Gun gurus talk about the “fight or flight” response. They warn students that they will experience one or both of these adrenalin-fired reactions to extreme stress/danger. No matter which way an individual reacts—and they usually don’t get to choose—they’re looking at severely degraded motor coordination skills, reduced cognition and a general inability to think strategically. Hence the gurus’ insistence on endless (and endlessly profitable) training to develop “muscle memory” and other “instinctive” shooting self-defense skills. Yes, but—there is a far more common and dangerous reaction to life-threatening danger: freezing. You see it above in the clerk’s reaction and . . .
…you see it in most ANY video involving the general public and a shooter or potential shooter. People just stand there like lemons (to use the British expression). Or mill about. Or walk through the scene obliviously, as if nothing particularly remarkable’s happening.
None of these options are advisable. Or are they?
Fighting someone with a drawn gun is a pretty dangerous, not to say desperate and perhaps even futile reaction. The clerk above would not have found much safety in attacking the bare-chested (save for their vests) cops. Even if they weren’t cops, lunging across a countertop is not a recipe for winning a fight. Element of surprise, but no.
Running also has its disadvantages. Humans are predators. Human predators even more so. When hunters hunt they look for movement. At the same time, we’ve had a million years of being prey. We’re programmed to know that if we run from say, a vicious dog, the dog will be attracted to the movement and attack.
In other words, freezing is a viable self-defense strategy—especially amongst a large group of people. Standing still makes it less likely that the bad guy will single you out and do something bad. Not impossible. But less likely.
Even so, the smartest reaction to life-threatening danger (a.k.a., the one with the highest probability of success) is to move out of the way. The clerk here should have dropped to the floor and crawled away. As should you in a similar circumstance, seeking cover or concealment.
It’s not flight per se, as you don’t necessarily need to move so quickly as to attract unwanted aggression. Call it avoidance. And how often to gun gurus train their students to move out of the way when danger arrives (rather than attacking)? Not often enough.