Addicting Info’s nonsensical “analysis” of an active shooter simulation
I recently read an article about armed citizens from the liberal website Addicting Info (http://www.addictinginfo.org/2015/01/14/texas-ammosexuals-re-enact-charlie-hebdo-shooting-with-armed-civilian-everyone-still-dies-video/). The article purported to be an analysis of a mass shooting simulation, based on the Charlie Hebdo attack, carried out by the web site The Truth About Guns. The simulation and its results were extremely interesting, and eye-opening for people who don’t understand the dynamics of a mass shooting; Addicting Info’s analysis, not surprisingly, was extremely slanted against the idea that armed citizens should fight back against an active shooter.
Here’s a brief description of TTAG’s simulation (http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2015/01/foghorn/ttag-charly-hebdo-simulation-preliminary-results/):
Twenty-six volunteers played the role of civilians inside a simulated office building. TTAG ran twelve scenarios, each with one person acting as armed citizen and two as attackers armed with rifles. The armed citizens were (apparently) Concealed Handgun License holders, while the attackers were professional tactical weapons instructors. For the simulation TTAG used UTM guns, which are actual weapons modified to fire marking rounds similar to small paintballs. UTM guns handle exactly like standard weapons.
Of the twelve scenarios conducted, in only two was the armed citizen was able to “kill” one attacker. The attackers killed the armed citizen in every scenario except one, in which the armed citizen fled. In no scenario was the armed citizen able to kill both attackers.
Sounds bad, right? Addicting Info thought so. Their headline, where they refer to gun owners as “ammosexuals” and claim “everyone still dies”, is a pretty clear indication of their stance on armed citizens. Unfortunately for Addicting Info their reporting was not only so biased as to be useless, it was also objectively wrong.
Before I get into my analysis, I’ll lay out my background and explain why I my take on this exercise is so different from Addicting Info’s.
I’ve been a police officer for twenty years. I’ve spent the majority of that time, over ten years, on the street. I’ve worked for two small departments early in my career, then in the late 90’s moved to a very large police department. I also served eighteen months as a United Nations civilian police officer in Kosovo.
In the large department I currently work for, I was an assistant active shooter instructor. In this role, I helped train hundreds of police officers how to respond to mass shootings. I set up simulations similar to those organized by TTAG, and acted as the active shooter in most of them. I was also fortunate to receive advanced training on mass shootings from our SWAT team, and occasionally play the role of suspect in the team’s exercises.
I’m also a veteran of over 25 years in the Marine Corps Reserve and Army National Guard. As a soldier I deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. I was in combat in both countries.
I’ve also had the opportunity to attend several advanced pistol and carbine classes from private tactical training instructors. While I am not an expert on mass shootings, I am extremely familiar with the dynamics of mass shootings, the specific considerations involved in live-fire shooting simulations, and the general principles of both police and military lethal force encounters.
I’m going to quote excerpts from Addicting Info’s article, then explain why their analysis is incorrect. The excerpts will be in italics.
Occasionally, stupid people whose love of weapons transcends their sense enjoy attempting to justify a belief that the world would be virtually immune to crime if only we furnished every man, woman, and child with a firearm.
As an avid gun collector and shooter for over thirty years, I’ve never heard even one gun owner say every man, woman and child should have a gun. Even allowing for hyperbole (obviously nobody wants to arm children), and acknowledging the ridiculous and symbolic laws in some towns requiring every house to have a gun, there is no push on the pro-gun side to arm every adult. Some people are simply not suited to possess a gun, much less carry one. A significant percentage of our population has an uncontrollable temper, or suffers from mental problems, or has substance abuse issues, or a serious criminal background, or lacks sound judgment. Some – and this is important – simply don’t want to carry a gun. Speaking as both a cop and advocate for armed citizens, I don’t want everyone carrying a gun. But I do want those who are honest, sensible, trained and willing to take action to carry one if they choose.
I support armed citizens not because I think having a gun makes anyone invincible, or because it guarantees the citizen will win against an active shooter. I support armed citizens because I believe in the following principles (among others).
1) Armed citizens have a better chance of surviving a mass shooting than unarmed citizens.
2) During a mass shooting, armed citizens have a better chance of saving others than unarmed citizens.
3) An armed citizen can save lives even if he or she misses the suspect, because a suspect scared of getting shot is going to turn his attention away from unarmed victims who pose no threat.
4) You don’t deter crime by being a compliant victim.
So no, the world would not be safe if we blindly “furnished every man, woman and child with a firearm”. But America might be safer with greater numbers of trained, responsible armed citizens.
Not a single mass shooting has been stopped by an armed civilian in 30 years, but right-wing blasturbation club The Truth About Guns decided to play ‘Charlie Hebdo’ on Tuesday in an effort to show that an ‘armed civilian’ would have stopped two heavily-armed terrorists and saved lives.
According to a 2014 FBI bulletin on mass shootings (http://leb.fbi.gov/2014/january/active-shooter-events-from-2000-to-2012), between 2000 and 2012 three active shooters were shot by potential victims on the scene before the police arrived. Liberal site Mother Jones (whose study Addicting Info cited in their article) identified these three incidents but pointed out the “potential victims” who shot the active shooters were off-duty cops, former cops, or in one case a Marine. The Mother Jones article didn’t mention the Trolley Square Mall shooting in Salt Lake City, where an off-duty cop stopped an active shooter simply by shooting at him (he missed). The active shooter stopped shooting, retreated to cover and was shot by responding on-duty officers. It also didn’t mention the Clackamas Mall shooting in Oregon, where an active shooter retreated and committed suicide possibly because he saw an armed citizen maneuvering toward him (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clackamas_Town_Center_shooting).
Addicting Info and Mother Jones dismiss a shooting by an off-duty cop as totally different than a shooting by an armed citizen. I disagree. When I’m off duty, I’m effectively facing the same constraints and limitations as an armed citizen. I’m not in uniform. I have no radio. I’m not wearing body armor. I have no intermediate weapons or handcuffs. I have no backup. I likely have only a small concealed-carry pistol, with an extremely limited amount of ammunition.
What I do have is training and experience. However, the simple fact that I’m a cop doesn’t automatically make me better trained or more experienced. Generally speaking, cops have more training and experience than private citizens. But plenty of police officers have only the minimum training, barely manage to qualify the one time per year they’re ordered to fire their weapon at the range, and avoid additional training like it was syphilis. Not all cops are gun guys; far too many police officers won’t even carry guns off duty, even now when we’re under significant threat.
Armed citizens aren’t a monolithic block either. A lot of combat vets get concealed carry permits, and it’s fair to say that a large number of those are better trained and more experienced than the average cop. While it’s true that many armed citizens have only the minimum training to get a carry permit, many others have sought additional training or have significant experience (or both). Some of the most skilled shooters I’ve ever known were neither military nor law enforcement.
Whether someone is a cop or armed citizen, the basic actions in a mass shooting are the same: assess the situation, draw, move to the most advantageous position, engage if possible, and call for help. You don’t have to have a badge to effectively do those things.
The experiment was a massive flop. The group did, indeed, gather the requested number of volunteers . Unfortunately for them, that was the most successful part of the adventure.
That’s just bad reporting. TTAG got 26 volunteers. And the simulation achieved a lot, in that it gave concealed carriers valuable experience they wouldn’t have otherwise received. TTAG never stated they were positive an armed citizen could take out two shooters with rifles, though they did theorize one could:
“We need your help to prove [those who oppose armed citizens] wrong . . . After our post-Newtown school shooting sim in Connecticut Nick and I reckon an armed civilian (or two) could have prevented a great deal of slaughter in the Paris terrorist attack. I contacted Dallas’ Patriot Protection to arrange a simulation to prove – or disprove – our theory.” TTAG’s post calling for volunteers later states, “If you’d like to show the antis the error of their ways (presuming), please send your name, cell phone, [etc].” (http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2015/01/robert-farago/ttag-apb-need-40-warm-bodies-tomorrow-dallas-charie-hebdo-sim/)
TTAG had a theory, tested that theory, and released the preliminary results even though those results refuted their theory. I’d give TTAG a pat on the back for that. (Full disclosure: I’ve written a few articles for TTAG and agree with many of their opinions, but strongly disagree with their support for the open carry movement.)
Volunteers gathered on a set. . . Armed with a paintball gun, the volunteers took turns playing the role of a heroic “good guy with a gun” in the office. Also armed with paintball guns were two “terrorists” who appeared to execute the infidels in the scenario. The “gunmen” were professionals from tactical training company “Patriot Protection.”
Just an observation here. A citizen armed with a pistol is obviously at a huge disadvantage against two highly-trained, professional shooters armed with rifles. But the two instructors from Patriot Protection don’t represent the average active shooter. Most active shooters have been capable of operating a weapon and shooting defenseless victims, but incapable of actually fighting.
Dedicated terrorists, on the other hand, are far more likely to be trained and experienced. Anyone who finds himself facing two trained rifle-armed terrorists, whether he’s an armed citizen, uniformed cop or Green Beret SEAL from Recon Team Delta, is in for a hell of a bad time.
No matter how well you’re trained, there are situations you’re not going to win. “American Sniper” Chris Kyle, highly skilled with weapons, was shot in the back by someone he thought he could trust. That doesn’t mean Kyle’s skills were worthless, it just means some situations really suck. The most highly trained gunfighter in the world is going to lose if someone drops an anvil on his head while he’s sleeping. An armed citizen facing two highly skilled terrorists with rifles isn’t an unwinnable situation, but it’s pretty damn close.
Over and over, the armed civilian was “killed,” along with those “gun rights” advocates claim he or she would have protected. In only two cases was the “good guy” able to remove even one of the gunmen from the scenario.
In two cases out of twelve, an armed citizen was able to kill one attacker. That’s a hell of an accomplishment. And it’s likely to save lives, since, you know, a dead terrorist can’t shoot anyone. Not only that, but a dead terrorist has a rifle and ammunition a good guy could pick up and put to use against the second terrorist. I’m sure the staff of Addicting Info would disagree, but the fact that someone dies trying to do the right thing doesn’t mean they were stupid, or “lost”. An armed citizen can die while saving lives. Most people would see that as an honorable act. Addicting Info doesn’t.
I’ll also point out that people really don’t like getting shot at. An active shooter can’t have fun murdering defenseless people if he’s worried about getting shot in the face. If an armed citizen shoots at an active shooter and misses, the active shooter still has to stop murdering people and focus on not getting killed. That change in his focus might save people’s lives.
Only once did the “armed civilian survive” — when she ran away at the first sound of “gunfire.”
This, folks, is what’s called “yellow journalism”. The armed civilian in that case did NOT run away at the first sound of gunfire. According to TTAG, “In one of the early scenarios, a relatively new shooter decided that instead of trying to confront the armed terrorists she would use her gun to cover her retreat and give her co-workers time to escape. This plan worked perfectly, and she was able to escape from the room while returning fire towards the attackers, allowing nearly everyone in the room to escape before she too turned tail and ran.”
In my world, that’s called a win. An inexperienced armed citizen managed to save some lives while under attack from two terrorists with rifles. I suppose Addicting Info considers it a failure because she didn’t save everyone; this is right in line with an odd belief on the left, which I summarize as “If you can’t save all, don’t save any.” Gun rights opponents will argue that it’s impossible for an armed citizen to prevent a mass shooter from killing people, but refuse to acknowledge an armed citizen can at least save some.
When a murderer walks into a room with an AK and starts shooting, people are going to die. Nobody, no matter how well armed or trained, is guaranteed to save everyone’s life. But a person with training, skill and will to act can make a difference and save some lives. That’s why most of us carry a gun; not because we can solve every situation and save every innocent person, but because we can save at least one.
Oh, I should point out that Addicting Info’s headline – “everybody still dies” – is obviously false, since in this scenario everyone did not die.
I’m sure Addicting Info isn’t going to let facts get in the way of a good story.
“Still got killed but did better than I thought I would,” said volunteer Parks Matthew. He says that watching everyone around him “die” has shown that he should not protect his children if he encounters a shooter in a movie theater — Matthew will ensure that they emerge from the situation fatherless, instead: “If I’m in a movie theater and someone pulls a gun, what am I going to do? I know now I’m not gonna just fall on my kids and protect them, I need to advance on the threat.”
Shouldn’t protect his children? Shooting back at a mass murderer instead of running, hiding and hoping for the best IS protecting his children.
Let’s say you’re out with your family and wind up in an active shooter situation. If the shooter is close and actively trying to kill you and your family, you pretty much have to immediately fight. If he’s far away (you hear gunshots and screaming down a hallway but don’t see anything, for example), you have time to direct your family to safety and then fight. An armed citizen has no obligation to advance on an active shooter, and if he or she decides to simply get their family to safety and leave I don’t (exactly) have a problem with that. But there’s certainly nothing wrong with taking action to protect other people. Addicting Info thinks resisting an active shooter is a guaranteed way to die; they don’t seem to have a problem with the multitude of incidents that show not resisting gets a hell of a lot of people killed too.
Of the twelve simulations, not a single one involved the volunteers finding themselves able to kill both shooters.
Again, not surprising. However, Addicting Info left out some pertinent information (totally honest mistake, I’m sure). TTAG mentions a couple of flaws in the simulations themselves, and one is huge: due to the temperature inside the training area, the full-face masks worn by the volunteers kept fogging up. This was a problem we constantly encountered when I was an active shooter instructor, and anyone who has played paintball has probably experienced the same thing. “Many volunteers complained that they were unable to see the attackers at all when they finally entered the room, and were forced to simply shoot in their general direction. Obviously in a real world situation fogged up face masks would not be an issue, so this is a problem that we experience trying to re-create the scenarios only and detracts from the applicability of the testing to real world scenarios.” Without fogged masks, it’s possible some of the armed citizens may have been more effective (although that may have applied to the terrorists also).
But what’s the most important lesson from this simulation?
An armed citizen managed to save people who would have otherwise been killed.
In each of these scenarios, the attackers were intent on killing everyone. The presence of an armed citizen, in most cases, didn’t stop them from doing that. While the armed citizens didn’t win and didn’t save lives in those cases, they certainly didn’t make the situations worse.
But in one of the scenarios, an armed citizen engaged the attackers, provided a means of escape, saved lives, and managed to survive the encounter. Maybe she only saved a few lives. Maybe only one.
That’s one person who would have been murdered, but survived instead. Addicting Info doesn’t think that one person is worth the trouble. I do.
Chris Hernandez is a 20 year police officer, former Marine and currently serving National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com and Iron Mike magazine and has published two military fiction novels, Proof of Our Resolve and Line in the Valley, through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ProofofOurResolve).
Filed under: Cops | 49 Comments
Tags: active shooters, addicting info, charlie hebdo, the truth about guns, veteran writers