m cool with “active shooter”. Inactive shooter?

  9. Armed gunman is the one media term that irritates me the most
    If he is a gunman, then he is armed
    With a gun
    It’s funny that you call yourself an active shooter when you enjoy shooting sports
    I shoot every week and I consider myself a “gun enthusiast”
    My family Says gun nut
    Either works
    I am So Pleased that Trump won and ammo prices and availability are back to normal


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