I’ve been thinking about the [latest] Colorado spree killing along the same lines as the President of the United States. In yesterday’s post-slaughter speech, the Commander-in-Chief offered his commiserations to victims of the Midnight Movie Massacre. “My daughters go to movies,” the President said. “What if Malia and Sasha had been in the theater?” Although I empathize with his empathy, like so much of Mr. Obama’s rhetoric the question is pure pandering without any appreciable intellectual rigor . . .
In other words, what IF Malia and Sasha had been in the theater? Assuming the girls didn’t have a secret service detail, what, exactly, would their father have had them do? As a father of four girls, I asked myself the same question.
I want to state from the start that I am not the average father. Nor, I suspect, are you. As a member of TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia, you’ve thought about all the various aspects of firearms ownership, from proper gun selection and carrying systems to defending yourself from amoral prosecutors and perfidious police. Above all else, you understand the value of training.
Real training. Not punching holes in paper for bragging rights. Preparing yourself mentally and physically for a life-or-death struggle against a skilled, determined and demented attacker. You know you can do everything right in a gun fight and die. You’re ready to face evil. And you know you’ll never be ready enough.
And so you and I have prepared our loved ones. We’ve done everything we can—and continue to do whatever we can—to raise their situational awareness. We’ve told them the cardinal rule of dealing with violence: GTFO. Leave the scene of potential death and destruction as quickly as possible, erring on the side of caution.
We’ve also warned them to get away from us. That we are, truth be told, bullet magnets. If we reveal our firearm to the bad guy or guys, they will make us a target. If we fire they will return fire. At us. We’re ready to die for those we love but we do not want them to die because of us.
And that’s about all we can do. Well, tell them to do. If our loved ones are armed, it’s a different matter. Perhaps.
Meanwhile and in any case, we wonder: what would we do if we were there with them in that darkened theater on that terrible night, facing a man armed with a Remington 870 shotgun, an AR-15 with a 100-round drum magazine and two Glock .40 handguns; dressed head-to-toe in black, wearing what looks like body armor?
After some consideration, I turned to the rabbi for counsel. Not that TTAG’s resident gun guru is any more typical a father than I am. If nothing else the rabbi carries a Springfield XD45 semi-automatic handgun with 14 rounds (13 + 1), a spare magazine holding an additional 13 rounds, a knife, pepper spray, flashlight and six-shot Ruger revolver chambered in .357 magnum.
“It’s hard to use rational tactics against an irrational person,” the rabbi warned. Yes but—what?
“The first thing I’d do is to tell my family to get down behind the seats. The chances are an active shooter won’t shoot what he can’t see. Unless he’s seen YOU, he’s going to find plenty of other targets. Then I’d tell my family to get away from me, if they didn’t already do it [as I’d told them many times].
“At that point I’d assess the situation. My goal: find the nearest exit and get us out . . . I know some readers consider that cowardly but my primary mission in life is to provide for and protect my family. I want to get them out of harm’s way as quickly as possible.”
But what if there’s more than one threat, I asked. What if you’re taking your family away from one maniac straight towards another? Or a bomb? The rabbi reckons he’d operate under the assumption than an active shooters is alone. Even more than that, it doesn’t matter.
“You’ve got to deal with the threat you know not the threat you don’t know. Besides, if there were multiple shooters they would have probably all opened fire at the same time.”
And what if you can’t get out?
“Fight . . . There are a million variables so I can’t tell you exactly how I’d do it. But I wouldn’t let Holmes’ vest or headgear or other protective clothing stop me. You don’t know if it’s real. It’s certainly worth taking a shot at center mass . . .
“I’d shoot at whatever I could: head, feet, hands, ankles, anything.”
Which raises an important point, brought to the media’s attention by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Could the rabbi do it? Could I do it? Could you? Would any of us who carry a handgun for self-defense have the skills necessary to effectively focus fire on the bad guy in the midst of chaos?
“This [incident] underlines the point that owning a gun is not enough,” the rabbi warned. “You need to know how to use it. To shoot from bad positions. To shoot from cover, left and right. To inoculate yourself to stress through force-on-force training.”
How much stress? The rabbi reminded me that the Midnight Movie Massacre could have been worse. Far worse.
“It was over in about a minute. Holmes just gave up. He had plenty of bullets when he stopped. He just waited for the cops to get him, and then told them about his booby-trapped apartment. He could have continued shooting and killing. Easily.”
If we are to take Mr. Obama at his word, he looks at the Midnight Massacre as an event that could have made his daughters into victims. Fair enough. We all sympathize with those touched by this almost unimaginably horrific attack.
But the rabbi’s perspective is more practical, and valuable. He sees the Aurora spree killing as a chance to learn lessons which could save his family. He imagines himself and his family as survivors. And himself a potential victor.
As should everyone.