The first four articles in this series may be found:
You’ve made the choice to engage two terrorist shooters in a local shopping mall. Despite your best efforts, some people have already been shot and wounded, some killed. But you’ve been able to overcome both terrorists. People are still screaming and panicky, and your vision has now expanded back to its normal width. You can hear clearly again. Strangely, your ears aren’t ringing. Your handgun, a Glock 19, is still out, pointed at low ready toward the now mostly motionless killers, your finger out of the trigger guard, in register.
There are, as I suggested in the last article, many potential dangers, some worse than you’ve thus far faced. Survival may not turn out to be such a wonderful thing. Your choice, while brave and noble in the best traditions of American responsibility and heroism, will change your life forever, and the lives of those you love.
Keep in mind that the two bleeding terrorists may not be the only terrorists present. You can’t afford to relax and let down your guard. Even people who appear to be quite dead have been known to revive long enough to cause great damage to others. Indeed, people still wake up on the mortician’s table (I’d find that enormously funny). In part four of my rationale for gun ownership series, there is a description of the mechanisms of stopping human beings. There is the possibility that any explosives they have may be remote detonated via a cell phone call. There is no good way, except immediately getting out of any likely blast radius, to protect yourself from this possibility. You’ve already risked your life–and your future–saving innumerable lives. There are more to save.
But first, before doing anything else, get your wife, and several other rational, non-shell-shocked people, to go some distance away in every direction to intercept arriving police officers. Their sole job will be to tell the officers what’s happening, who you are, and to lead them safely in so that they can take over the scene. They must be told that explosives are possible, that additional unknown terrorists may be present in the crowd, and that the terrorists haven’t been disarmed or searched. Be very careful that your messengers know you’re the good guy and ensure that the officers have no doubt about it. Fail in this and your heroism will be posthumous because the police will shoot you.
If the police refuse to accept this and point their weapons at you and start giving you orders, follow them. They will shoot you. In fact, they may shoot you no matter what you do. But I’m the good guy! So what? They don’t know that and you can’t rely on them to be absolutely professional and rational in such situations. Do whatever you can to remain a good guy without bullet holes in him. Expect to be handcuffed and treated roughly indeed.
It may take some time for the police to arrive. Use it wisely. Particularly, call the firearm attorney you have on your speed dial, or have your wife do it. If you are carrying a concealed weapon, you must engage a law firm that specializes in the use of force with firearms. Such firms exist all over the nation and are becoming more and more popular. For a few hundreds dollars a year, they will provide full representation, 24/7/365 if you are ever involved in a shooting. If you are ever involved in a shooting, it will be the wisest money you ever spent.
Say as little as possible and follow your attorney’s advice. The smartest thing to say is “I’ll be glad to fully cooperate with you as soon as I have the advice of my attorney,” and no more.
It will take some time for the arriving police officers to orient themselves, to communicate, and to arrive at a plan of action. Do not expect things to move quickly.
Before the police arrive, if there is time, use your wife and willing bystanders to help to organize people to evacuate the area and to move the wounded to safer areas.
Should you move the terrorist’s obvious weapons out of their reach? It’s generally a good idea if you can do it safely–remember never to relax too soon–but never put yourself within reach of anyone who might be desperate to get their hands on you to take your weapon or otherwise do you damage.
Ch, Ch, Ch, Changes:
Before we move more deeply into the process. Consider this: as soon as you’re sure the bad guys are down and the immediate danger is past, leave. Flee. Get the hell out. Say nothing to anyone, avoid showing your face to anyone, get to your car, being sure no one is following you, have your wife meet you, and leave. Say nothing to anyone about the event, ever. You weren’t there, you know nothing about it, and golly, aren’t the barrel, extractor and striker in your Glock looking worn? You really have fired more rounds through that gun than you thought! It’s probably time to get new ones, and safely–and permanently–dispose of the old. Can’t leave potentially dangerous gun parts laying around, can we?
Would the police want you to stay? Of course. Might leaving be a crime of some sort, or one a vindictive police force or prosecutor might concoct? Possibly. But there are very good reasons for leaving. Among them is the fact you have not only done nothing wrong, you have risked your life and your future to help others. So why would you want to leave, and why should you do it as quickly as possible? Because you want to control public access to your identity, which is something with which your attorney can potentially help.
It may already be too late. Smart phone cameras, still and video, are everywhere, and there is always a chance some idiot, rather than ducking and running, may be filming the action. Possibly many such idiots. Such videos and photos are often blurred and essentially useless, but you can’t count on that. The chances of such videos existing rise exponentially the longer you are there and particularly, immediately after the imminent danger has passed. If you are talking to the police, or sitting around handcuffed, you’re going to be the star of a worldwide viral video. And the longer you’re there, the more likely a news photographer will be to show up. Their photography won’t be blurry. The media will ensure that your face is seen at least as often as a starlet’s twerking rear end.
And then there is the mall surveillance video system…
Still not sure you would slip away if possible?
The police will be obliged to investigate the shooting–your stopping of the bloodthirsty terrorists–as murders unless and until they decide otherwise. You could be charged with murder or other crimes. At the very least, you’ll probably end up detained, booked and jailed for awhile. As they go through that process, which in a case like this will take a very long time, your files and identity will pass through innumerable hands, some of who may well have terrorist sympathies or at the very least, little or no appreciation for the wisdom of keeping your identity secret.
In the Garland, TX terrorist attack, the lone police officer that killed both terrorists with only his handgun remains anonymous–as far as we know. He was obviously quickly cleared. The police do indeed, for the most part and in most situations, protect their own. If you run across a particularly ethical group of cops, they may be willing to do the same with you, but you absolutely cannot count on that. In fact, the more people that are involved, the more likely your identity will be leaked. Federal agents from multiple agencies will become involved and the Feds often care little or nothing for local police officers, considering them barely sentient drones. Imagine how much less they care about individual citizens, particularly if you espouse the wrong politics. Their actions are often dictated, in part or entirely, by political concerns. All of this is very, very bad for a variety of reasons.
The most obvious danger is that of terrorist retaliation. If your identity becomes known, and understand that terrorists around the world will be actively seeking it, they will do their best to kill you and your family. In very real ways, conscious and unconscious, the media will be their best friends in that pursuit. They will want to use you as a pawn in one of their favored narratives. Do not expect the media to laud you as a hero, not for a second. Some will want a breathless exclusive: “How did it feel to shoot that poor young Muslim, Mr. Smith?” Others will simply be happy to climb to a sort of warped celebrity over your corpse. Many may not actually try to put you in danger, but they’ll do it all the same. It’s who and what they are.
The repercussions for you and your family will be ugly. Your employer, whoever it may be, will almost certainly fire you, and who can blame them? Who would want a homing beacon for an RPG round working in the building? Who else, knowing your true identity, would ever hire you again? Who would want to be anywhere near you?
Any social life you may have had will be over. Your wife may find the stress too much to bear; goodbye marriage.
The psychological repercussions may be equally onerous. Some people forced to kill others, regardless of how necessary and righteous, never fully recover. Add to that all of the other consequences, and life–however short–may never again be happy-making.
The government might put you in the federal witness protection program, but that would depend largely on who is in the White House at the time. Under the current President, I wouldn’t bet on it. Even if they did it, I wouldn’t bet on keeping it secure. And even if such a boon were granted, long-term survival requires changing everything about oneself and abandoning all ties to friends, family and one’s prior life, even the smallest habits and preferences. Imagine having to change your favorite color and live it. Many people can’t do it and are killed when they make one little mistake.
You’ve dared greatly and saved lives. You deserve far more than the bleak picture I’ve painted, and you might get it, but if you’re going to be fully informed, you need to consider these issues–they’re not everything by any means–too.
Most rational people may, by now, be saying “the hell with that! If I come across something like this, I’m running, first time, every time.” I can’t argue with that.
I can only explain my own thinking. If I had the means to save lives and did nothing, I couldn’t live with myself. It’s an issue of some importance to me, an issue I’ve often considered as an airman, police officer, and a citizen. It’s also important to me because as a teacher, I am disarmed. Standing an inch off school property, I am trusted with concealed weapons, a certified firearm instructor, an experienced police officer and veteran. On school property, I am untrustworthy and have no right, and a very reduced ability, to protect my own life and the lives of my students. It doesn’t matter that I am uniquely well qualified to protect lives.
Yet I know, I have no doubt, that if my school were attacked, I would do whatever I could to take down the attacker or attackers, even knowing I’d be very likely to die in the attempt. Timing and distance are everything in hand-to-hand combat. People with distance weapons–guns–have an overwhelming advantage.
Why would I do that? Why would my principal do that (we’ve talked about it)? Because some principles are more important than mere safety. Because the lives of our students are more dear to us than our own. Because we feel the obligation to treat those kids as though they were our own. Because there truly is no greater love than that we lay down our life for another.
If I will do that with the odds against me from the start, what’s my excuse when I’m armed and much better able to protect myself, and others? While my wife would want me around, her pride in me, and respect for me have inestimable value. She would expect no less of me, and of herself. We’ve talked about that too.
So yes, despite all the potential consequences, despite everything it might cost, I’d do it. I’m an American. It’s what we do.
As for you, gentle readers, at least you have another perspective to consider. Freedom always has a price, and circumstances have made us all the new first responders.