Friday, January 06, 2006

Fight or Flee?

Via Hell in a Handbasket, this is an extremely interesting article about two shootings of people last year that decided to take matters into their own hands. One incident happenned in Tacoma and the other in Tyler, Texas.

The article decsribes the actions of two true heroes, Brendan McKown and Mark Wilson. Both engaged crazed gunmen and Wilson died for his bravery. McKown is more than likely paralyzed for life.

I have rehearsed this scenario in my head so many times it makes me dizzy. I am at the mall and a crazed gunman enters and begins cleaning house. I have practiced with my handguns at the range for many hours, always with the thought in the back of my head that someday I may need that practice and familiarity with my weapon to protect myself or my family.

But what about other innocents? How would I react if I were in a mall by myself and the gunman appeared? Of course, if I were with my family, I would immediately seek cover for them (not concealment, cover) and hunker down with them with my weapon and defend them first. By myself though? Would I protect other innocents if they faced certain death from a crazed gunman? Maybe.

I suppose it depends on the weapon the gunman has and where I would be in relation to him. If he had a rifle and we were in close proximity I may take a pot shot or two at his head only if I had cover and could surprise him with a shot. If the gunman is over 50 feet away, my handguns accuracy and power is severely diminished and I would probably seek cover, only shooting if he rushed me.

I take a bit of issue with this part of the article:

For the purposes of this discussion, I will divide those who criminally use firearms into two broad categories: rational criminals and crazy shooters. I am aware that other categories could be suggested such as thrill killers, “crimes of passion” and terrorists, but those aren’t particularly relevant for this analysis. By “rational criminals” I mean the folks whose basic “job” is some kind of crime, such as stick-up guys, burglars and dope dealers. While they may suffer from poor judgment and other character flaws, they are relatively “sane” and rational. They use their firearms as tools of the trade and only employ them to coerce and intimidate others or to defend themselves. These folks tend to react in more or less predictable and rational ways, and their responses can often be anticipated. If they’re cornered and you have the drop on them, they are more likely to surrender and cease their behavior, since, like other rational people, they don’t want to be shot and they know they can go to jail, call their lawyer, and be back out on the street in a few hours. If they aren’t cornered, they will flee – a rational response to the instinct for self-preservation. This is not to say that you should ever let your guard down, but with the rational criminal you have at least a common basis for communication and expectations.The “crazy shooter” is a different breed of cat. He may be truly psychotic and hallucinating, very high on drugs, or in some other way distressed and no longer operating in a rational framework. His responses cannot be anticipated. He may be insensible to pain because of drugs and/or suicidal. He may be hoping for a “suicide by cop.” The values of the crazy shooter are totally different from those of rational people, and rational people are rarely able to empathize with or understand a crazy shooter without advanced professional training. He is a failed personality who has run out of options. These folks almost never have a realistic exit strategy for the situation because most often they are not really planning to live through the encounter.

Without benefit of hindsight I don't see how anyone can really tell the two apart in the heat of that sort of situation. I see a gunman, I assume crazy, whether he is crazy or not.

So what would you do? If you were in a mall are you ready to act? Are you armed? If not, do you have proper cover in your immediate area? These may seem like silly questions for those of you who have not had a shooting in your towns in a long time. I bet they seemed like silly questions in Tyler, TX and Tacoma, WA last year as well.

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