I have much to say about this kind of thing given that DHS has trashed pretty much everything they did have for encouragement of self-protection and training (which was a lot at the time) in favor of ripping everything from their own FEMA and giving it over to a brand new agency that is still in its infancy and still sporting its first Director: CISA. The incredible magnitude of CISA’s effort in so short a time is nothing short of amazing. I’ll get to that in future. For myself, for my parish, for churches and synagogues, I have some practical suggestions at least for this locale. I’ll get to that in future as well, I hope.
For now, I would like to repeat some advice from a previous post on the old FEMA out-of-date and broken-linked effort of more than two years ago, which post has been seen by pretty much every justice department and law enforcement agency from local to state to federal, and has been visited by pretty much every educational institution, private, city, county, or state, from podunk to the ivy league, also internationally, making it one of the most visited posts ever on this blog. That post is now out of date, except for the added advice:
- I would like to see among first responders to an active shooter critical incident on a church campus my own parishioners who are already on campus, and who are LEOs, military operators, or otherwise highly trained individuals who can instantly respond to and neutralize any threat, that is, those who don’t rest on their laurels, but who are frosty, always and instantly at the ready.
- I would NOT like to see parishioners participating in this program who have a concealed carry permit but who, other than their first qualification just to sit in the course have never fired their stop-the-threat-tool, or have only rarely done so. I can see it now: fumbling around in a purse or ultra-complicated safety holster (with all sorts of unnecessary safeties employed on the gun itself), trying to figure out how to use for the first time red-dot sights or lasers with all their switches or not (depending), with batteries being useful or dead, with zero scenario training, zero indicator awareness, zero situational awareness, and therefore little possibility of recognizing and isolating a target and therefore being caught off guard with a lack of confidence and therefore way too much hesitation and liability to foggy confusion, and therefore with an increased possibility of causing friendly fire casualties.
- I would like to see the very same parishioners and others help to get those around them out of the building or, if that’s impossible, to the floor, even while getting out their phones and calling 911 and/or (depending on the circumstances and logistics) fighting with anything at hand: hymn books, loose chairs, music stands, instruments… oneself…
- But here’s where the importance of a plan comes in, when everyone should know their part to play, so that flight or dropping to the floor is important so as to give clear access to defenders who have the proper tools to stop to a threat (regardless of policy on firearms), therefore reducing the possibility of a friendly fire causality. The placement of defenders in good positions of situational awareness and the possibility of responding is key.
- Flight-hide-fight. This is about love.
But in viewing that church shooting video above, one more point needs to be added. I praise the church for having a security team and for allowing firearms in church for self-defense. That team might have been trained up well. But…
- There were four fellows who drew their weapons – a couple of them moving from left to right in the foreground aisle – and I don’t know if those latter two were on the security team or not. They could just be visitors trying to help out. They might have been well trained, even military or police, but lost it when the adrenaline hit, perhaps falling back on house clearing training for SWAT or military. But even then – sorry – they’re not doing that well. Those two don’t have a target as the perp is already on the ground behind the pews. Those two are super dangerous to all around them. They’re continuously flagging their fellow parishioners with the muzzles of their own weapons. If that’s just because of adrenaline and they have their fingers on their triggers, they might have extremely easily pulled the trigger in the chaos. If they were that controlled by the adrenaline (and there are ways to control it, and use it), they might just as well have pulled down the muzzle had they had to pull the trigger, again risking hitting not the perp but another parishioner. In this kind of a situation – with no target in sight and lots of people in between – they should have had their weapons high entry, so to speak, not low entry and certainly not aimed right at other parishioners the entire time. It’s high because if you draw up, in this situation, you’re directly flagging the very ones you want to protect.
No one gets out of training. Churches present a different situation from SWAT or military house clearing, as the above video makes evident. Military and Law Enforcement exceptions are not to be made in scenario based training with the exact incident in the video above as evidence of this. Everyone dismisses the soft target as that which is easy to protect. The opposite is true, especially because of this attitude. “I got this!” is the typical exclamation based on truly heroic careers of those who have been highly decorated for their bravery in violent incidents. I get that. It’s the temptation of any and all to rest on their laurels when it comes to soft targets. It is what it is. Unless there is scenario based training also for the differences of high entry and low entry, even the greatest of heroes isn’t to be on the security team. We don’t need anyone thinking “they have this”. Watch those two guys in the foreground of the video above again. That’s as scary as the active shooter guy.
Just because you own a tool doesn’t mean you know how to use it. Even if you have your drills down, that doesn’t mean you have your scenario practice in. And that certainly doesn’t mean you have situational awareness skills or deescalation skills. I’m NOT claiming I’m great at any of those, but I do some study. I try to keep up. I think that’s an obligation for everyone who carries. It’s a service to society to carry. Just make sure you have at least some competence.
Let’s look at some stills:
- In the picture above the defender in the top middle circle has already taken down the perp and has his weapon pointed at him with clear line of sight. Great!
- The defender in the white shirt and black vest at the top left has his weapon drawn low entry. Not great for the circumstances. If he does have to draw up, he will have to flag his own parishioners. Not good. He should be high entry. But he’s clearly scanning and taking in the situation as it really is. Perfect. I like this guy.
- Meanwhile, the guy in the dark maroon shirt has his weapon pointed directly at our defender up top as he moves along flagging everyone in front of him. NOT good at all. I’m guessing he’s a visitor. But even then he should see that the guy up top has dropped the perp and is simply keeping a bead on him, and not shooting others. The defender guy up top is NOT the perp.
Let’s move on a nanosecond:
- In the picture above we see the defender guy up top still with a bead on the perp, and the guy in the upper left still at low entry – we’ll let that go – but he’s still scanning and evaluating. Great!
- But the guy in the maroon shirt in the lower center of the above picture is still aiming directly at his security team guy who took down the perp. What the heck? This guy has gotta be a visitor. But even so, he should be noticing the guy to the upper left, where he is instead looking, and note that he’s low entry. But, not at all. This guy in the maroon shirt, in my opinion, is dangerous. Look, I wasn’t there. I wasn’t in the scene. I wasn’t filled with adrenaline. I didn’t suffer tunnel vision. I’m sure the guy means well, but, the point is, he needs some training or retraining for how to do up things in a church.
Let’s move on a nanosecond:
- The hero defender guy – unmoving – still has a bead on the perp. Great!
- You would think the guy in the maroon now all the way to the right, would have figured things out by now, but he’s still flagging everyone and still has a bead on the hero defender. Dang. Who the heck is he?
- The guy in white shirt and black vest in the upper middle left circle, still really low entry now, has already figured out the outcome, light years ahead of the guy in the maroon shirt. Great.
- Now we see another guy in black to the far left. He’s also flagging everyone, but really seems to be aiming right at the two defender guys in the middle top. Dang. These guys might have plenty of laurels to rest on and be great heroes for whatever they’ve done in the past – even both have Congressional Medals of Honor for that matter – and I’m not denigrating them… it’s just that, seriously, any training has gone out the door and they have no clue as to what they are doing, flagging everyone and not noticing the two defenders are looking somewhere else and NOT shooting anymore. Those three should all be high entry…
What I’m saying is this: Scenario based training in the environment in which you are going to be a defender is important. Churches and synagogues are much different than “kill house” training, you know, house-clearing training. It’s not enough to carry. It’s not enough to know your drills. You have to know how to approach a situation. You have to know how to read a situation.
Again, I’m the armchair pundit here. I’m a zillion miles away from that church. I wasn’t there. I didn’t have the adrenaline pumping. I didn’t suffer from myopic vision because of adrenaline. All I’m saying is that there is a world of difference – easily between life and death – between the two defenders up top and the two to either side. It’s not enough to have a security team even made up of war heroes and law enforcement. This is a different situation. It’s a soft target that’s actually more difficult to defend.