The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently released an informational video called “Options for Consideration,” which is supposedly intended to provide information that will increase your chances of survival during an active shooter situation (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oI5EoWBRYmo&feature=youtu.be). Although the video has already been justifiably criticized in many other venues, because it suggests and demonstrates the idea of arming yourself with scissors to attempt to “overpower” the shooter, I felt compelled to address it here on the MBC blog.
The video does provide some useful information, advising you to know your building’s floorplan and take the time to plan and rehearse evacuation routes to get you out of the building quickly. It also provides a useful description of what to expect and how to conduct yourself when law enforcement arrives. Beyond that, it is a typical “feel-good” government presentation that does little to prepare the average person to survive an active shooter event. Sadly, it also undermines the concept of decisive individual action and reinforces the belief that running or hiding are enough to keep you safe until the authorities arrive to resove the situation.
In my opinion, the most irresponsible and misleading aspect of the video is the statement: “If you are caught out in the open and cannot conceal yourself or take cover, you might consider trying to overpower the shooter with whatever means are available.” This narration is accompanied by a shot of a person reaching into a desk drawer to grab a pair of scissors.
First of all, let’s look at the DHS’ choice of terminology. “Overpower” may be an appropriate term for arm wrestling, but not for a life-or-death situation. Faced with an active shooter, your goal is to STOP him by rendering him physically unable to continue his attack. Similar terms, like “tackle” and “subdue”–often used in the media–also create a dangerously inaccurate impression of the reality of the situation and the actions necessary to resolve the problem.
I have trained very actively in edged-weapon tactics for nearly 40 years and consider myself reasonably proficient with them. I have also trained extensively with improvised weapons and worked hard to dispel the many myths that surround their practical use. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that you follw the DHS recommendation and find yourself, scissors in hand, facing an active shooter armed with a firearm. What is the missing piece of the puzzle? What would it take to actually “overpower” the shooter if you were armed in that way?
What’s missing is the part where you approach the shooter quickly from behind and stomp into the back of his leg to drop him to his knees. As you do, you rip his head backward with your free hand so you can drive the scissors full force through his eye socket and into his brain. You then stir the blade in his skull and continue to fight with extreme violence until he is physically incapable of offering any resistance.
Does that sound gruesome? Yes. It is. However, THAT is what it would realistically take to bridge the gap between the DHS’ feel-good propaganda and an actual plan to save your own life.
In an active shooter situation–or any other violent incident–you will be on your own. While having the will, the skill, and the determination to survive with a weapon like a pair of scissors MIGHT be enough, facing a situation with substantial pre-planned resources and potent purpose-designed weapons would obviously maximize your chances of survival.
DON’T mislead yourself by buying into feel-good propaganda. Start making REAL preparations now. Some tangible suggestions to start the process might include:
- Look at your work environment and plan primary, secondary, and tertiary evacuation routes. Then, rehearse them and evaluate them based on speed, safety, and availability of cover and improvised weapons along the way.
- Practice those routes starting from different places in the building, not just your office.
- Have a plan when you get outside. That should start with scanning for secondary threats before you break the cover of the building and blindly run out in the open. Your routes should continue, ideally bounding from cover to cover, from your building’s exit to a place of safety.
- Evaluate the physical security of your office and take steps to maximize it. If you don’t have a locking door, request one. If the management won’t authorize it, achieve it by alternate means–like an aftermarket security bar or wooden door wedges.
- Carry a weapon with you at all times and train to use it competently. Don’t THINK you know how to use it; KNOW how to use it and practice those skills regularly.
- Rearrange your office to make it a hard target and maximize the potential of available cover. Bookcases, filing cabinets, and other paper-filled objects are great sources of ballistic cover.
- If you can’t or won’t carry a firearm, invest in other projectile weapons like pepper spray and practice with them to know their capabilities. Choose wisely so they are appropriate for your environment. A fog-style spray that affects you and your co-workers in a confined office can do more harm than good. A stream-style that offers greater range and more selective application is much smarter. Learn and know the difference.
- Buy your own dry chemical fire extinguisher and keep it in your office. It offers more volume and range than pepper spray and is so politically correct that even extremely non-permissive environments can’t prohibit it.
If you want to be safe and maximize your chances of survival, don’t fool yourself; take action. Prepare your own plan, your own resources, and your own weapons and practice the skills you’ll need to make them work for you. As part of that process, continue to fight for your Second Amendment rights and your right to lawfully carry the weapons necessary to defend yourself and other innocent parties effectively.
Leave the scissors for shearing the sheep.