Addicting Info’s nonsensical “analysis” of an active shooter simulation

16Jan15

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 [40]. 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.

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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 chris_hernandez_author@yahoo.com or on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ProofofOurResolve).

http://www.amazon.com/Line-Valley-Chris-Hernandez-ebook/dp/B00HW1MA2G/ref=pd_sim_kstore_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=09XSSHABSWPC3FM8K6P4
http://www.amazon.com/Proof-Our-Resolve-Chris-Hernandez-ebook/dp/B0099XMR1E/ref=pd_sim_kstore_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=0S6AGHBTJZ6JH99D56X7

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49 Responses to “Addicting Info’s nonsensical “analysis” of an active shooter simulation”

  1. Nice job. Seems like you’ve done a pretty good analysis here, including looking at historical data, as well as taken apart what was not such a good analysis. Personally, I don’t like the idea of a lot of armed citizens running around where I live. Nor do I think schools should be stocked with armed guards. However I don’t think that my philosophical & personal opposition to such things has any bearing on the very narrow & specific question of whether armed citizens, be they ordinary folks or off-duty cops, could make a difference in a hostage/shooting rampage situation. I like your argument here that they can & do make a difference.

  2. 3 fknauss

    Great article. You are still my favorite firearms writer.

  3. 5 Roy in Nipomo

    I don’t see where having an armed citizen present made things any worse when there were people who wanted to kill everyone. At worst, everyone died, which is *exactly* the same outcome expected if no armed citizen was present. If they were to show that the armed citizen (statistically) *increased* the death toll (e.g. “armed” with a Molotov cocktail and burned down a whole block), then they might have a better argument, but under the conditions present in an expected mass shooting (i.e. where the suspect/s wanted a maximum of injuries), it is less likely that they will increase the death toll and a better chance (far from a certainty) that they can reduce it (as you said).

    As to the armed citizen securing his family first and not advancing on the threat, civilians (as opposed to military and police) rarely have the pre-existing mind-set necessary to protect more than their own people. Few have particularly considered putting their own life on the line for strangers as an option, especially when they consider their own family still at risk. Were the armed citizen operating without their family present and/or in an office-type environment where they consider others present as “family”, their actions might be different.

    • Roy,

      That’s one of the odd positions on the anti-gun side. I don’t know how anyone can say, “A crazed murderer is massacring everyone. But don’t shoot at him, that’ll just make it worse.”

      As far as private citizens advancing on a threat, that becomes an individual decision. I can’t fault anyone for not doing it, but I definitely honor those who do (like the CHL holder who was killed while trying to stop the two “revolutionaries” in Las Vegas last year).

      • I think, Chris, it’s an inability to understand the desire of a man to die with his boots on, rather than cowering under a movie theater seat.

        it does give some insight as to the disposition of our opponents in this debate.

        But if I’m going to die, I’d as soon it was while returning fire. Many can’t understand that. Many hold life so dear that there is literally nothing that they would risk their life for.

        They would rather die than risk their life trying to live.

        • 8 LCB

          There was a time where I thought, “If I’m alone, I won’t take another life to protect myself.” But then I realized, if I had even a chance to stop somebody, and I don’t try, then whatever they do next is partially on me. So now I run my mind through the scenarios. I won’t like it if it ever happens. It’ll probably mess me up for life. But I’ll stand before my God knowing I did the right thing if that time comes.

  4. Is anyone really clear on how “highly trained” the Paris shooters were?

    The American media seemed to think that since they moved together side-by-side with their weapons pointed forward, and executed an unarmed cop on the ground they were some kind of AQ SEALs. I tried to find out more from European articles but I haven’t seen anything that indicates “highly trained.” More like the kind of thing you could learn in a good weekend course at a private training school.

    So any info someone can provide us on that would be useful to the discussion of the chances of thwarting the specific Paris attack.

    • 10 Keith

      Judging from the pattern of bullet holes in the windshield of a police car that was involved, the shooters didn’t “spray bullets”, they were well trained to shoot under stress.

    • I see Keith’s point, but I also get the impression they weren’t well trained. They were better than simply proficient, but they don’t seem to be highly trained.

    • “Highly trained,” to our news media, just means that they know how to operate the “shoulder thingy that goes up.”

      I’m not highly trained, but if you put me in an assault situation with a rifle, I’d be moving forward side-by-side with my partner (because what good does it do you or him if one of you is in front?), with my weapon pointing wherever I was looking (generally forward) without having been trained to do this. It just makes sense. Does our media think that anyone who actually aims their rifle and carries in in any way other than sling carry or parade rest is “highly trained”?

      Because if so, I’m a frickin Navy SEAL…

  5. My inner Trekkie wants to draw a comparison between an extremely difficult situation like this, and the infamous “Kobayashi Maru” training simulation shown in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” Seriously, the premise of undergoing a simulated “no-win scenario” in the movie was not so much to train the students to overcome impossible odds, but to use such a situation as a litmus test to gauge their responses and their inner character when faced with such odds.

    You could break and run, or break down in place; you could sit on your hands for fear of making a bad situation worse, and criticize others for not doing the same; you could hope for someone to come up with a perfect solution to the problem, and then nit-pick them to death over the slightest flaws and shortcomings.

    Or, you could prepare yourself as best as you possibly can, understanding that “a good plan executed NOW is better than a perfect plan carried out too late,” accepting the possibility that you and others might still die despite your best efforts, and go down fighting to your last bullet, breath and drop of blood if you absolutely have no other choice.

    Personally, I know how I would like to face that kind of a situation – and I can only hope that I might live up to those ideals if it ever came to that…

    • That’s a good way to put it, Phil. Make a decision and do something. Don’t just sit there and be a victim.

      I’ve been in some bad situations, but nothing as bad as the Hebdo massacre. I know I would take action; my concern isn’t that I’d freeze, but that I wouldn’t do what I needed to do as quickly as I needed to do it. It’s more a fear of failure than inaction.

  6. I’m not a gun enthusiast, don’t own one and not sure if and when I plan to, but I will say that I am slowly coming around to the thinking that while a gun is no guarantee, having a gun in some situations is preferable to not having a gun.

    My only issue with more and more of population choosing to arm themselves for trips to Walmart and such, is that human error may lead some otherwise very responsible gun owners to make silly mistakes that will cost lives. Every so often you hear of someone leaving their weapon on a shelf at the grocery store or in the bathroom or within the reach of a small child. I’m really not even presenting this as a counter-argument, I’m just saying it’s a legitimate concern.

    • 16 Roy in Nipomo

      Most of the time when I read of that type of incident, it is some form of law enforcement involved. This may be because: 1) the media is really happy about embarrassing law enforcement, and/or 2) statistically, law enforcement (in most states) carry more firearms in public than private citizens do. By “law enforcement” I include armed members of all branches of the gov’t (FBI, ATF, etc) and not just local police & sheriff’s personnel.

      I could be wrong, though.

    • Joyce,

      The toddler who killed his mother with the mother’s gun in Walt Mart comes to mind. There is no excuse for that, but because we’re human there is also no way to eliminate human error and bad judgment. I agree it’s a legitimate concern.

      • It’s a legitimate concern, but there’s not really anything you can do about it, especially if you accept that you can not disarm the people.

        Stupid happens. Even to smart people.

        If anyone is of the mind that we need to protect people from their own stupid, in spite of themselves, then they are arrogant, totalitarian assholes. You can’t do that. The cure is much worse than the disease.

        People are always going to main and kill themselves with dangerous implements. It happens all the time, and it is impossible to ban, outlaw, or eliminate all the ways stupid can maim a person.

        i know a guy who paralyzed himself diving into shallow water. Make diving illegal? Dredge every shallow river, pond, or lake to make sure they’re all deep enough to dive? Or, allow people to make mistakes and suffer the consequences of those mistake?

        My buddy’s brother ran himself over with his own car. Left it in neutral, went inside to grab something, came back out, and his car rolled into the garage and smashed him against the back wall. Took a while for him to die. So what do you do about that? Ban cars? Make it illegal to forget to put your car in park? Or, figure the trade off for the mobility cars give us is worth the downside, which is as many deaths per year on our highways as soldiers died in the entire vietnam war?

        To be honest, the discussion isn’t even relevant to the topic.

        “Can guns save people in an active shooter situation?” does not call for a discussion on how we keep mothers from allowing their two year old children to access their loaded pistol, or whether “allowing” people to defend themselves is worth losing the odd mother from a child shooting her.

        The question is not “should we allow people to defend themselves” because that isn’t something the government can grant. Self-defense is a natural right that goes far beyond a government “allowing” it or not.

        Amoebas defend themselves from attacks. Every animal and many plants will defend themselves from attack. The question can not be “should we allow people to defend themselves” because that isn’t something that can be allowed or disallowed. It is just something that’s gonna happen.

        • Eh, I guess. It’s just a concern that I have. For the record, I don’t know if you have actually noticed that I actually lean in favor of having the gun to defend oneself.

    • 20 Ken

      Joyce,

      While to some degree, your concern about safety is warranted; however, it’s hard to take seriously, since swimming pools, and other items, that are far more dangerous than guns.

      The number of accidental drownings per 100,000 pools (residential) is 8.380. The number of accidental firearms deaths per 100,000 households with at least one firearm is 1.935. The number of accidental firearms death per 100,000 firearms is 0.354. In other words, pools are 4 to 23 times more dangerous than guns.

      The number of accidental drownings for people under the age of 15 is 4.147 per 100,000 pools in America. The numbe of accidental firearm death per 100,000 households with at least one firearm is 0.214. The number of accidental deaths per 100,000 firearms is 0.039. In other words, pools are 20 to 106 times more dangerous than guns for people under the age of 15.

      Doing the same analysis for young children (less than 5 years old), you can see that 5 gallon buckets are more dangerous than guns.

      If you’re concerned about safety issues, then guns should really not be a priority, as many other things are far more dangerous than guns.

    • 22 s.herst

      You can analyze the frequency with which your concerns manifest themselves in the real world, even if you don’t want to read any fancy formal studies. You don’t have to rely upon myths and speculative “concerns”, either.

      How, you say?

      Go to a well-known website that allows almost anyone to post almost anything, with a known “filter”…namely the general requirement that each post include video recordings of the incident. Pick a website that does not have any overt affiliation with either side of the controversy, or is possibly even somewhat opposed to the self-defense side of the debate.

      The site is YouTube, with millions of uploads so it has a good sample size.

      Now search YouTube for incidents of ordinary armed citizens (not police or criminals) who successfully defend themselves or their loved ones or even their neighbors or beleaguered cops. Use widely varied search terms such as “15 year old uses AR-15 to save sisters” or “12 year old girl defends against home invader” or “Armed Good Samaritan Praised for Saving Cop’s Life” or “CCW saves life” or “Armed Samaritan Shoots Attacker, Saves Woman” or “Proof that guns save lives”.

      After you do that, conduct a search for armed citizens who are defeated by criminals or who have accidents that harm anyone. Again, use a variety of search terms.

      The result: you will find hundreds, maybe thousands in the successful self-defense category. In the unsuccessful category, you will find just a handful.

      It is quite amazing that there are so many video recorded examples of successful self-defense, since the surveillance cameras that capture these scenarios do not cover very much of the country, perhaps less than 5% of the public spaces. The number of unrecorded self-defense incidents must be many times greater than the number you can find on YouTube.

      If you wish to compare successful self-defenses vs. unsuccessful defenses and accidents, there are more than a dozen survey studies that show similar proportions, compared to just a couple that indicate self-defense is rare.

  7. 23 Don Davis

    Well said, Chris…thanks

  8. 25 RandyGC

    Good write up Chris.

    I doubt that the Addicting Info crowd ever heard of “Anything you do in combat, including nothing, can get you killed”. Some days it just sucks to be you.

    My personal plan for years has been to use my CCW piece to provide suppression and covering fire as required to get my family (and anybody else I can) out of the kill zone. Failing that, buy time by having the threat engage me instead of unarmed citizens, hopefully long enough for the cops to respond and end the situation.

    Maybe I can pull it off, maybe I can’t, and survival is not a high probability outcome against trained proficient opponents, but Murphy is likely to play with them as much as with me. And if it’s against wankers such as the Luby’s, VA Tech, Aurora or just about any school shooter, I think my odds of survival, even winning just went way up. Especially since large numbers of those types tend to kill themselves as soon as they get any active opposition.

    In any case, I really doubt that bullets into the chest hurt any more that bullets in the back.

    Course, I spent a good part of the 80’s expecting to be at ground zero during an exchange with Sovs, shot out of the sky by SAMs or MIGs, or going toe to toe with NK Ranger Commandos kicking in the door of my bunker. So I might have a slightly warped perception of the situation.

    • Randy,

      Your mindset probably makes all the difference. Having grown up, so to speak, accepting the possibility of unexpected lethal violence makes you more likely to accept that it’s happening, rationally assess and act. Many people without your background simply have no context to understand lethal violence, so it becomes an unstoppable monster that some people think shouldn’t even be resisted.

      Most of those people with no understanding of violence think people like Adam Lanza are highly-skilled gunfighters who can’t possibly be beaten by an “ordinary” citizen. That’s a ridiculous belief, but it’s in way too many people’s heads.

  9. 27 Steve Clark

    The anti-gun stance is illogical; “not one more!” seems to be their mantra, but that same statement doesn’t apply if it requires a firearm to achieve.

  10. Someone off topic – but you’ll see in a moment how it relates: Interesting to read (though I don’t know if it’s true) that more people in the U.S. were killed in 2013 by toddlers than terrorists – specifically, by toddlers shooting someone:

    http://blogs.forward.com/jj-goldberg/176043/more-killed-by-toddlers-than-terrorists-in-us/

    I can see this kind of story being used by people arguing in favor of more gun regulation. And I can see Chris’s analysis being used to argue in favor of less gun regulation.

    But what I think would make more sense with these kinds of problems is to think situationally and avoid easy generalizations. For example, since toddlers being able to grab a gun and shoot someone is obviously bad, we can consider ways to reduce the frequency of this happening. And similarly, hostage situations have nothing to do with toddlers grabbing guns, so whether we should opt to make it easier/harder for civilians to be harmed so as to improve the odds in hostage situations ought to be considered as a separate issue/problem. It would be easy to try and glom these two situations together but wouldn’t make much sense.

    • 30 Roy in Nipomo

      The easy refutation of the “more killed by toddlers than terrorists” is that the toddlers’ number is 5 (including self-inflicted) and the “terrorists'” number is 3. One, even “minor” terrorist attack could quickly change the balance, whereas it would take numerous toddler events to raise their numbers. Of course intent makes a big difference. The toddlers (I assume) didn’t have the mens rea to commit homicide while the terrorist were intending to gather the largest number of casualties possible. Also it is difficult to have the gov’t characterize any act as “terrorism” (for political reasons). When Major Hasan’s shooting spree is called just another case of “workplace violence”, gov’t reports and statistics become suspect for use in comparisons.

      Firearm safety should always be addressed, but so should vehicle safety. Vehicles continue to kill far more people in the US than firearms (probably some caused by toddlers, too), yet restrictions on owning and operating a motor vehicle are nowhere nearly as draconian and restrictive as a firearm. For a mass casualty situation, one could probably kill/injure more people by driving a car into a crowd than trying to shoot them all and the preparation for such an action would be negligible, so being detected in advance would be impossible. Also, due to the speed of action, it would be impossible to stop once the crime was initiated.

      The article is a non sequitur. When someone doesn’t like something they will use any stick to beat it. For some political persuasions, feelings count more than logic and “for the children” evokes more “feelings”.

    • 31 s.herst

      5 killed by “toddlers”, 3 killed by terrorists in the year studied by the author.

      How about 2001? 5 killed by “toddlers”, 3 THOUSAND killed by terrorists.

      We could also compare 5 deaths by “toddlers” every year for the last 15 years = 75, and compare it to a single year, 2001, with 3,000 murders by terrs.

      It will take only about 600 years to bring the “toddler” kills up to the single year for terrorists.

      What lesson would the author take away from that comparison?

      Nothing useful, I’m sure.

  11. 32 Steve

    Watching the full 10min original video actually provides even a little more hope…it’s hard to tell but there appear to be 2-3 scenarios where the “good guy” successfully engages the first shooter through the door, and rather than go down the “attacker” keeps shooting (maybe realistic, but if this is the case then the “good guy” should be able to do the same and potentially continue to engage the second “attacker”…the first time this happens, his weapon appears to malfunction and fail to fully cycle). You can tell these scenarios by the “attackers” cursing a lot more 😉

  12. If I understand the scenario correctly, another big factor is that the attackers were on home turf and had lots of prior experience in the very location, while the defenders were the ones on unfamiliar turf. That alone is opposite of the usual situation, and enough to shift the odds quite a bit.

  13. 34 TimUFR

    Well, not that easy to watch the re-enactment of the slaughter of a few of my countrymen.
    Nonetheless, it seems to provide some interesting results. Kudos to TTAG and everybody involved. Simply declaring on TV that “the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” is not enough. Not my country nor my debate, but I feel pro-2A in the US should go beyond that and follow the path TTAG just took with that study. Sure beats open carrying with your M82 to the closest starbucks.

    One thing that I haven’t seen mentioned here or on TTAG (maybe it was and I missed it):
    There was actually an armed “defender” in charlie hebdo’s offices that day. He was a member of the SDLP (the closest french equivalent to the US Secret Service http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Service_de_la_protection ) and was tasked with protecting one of the journalists. Even though he wasn’t completely taken by surprise, he did not get a single shot of. I don’t know much of his bio, but he was apparently very experienced. He had, among other things, provided protection for VIPs abroad in some dangerous places and was wounded once in the line of duty.
    Why he wasn’t able to make a difference that day remains a mystery at this point.

    It has already been mentioned but another thing to keep in mind, is that the 2 actual terrorists had received a few months worth of training in Yemen 4(!) years ago. So they were trained but not highly trained as the media keep repeating. The two instructors/pseudo-terr in the TTAG test had probably much more training/experience.

    Anyway, that tragic episode ended when the terrorists were cornered and killed by one of the world top CT unit.

    Regards,
    Tim.

    • 35 Roy in Nipomo

      TimUFR-
      “[D]eclaring on TV that ‘the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun’ is not enough”, is fine, but then what would stop the bad guy? If something less than armed force is viable, what would it be?

      As to the armed SDLP officer, a couple of questions come to mind. Since he was unable to get off a round, it would appear that he was one of the first casualties. Was he in uniform or dressed distinctively from others present (a major disadvantage for proponents of open carry)? If not, was it a rotating assignment or limited to just a very few who could be identified by the terrorists? The terrorists had to have done some planning as they chose a time when a majority/all of the artists and others would be concentrated in the same room. Might they have not also identified the officer/officers who would be present and a danger to their plan? Had there be any recent activity/threats to the office or was it just another boring day at work? Like guards in a prison, the advantages lie with the attacker: if long periods go by with no action, guards fall into a routine. The attackers chose the time and place for the attack and try for one to their advantage.

      As the flawed TTAG exercise showed, just having someone present who is armed is not a universal solution (in their case, call it an 8% solution as only once out of 12 times did it save any lives). The big question is: what other possible solutions might provide better percentages?

      It is easy to say, “This isn’t working well”, but one needs to follow it up with a suggestion on what would be better.

  14. 36 John Oglesby

    Two things I thought of when reading your post:
    1) American Airlines Flight 93 on 9/11. All the passengers died, but they prevented the terrorists from accomplishing their goal of attacking some target in Washington, DC. They fought back, still died, but accomplished a very great thing. An analysis like Addicting Info’s gives no credit to their actions.
    2) After the attacks at Charlie Hebdo in Paris, the attackers fled and it took a manhunt to find them. If they had met armed resistance (as you describe – someone being shot at cannot murder indiscriminately until they deal with the person shooting back), then they may have been unable to escape and potentially attack other targets. Keeping the murder spree confined to a single location is an acceptable goal.

    I really like your writing style and appreciate what you bring to the table for these types of discussions.

  15. 37 tbrown930

    Excellent read and synopsis Chris!

    In my opinion, one of the major issues here is that people that can approach this subject with such flawed reasoning have absolutely no understanding of “dying well”, and likely will never understand it. It is a philosophical debate in which one side is advocating honor, while the other side knows only cowardice.

    I hate to sound like a fatalist but, I think people that can actually believe some of those cowardly arguments quite literally have a mental deficiency and very real psychological issues. It is risk aversion to the extreme. I bet most of them have never jumped at a chance in their lives and thrown caution to wind even once, just because of the mere possibility that they might actually fail.

    The philosophical point is, even with all of the odds stacked against you, even if everything points to an unavoidable failure and certain death, you ACT because it is the right and honorable thing to do. Regardless of whether your one carry gun or even just your plain old fixed blade is not enough to end the threat, it is righteous and necessary for good to go on the offensive against evil lest evil triumph unmitigated.

    So the real question posed to the other side should be, if there is even a small chance that it might save one life, how can you choose to prevent people from being able to take that chance?

  16. Thanks for the “malice-less” response to a ridiculously biased article.

  17. “The armed citizens were (apparently) Concealed Handgun License holders, while the attackers were professional tactical weapons instructors.”

    The entire thing falls apart right here.

    Adam Lanza was not a professional tactical weapon instructor.

    Neither was the guy in Aurora, or the guy at Fort Hood, or the guy who shot Gabby Giffords (and, we forgot so easily, that little girl).

    You put me up against a tactical weapons instructor, he’s probably going to kill me. You put me up against Adam Lanza, and if I don’t kill him, statistically speaking, he’s probably going to off himself at the first sign of resistance. Even if he doesn’t, and even if he gets lucky and puts me down, how long does that take him? How many kids get away safely while he’s worried about me shooting back?

    This entire mess falls to pieces as soon as you put two trained guys with rifles up against an untrained civilian with a pistol.

    No one wins in that scenario.

    The entire thing was jigged to produce a result, and it produced the result that they intended.

    But I could have told you before they even did the survey and saved them a lot of time running the simulations – one person with a pistol loses against two men with rifles, even with the same level of training. You don’t pull a pistol and go to war with two guys with rifles and win. it doesn’t happen.

    Note: all the times the police have gone up against bad guys with rifles and gotten their asses handed to them – the FBI down in Florida in the 80’s, the LAPD against those bank robbers in the ’90s. You take a gun to a knife fight, you lose. You take a pistol to a rifle fight, you lose. Period.

    So the entire study was unfairly skewed to produce a “person with a handgun will accomplish nothing” result.

    Take those same random CWP holders and pit them against each other, and my guess is the success to fail ratio gets much closer to 50/50, which is pretty good odds, and is far more realistic of a scenario.

    besides, I can’t stress this enough – even if it only take ten or fifteen seconds for the bad guy to kill the good guy, how many people get away and are not killed because of that?

    • Goober, I am skeptical of your hypothesis that “the entire study was unfairly skewed to produce a person with a handgun…nothing result.”

      You mischaracterize the scenario by conflating it with an Adam Lanza type shooter. This was a recreation of the Charlie Hebdo office, not Newtown.

      Second, it wasn’t about “an (one) untrained civilian” against two trained riflemen, it was about two or more (somewhat) trained civilians, modeling a hypothetical scenario. Early media reports suggested that two cops were with Charlie Hebdo staffers 24/7, and until reading comments above, this is the first I’ve heard of any details about defenders, from actual AARs, other than the sketchy media reports. So that part of the setup was closest to what was known, from open source.

      If there is one artificiality, its the above average familiarity of the Patriot Training employees playing the bad guys, knowing the home turf. But as some have pointed out, its highly likely the attackers did some research in advance, and pre-planned or gamed parts of the assault. In that sense, the Patriot assaulters and the Muslim attackers shared an advantage- prior knowledge of the office layout, and room clearing strategy during the attack.

      They clearly took advantage of the woman with her kids at the keypad protected door- that would have MOST likely to have been planned, for fast access to defeat that barrier, and
      they attacked when all staff were in the regular morning meeting, making it easy to control the largest number of people with shock and surprise, identify targets, and get out in least time on target.

      So, all in all, given the very short time frame to set up, with unknown capability of volunteers, I thought TTAG did a pretty good job. And if the event attracted enough interest, then it would be likely to be repeated again, in the future, with all the ideas and lessons learned, in a modifed scenario.

      The bottomline, as others have said, is obvious to even the most mendacious PR spinner- self defense by armed citizens is a LOT better than being killed hiding under a table, unarmed.

      And if the definition of a “win” is wounding or killing one of the attackers, and/or providing suppressive fire to allow others to escape, then even in the face of very tough odds, then there WERE wins.

      Perfect is the enemy of the good enough…

  18. 41 Stuart the Viking

    The anti-gun folks are so quick to squeak about how “a gun won’t help you”, but they never have an answer as to what WOULD help. At least with a gun you have a fighting chance to have a positive effect whether you actually survive or not. Without, the only hope you have is hiding or running away. Neither of which could possibly help the other people who are in the situation with you (and you would likely be just as dead).

    s

  19. 42 Ken

    Not a single mass shooting has been stopped by an armed civilian in 30 years

    This is one of the most infuriating lines that I hear from gun owner control advocates. The reality is that it’s likely armed citizens stopped a whole mess of mass shootings before they became mass shootings. The left wants it both ways, to claim that 1) in the face of mass shootings, the mass shooting wasn’t prevented and 2) if there wasn’t a mass shooting, even with a shooter stopped by an armed civilian, there wasn’t going to be a mass shooting.

    It’s fools like these who would have laughed at the ludicrous idea of two dozen hijackers killing over 3000 people and destroying three major American buildings, two commercial and one military, had the FBI announced they had arrested these two dozen guys on September 10, 2001.

    • New Life Church mass murders (Dec. 9, 2007) cut short by a volunteer guard with her personal pistol. The attacker was armed with an AR-15 clone, so it was a good test of the “trained person with a pistol vs. moderately trained person with a semi-auto rifle” question.

      Pistol user was unharmed, and shot the attacker several times, after which he shot himself to death.

      Does anyone think that Jeanne Assam should have just given up when she saw the AR, and left the hundreds of people in the church undefended on the grounds that her pistol “would just make things worse”?

  20. 44 mightypeon

    I generally wondered why gun rights as such a “left right” thing in the USA.
    In Germany, it is more of a generational divide I think. In Russia it is the left (meaning the actual Communists)that generally tends to want more guns and more gun education, because of “evil Goverment and/or evil west and/or evil Chechens”.
    The USSR actually had a very thorough militia culture pre war, and those preexisting cadres that already were experienced with rifles, tanks or even airplanes were a huge asset after the frontline of the RKKA got crushed by the Wehrmacht in the opening stages of Barbarossa.

    Concerning the topic: Criminals looks for victims, not for opponents. The actual chances of a suprised civilian with a low ammunition pistol to defeat rifle armed and prepared attackers are highly limited. Nevertheless, an armed attacker that is currently dealing with the more dangerous opponent is not spending his time killing defenseless opponents.

  21. Thanks Chris, great writeup. I thought TTAG did a great job getting something going early enough in the news cycle to grab attention, and give them props for reporting fairly on results.

    That is in sharp contrast to the obviously slanted reporting by Addicting Info and some others, which as you have refuted point by point as simply ignorant, or worse, deliberately misleading.

    And that is just another example, among many that just shows how desperate the gun-grabbers and their enablers in the Journolista media have become, as the facts and truth starts to change more minds about 2A rights to self-defense.

    Thanks for your service, and the fine writing.

  22. 46 Bob

    Why doesn’t anyone consider the possibility of more than one citizens carrying a weapon? I would have been interested to see the results of simulations with two or even three armed citizens.

  23. 47 Kirk Parker

    Isn’t there a little too much emphasis here on the hopelessness of pistol vs rifle? This was indoors, in a modest-sized building! Plenty close enough for pistol rounds (and pistol accuracy) to have made a difference (and in at least once in the simulation, it did!)

  24. 48 Josh C

    Late tangent on foggy masks: you can mostly fix that by putting a thin film of shampoo on the inside. Baby shampoo works great.


  1. 1 “Your Brain on Guns” | Shall Not Be Questioned

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