Some of this "active shooter training" seems a bit dubious

The terrorist attack in San Bernardino seems to have increased the awareness of a need for security protocols at schools and businesses around the nation. This is already resulting in an uptick in demand for training services which hopefully prepare workers to help themselves during a worst case scenario, at least until the police can arrive. It’s an important consideration, since even the best, most prepared law enforcement agencies located close to the scene of a mass shooting will still require several minutes (at a minimum) to show up, and even then there will be a delay while they figure out who is who and formulate an entry plan. As we’ve clearly learned, a couple of minutes delay is often too late for those facing down a terrorist or a deranged madman.

But as the Washington Post reports this week, some of these training teams are advising some rather questionable tactics. (Emphasis added)

Spooked by a year of high-profile rampages, hundreds of companies and organizations like NeighborWorks are racing to train their workers how to react to a shooter in their workplaces. And after decades of telling employees to lock down and shelter in place, they are teaching them to fight back if evacuating is not an option.

The idea: Work as a team to disrupt and confuse shooters, opening up a split second to take them down…

At NeighborWorks, almost three dozen employees were taught to throw things at a shooter — chairs, books, purses, pens, phones, anything — and swarm. Those items don’t seem all that threatening compared with an AR-15, but that’s not the point.

“If you can move him from offense to defense, you have changed the outcome of the event,” said Greg Crane, a former SWAT officer whose company, the ALICE Training Institute, trained workers at NeighborWorks as well as at Facebook and Apple. “He’s thinking about what you are doing to him, not what he’s doing to you. Mentally, he’s going through a whole different process.”

Well… okay. I suppose something may, in some cases, be better than nothing. But this approach seems to ignore some fundamental realities. One hour of training for your average data entry clerk probably isn’t going to get her ready to charge a guy holding a .357 magnum armed only with the latest edition of Spreadsheets for Dummies. The majority of untrained civilians are going to freeze up anyway, and unless you happen upon a truly unusual group you’re unlikely to get a large bunch of people who are all going to instinctively swarm towards the guy with the gun. If only one or two wind up doing it, they’ll simply be the first ones shot.

The WaPo article even identifies the better solution without endorsing it.

Gun rights proponents have a much different view of what works. They say that if more law-abiding citizens were armed, more mass shootings could be prevented. But most employers ban guns from the workplace, even in states that embrace concealed-carry permits.

Yes! You’ve hit the nail on the head whether you meant to or not. The problem – or at least a big part of it – is that many state governments don’t want the good guys to have guns to begin with. And even in states where they favor lawful carry policies, too many civilian administrators still want to ban guns from their premises, creating precisely the type of safe shooting range that terrorists will find most attractive. One or two people with guns in a room full of folks who may be unwilling to throw a pencil sharpener at the assailant could very well make the difference and turn a potential mass shooting into a very short term event. If they fail, well… at least somebody tried rather than meekly being mowed down.

This type of training isn’t a total lost cause because, as I said, something might be better than nothing in rare cases. But the trainers should also emphasize training the civilian administrators in charge about the foolishness of banning weapons on the premises for the law abiding.


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David Strom 5:21 PM on June 02, 2023