Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Stopping a Mass Shooter

    Since the terrible and senseless murders in that Aurora movie theater, there's been a lot of talk about how to fight back against a mass shooter. It's become a standard talking point that more guns among the victims would have allowed someone to kill any mass shooter, basic tactical realities notwithstanding. And Houston's Department of Public Safety and Homeland Security has recently released an instructional video called "Run. Hide. Fight.," which offers basic tips on surviving "an active shooter event." The shortest, and best, takeaway from the video is that "run, hide, fight" is a list of the best options in order. Getting away is your best hope. Getting behind cover is the second-best hope. But if you can't do either, the grim question is what to do?

    I'm not an expert, and won't pretend to be. I'm not in law enforcement. But a few years ago, after one very high-profile mass shooting, there was an anonymous threat to repeat that crime at my workplace on a specific date. Since I was going to be at work that day, in the building that where such a copycat shooting would take place, I thought fairly hard about the mechanics of these shootings, and especially of the specific incident mentioned in the threat. The would-be copycat never showed up, thank God, and now I pass the fruits of my obsessive worrying on to you.

    Here's the basic fact: if you are attacked by a shooter in a public place, and if you ever get a chance to stop the shooter by force, you will get that chance when the shooter stops to reload. That is the best opportunity that you could possibly have. It also strengthens your chances if more than one person rushes the shooter, preferably from different directions. But unless the shooter needs to reload, even attacks from multiple directions mean at least one person attacking him will get shot. The pause for reloading really is your best chance.

    You are not guaranteed to get that chance, or any chance. You could be shot before he needs to reload. In the case that my copycat threatened to imitate, the shooter had worked out a method for protecting himself during reloading. (I have absolutely no interest in detailing that method.) And if the copycat attack had happened, I would most likely have been on the floor of a basketball arena, while the shooter could potentially have fired from an upper level. Shootings like this unfold randomly, and you're not guaranteed anything. This is one of the many reasons that "run" and "hide" are the go-to strategies.

    If you did get a chance to attack the shooter, in that moment when he needs to reload, you would not need a gun to stop him. When he is temporarily unable to fire, he can be attacked with bare hands or hit with anything handy. And there are documented incidents where shooters have been stopped, and further killing prevented, in exactly this way.

    On the other hand, if you happened to have a handgun on your person when the shooting started, it still wouldn't help much until the shooter had to reload. Most mass shooters are using semi- or fully-automatic weapons with a high rate of fire, designed to provide suppressing fire that makes it hard for anybody to fire back. That is what "assault rifle" means: it's a rifle designed to assault and overwhelm armed opponents through superior firepower.

    The military designed weapons like these so that our soldiers and Marines could limit enemies' ability to fire back at them. And even not-quite-fully-military versions can spray more than enough gunfire to hold off return fire from random civilians with handguns. Of course they can. They're designed to. The point of the assault-weapon ban in the 90s was to limit guns with enough firepower to overwhelm the police. My number one nightmare as a police brat was one of my family having to defend her- or himself with a handgun against someone with an automatic weapon. Even trained professionals who take regular handgun practice aren't properly equipped to fight back against an assault gun.

    This is of course before we even consider that the shooter will almost always start shooting before anyone else draws. And having a gun doesn't keep you from taking bullets, or guarantee that you will be in any shape to fire back. Of course not. Carrying a gun does give many people an increased sense of safety, but this is purely psychological: in fact, just an illusion. And if you view carrying a gun as making you safer when you strap it on, you need to rethink things. Guns are not magic amulets. The placebo reassurance they provide can even be dangerous if it keeps you from assessing risks properly.  And having a gun when you're attacked without warning by someone with much, much more firepower is not going to increase your safety a whole lot.

    What matters most, then, is how many bullets the shooter has in each magazine. He should need to reload early and often. The fewer bullets he has in each clip, the more opportunities there will be to stop him, and the sooner they will come. Because the grim truth is that you have to concede the shooter his first magazine. Unless the gun jams, he will likely get off every bullet that he has in the clip when he starts shooting. If he has sixty rounds in that clip, he's likely going to get to fire sixty rounds. If he manages to reload, the window on stopping him has closed for another sixty rounds. If he only has ten rounds in each clip, then there's less damage he can do before the brief moment that he becomes vulnerable, and the more of those brief moments of opportunity there will be.

    The most sensible policy, given these basic facts, is not to expand concealed-carry laws (which have at best a marginal effect on incidents like this and at worst a merely hypothetical one) but to limit the size of magazines. That won't prevent shootings like this, but will limit the number of people that a shooter can hurt and kill. A smaller magazine allows the killer fewer shots, creates more chances to stop him, and limits his ability to lay down the kind of suppressing fire that prevents people from shooting back at him. (A high-firepower attack eats ammunition fast.) Having a gun won't help you against someone who has dozens of bullets left and can spray them at you rapid-fire. On the other hand, you don't need a gun to stop someone whose gun is empty.

    Limiting magazine sizes shouldn't sound like a radical step. We've done it before. The hundred-bullet drum that the Aurora shooter used was illegal just ten years ago. Making them legal again, as the gun lobby insisted, hasn't done a damn thing to prevent crime since then. But it made this crime a lot worse, and made it easier to kill people. If you want to stop people from killing large numbers of their fellow citizens, and I certainly do, it would be a big help to give people fewer shots. The Second Amendment might be complicated. But restricting the sale of large magazines shouldn't be complicated at all.


    The Second Amendment might be complicated. But restricting the sale of large magazines shouldn't be complicated at all.

    It's no more complicated than negating DADT, DOMA or a myriad of other severely flawed and destructive legislative actions - but as we have learned, the real complications arise when attempting to apply common sense and constructive rationales to those whose personal agendas require the chaos of irrational acts. 

    I wonder if any law enforcement agency has tested scenarios where armed officers are placed in an auditorium as part of a training exercise and a "surprise" armed attack occurs to see how efficient these trained individuals are in suppressing a shooter with an automatic weapon?

    Obviously, the bullets would not be live ammo. not every officer would be "armed", just a few. How well do trained law enforcement officers perform in such a situation?


    It would be interesting to see what the results of "best case "scenario are when an armed law enforcement agent is placed in a confined space with an armed shooter with a high powered weapon in a crowd of people.

    Air marshal training comes to mind as does Secret Service training for worse case events. I doubt that these agencies would report their results to the public.

    The NRA would have us believe that surprised armed citizens would perform well in these adverse situations.

    Well, geez, Walker, Texas Ranger always defeats bad guys with automatic weapons with just his foot.

    See that? No need for a gun!

    Chuck Norris' foot is classified as an automatic weapon by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.  Also, his sweat is classified as alcohol and his hair is the finest tobacco.

    There's the difference between me and Chuck, right there. My foot is only classified as a biohazard.

    Tell that to Braddock.

    Colonialist 1: "Hip hip hooray; The people will be granted, "The right to bear arms"  by the new government; but the government will restrict bullets"

    Colonialist 2 "Say what?  "Tell this new government of the NEW Englanders ; same as the old government,  go to hell, we wont ratify." "Since when do we need your permission, to defend ourselves against foreign and domestic enemies."?

    Syria's Assad: "Pass a law; no citizen shall own anything other than a slingshot".

    You do know what they meant by "domestic enemies," don't you?

    Black people. And red people.

    They wanted guns to fight Indians and to suppress slave revolts. Because they were not just colonists but, as you helpfully render the word, colonialists: dedicated to colonizing and repressing other groups by force.

    I generally feel violence against such "domestic enemies" in unnecessary. But if you're planning on dropping by the rez with an AR-15, please give the authorities two days' notice so they can arrange, uh, tactical support for you.

    If you were serious about breaking the government's monopoly on force, so that there could be armed resistance to the central government, you would certainly not advocate the gun laws we have today. Even Scalia's insanely expansive view of gun rights would not suffice. Because the weapons available are far more than anyone needs to defend themselves personally, and far, far less than anyone would need to fight our military for more than a few hours.

    If we want to have gun ownership as a check on government tyranny, we need to have a conversation about the power of the National Guard (although the Constitution also, confusingly, makes the President Commander-in-Chief "of the Militias of the several States.") And we would need to talk about "the people's" right to own tanks, warplanes, and various kinds of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles. Otherwise, a bunch of assault rifles might as well be slingshots.

    The fantasy that personal gun ownership will make you invulnerable from criminal violence does not become more lucid when combined with the fantasy that personal gun ownership will keep you free from the central government. The second fantasy is even less realistic than the first.

    Of course, if we decided that the people had the right to own all manner of military hardware this would likely do 99% of the population no good at all.  Heck, even the very richest would have to devote their entire worth to building arsenals of the type that the U.S. armed forces typically roll right over. And who would man this equipment?  How good would they be compared to the professional armed services?  The U.S. hasn't just spent a lot of money on this stuff, it's spent a lot of money over a long period of time.

    Honestly, it's all jut silliness.

    And we would need to talk about "the people's" right to own tanks, warplanes, and various kinds of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.

    We've had that conversation already, our forefathers stated "WE" have the Right to bear arms" proportional to the tyrannical power. WE will never be defenseless against tyranny unless; WE allow it, under the guise of security, by the very Government that could abuse it's authority.  

    Maybe you haven't noticed, Syria's Assad called out the Air Force to quash the peoples rights; now the people have surface to air weapons, to counter the Tyranny of the Government.

    Imagine drones in America, assaulting peaceful occupiers, the government fears.

    "Burn down the Branch Davidian, they have guns"

    What do you think, will your slingshot work, to take out the eyes, of  military weapons, used against American civilians?  


    Imagine some left wingers decide to burn down the Capital building Reichstag   in protest of the dramatic cuts in Social Security or the peoples safety net.

    Imagine a serious food or water shortage and only the elites have access. The elites will have guns, THE  National Army and the peasants will be unarmed.

    In reaction, the dupes and lackeys (Blackwater or it’s progeny) decides to convince the President, to sign an executive order,  ban the  Guns; …..screw the constitution.

    Congress in the hip pocket of the elite class, essentially telling the peasants citizens …   f* off,  the food and water belong to those who can afford it

    Imagine a hunkered down President Assad , Nixon war time President , parroting the call;  “GET THE GUNS”  declaring for the good of the Nation, a decree banning guns .

     “Constitution?  We don’t need no stinkin Constitution” we must crush this left wing revolt, of those who oppose the ideology of “We are the elites, we decide what’s best for US”  …. OBEY or else!!!!

    The elites already have the best army and equipment, while the idiots disarm us.  

    I had a reader take me to task for referring to a semiautomatic AR-15 as an assault rifle.  This gun enthusiast believes that only fully automatic weapons can be assault rifles.  I didn't get into it with him because, why bother, but I've shot one AK-47 in my life and it was designed for semiautomatic fire.  But it had what's called a hairpin trigger.  The first time I shot it, I fired three rounds, thinking I was only going to shoot once.  In a situation like to describe, it's a distinction without a difference.

    And, yes, limiting magazines makes sense for a whole lot of reasons and not just to stop spree shooters.  A drive by shooting has much the same dynamic.  A shooter arrives, empties their clip and then escapes.  Better 9 bullets than 60 or 100.

    And, of course, I'm sure that the police would appreciate limiting the "suppressing fire" capabilities of criminals.  But, as soon as I say that somebody will accuse me of forgetting that they need their arsenal to hold off those fascists in blue...

    A semiautomatic AR-15 is considered an assault rifle by the ATF.  Living in Wisconsin near the Minnesota boarder, I can go to Minnesota and buy a semiautomatic rifle following a short background check.  They will not sell me an AR-15 unless I am a resident of Minnesota and I then come under the 3 day waiting period.

    We can outlaw high capacity clips, but just like drugs they will be available to anyone who really wants one.

    Actually, outlawing precision-machined industrial products, like modern armaments, is a pretty good way to keep people from getting them. Outlawing agricultural products that can be processed in small-scale facilities, or chemical products that can be produced in simple secret labs, is hard.

    But the two aren't comparable.

    Marijuana grows in dirt. Even an addled stoner can produce it without much trouble. Likewise, it's pretty easy to grow coca plants and opium poppies (although not always in the US climate), and easy enough to process them into cocaine and heroin. Meth and LSD can be made in labs in people's basements, and are.

    A high-quality high-capacity ammunition magazine, and for that matter the ammunition for modern firearms, require modern factories. You can't make these weapons in your shed in your spare time. So it's very easy to crack down on  production and distribution.

    You're correct that there are inconsistencies in the law.  At least some of this is the result of states letting their gun law languish while the FAWB was in effect.  This was certainly the case in California, where there is a list of specific make and model AR and AK receivers that are banned.  Guns that are not specifically listed, or not considered to be either AR or AK type, are legal to purchase and own.  This is the case even when the weapon is functionally identical to the banned weapons, as is the case with the Ruger Mini-14, which can be bought right off the shelf like any other long gun.  It can likewise be fitted with any combination of aftermarket accessories that the owner might desire - folding or collapsible stock, pistol grip, flash hider, extended magazines, etc.  The Wiki article linked above features a couple of pictures of Mini-14s and Mini-30s, which fire the same caliber round as the AR-15 and AK-47 respectively.

    These inconsistencies, while reflecting poor implementation of law, do not amount to an argument that the law should not and could not be made better and/or less inconsistent.  Neither is it clear that "anyone who really wants one" would still be able to get a large magazine if they were regulated like, say, hand grenades.  James Holmes built bombs, for example, because they are not easy to acquire through other means.  They cannot simply be ordered online.  Similarly, while it's easy to believe that, say, Mexican drug cartels will stay well armed regardless of gun regulation (though this, too, is debatable given the flow of guns in North America), it's much harder to say that someone like Holmes would have been easily able to acquire a 100-round drum mag had it not been so easy for him to quietly obtain the item online.  I don't find it believable that this geeky kid would have been pounding the streets of Denver to acquire illegal weapons.  He did what he did because he was able to do it quietly and without risk.  That's what has to change.

    It's a good point that often gets missed -- will hardened criminals purchase banned items?  Yes, if they are available.  Will they always be available?  Well, no.  And sometimes it will take cleverness or connections to get them.  That won't stop 100% of hardened criminals from getting what they want, it might not even stop most of them, but it makes things more difficult and, in the case of gun parts they are, as Doc Cleveland says, difficultt to manufacture.  And, on the black market, you risk buying a fake that could cause your weapon to blow up in your face.

    And then there are the non-hardened criminals.  First timers like Holmes.  They can be potentially deterred just by making things difficult.  Heck, it could take so long for somebody in the throes of a mania or psychic breakdown to figure out the intricacies of a black market (where they would not likely be welcomed, even if they could find it) that they might get over the impulse before they even started to make progress.

    Another risk you face operating in the black market is getting pinched.  No such risk when UPS can bring armament right to your doorstep.

    Holmes didn't need guns; he could have found legal chemicals under the kitchen sink along with a legally purchased chain and lock. 

    Sure.  He also could have just made a bomb, a skill he had clearly acquired.  The thing is, that's not what he did.

    DF the thing is, quit going after the guns, it goes against the peasant classes self interest.

    When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another.

    When the peasant class storms the NEW Bastille, I don't want my fellow citizens, mowed down at the gates, with the elites using machine guns and the peasants with pitchforks.

    This Government bailed out the banker class, they serve the banker class.

    The peasant class wont be eating cake, that is already gone; ....."they can eat shite."   

    When in the Course of human events,

    I'm not going after guns.  I'm a gun owner.  I just understand that we accept limits on armament as part of being a civil society.  Should citizens be able to possess guns of any size?  Can I have a SAW?  An M-60?  What about a minigun, like the kind mounted on an A-10?  These are all "guns,"  though absolutely nothing like this technology existed when the 2nd Amendment was drafted.  Back then, the rifle was it for everyone, unless you had a platoon to help you cart around your cannons or gatling guns.  Can I have grenades?  C4?  An RPG?  Do you subscribe to any limits on private armament in our society?  Do you really think that there is some sort of Red Dawn-esque citizen uprising in the making?  If so, do you really think that there is any chance that citizens with no training and small arms could possibly overwhelm a government with the most potent military on the planet?

    The peasant class isn't going to be stocking up AK-47's and thousands of rounds of ammo for some final confrontation with the ruling class. And even if they did they'd be mowed down by the tanks, airplanes, bombs, etc of the military protecting them. Or do you think the peasant class is going to be stocking up on tanks, airplanes, and bombs? You think the army won't fire back and join the peasants like in Russia? Well then, the peasants don't need assault rifles, just crowds to overthrow the government. In fact the AK-47s just make it more likely the soldiers will fire.

    The days of peasants storming the Bastille are long gone. Pitchforks can go against swords or even black powder muskets if you have enough peasants but AK-47s can't go against tanksand other modern weaponry.

    We won't get peasants with machine guns, only the crazies will stock up on military style assault weapons. So this is what we'll get.

    When Gina Gonzalez scrambled, limping, from the living room couch where her bleeding daughter lay dying to grab her husband’s pistol from the kitchen, she was only intent on trying to stay alive. When she fired off a succession of rounds from the gun, huddled in a corner, her sole purpose was to drive out the gang of intruders posing as Border Patrol officers who, only minutes before, had entered their home and gunned down her husband, blasted her in the leg and chest, and then coldly shot her 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia, in the face as she pleaded for her life.

    The Minutemen’s scheme had been to target drug dealers, rob them of their cash and drugs, and use the proceeds to finance a “super militia” that would both patrol the border and fight the nefarious New World Order.

    I'm not for banning guns. I'm a gun owner. But military assault weapons and massive round clips don't belong in the hands of ordinary citizens. Just as tanks, bazookas, bombs, and anti-aircraft missiles don't belong in the hands of ordinary citizens.

    Just as tanks, bazookas, bombs, and anti-aircraft missiles don't belong in the hands of ordinary citizens.

    Tell that to the ordinary citizens of Aleppo, resisting a leader and his followers who don't give a crap about the peasant class. 

    Ordinary citizens told to STFU and accept your lot in life.

    You saying, it cant happen here?  Our forefathers thought otherwise.

    Threat keeps tyranny in check.   

    When the rebels in Syria remove the air superiority of Assad, the people might gain their freedom? 

    Freedom from corruption, unless the ruling class, continues it's domination over the ordinary peasant class after the revolt, in order to keep the peasant class as servants to the elitists.

    Egypt proves, the elites never relinquish their influence to corrupt power; to force the citizenry to serve THEM, not WE.   

    Taking away our ability to counter air superiority, weakens our position.

    A tyrannical government doesn't feel remorse.

    How long will you sit idly by, as the safety net is destroyed, in order to finance wars you never wanted, PAWN ?  

    When they're grabbing you and your children, to the altar of fire, offering up YOU as a sacrifice, and you unarmed, crying out "how do we stop this madness"

    "Everyone get your slingshots?"

    Or maybe your too easily fooled, by reports of Saddams weapons, of mass destruction, "Hell no, our government would never lie to us" "lay down your arms, we can trust them" 


    You're right, we peasants can take on the US military. But we need tanks and planes and anti tank and aircraft missiles. I think we should start with F-16s.

    I'm ready to do my part. I'm buying a F-16 just as soon as I raise the 17 million dollars it costs. Hey Resistance, you could help by sending me the first million.

    Of course one F-16 won't do much against the 2000 the USAF has so 1999 of you DAG bloggers have to stand up and do your part too.

    "How long will you sit idly by, as the safety net is destroyed, in order to finance wars you never wanted, PAWN ? " Are you all so cowed and submissive you won't spend a measly 34 billion for 2000 F-16s.

    Buy an F-16 today.

    Buy an F-16 today,

    It's evident your clueless. 

    Of course you dont or can't see; you already bought the F-16, that will be used against you.

    It appears you are ignorant; of our involvement with the Mujahideen in their war against the Russians? 

    We sold or gave them, shoulder fired missiles, to be used against Russian military aircraft.

    Now maybe a few easily concealed shoulder fired missiles, would be more bang for the buck? You think

    "Of course you dont or can't see; you already bought the F-16, that will be used against you."

    Not me dude, I choose a life of poverty 30 years ago and haven't paid any federal income tax at all. You must be the bastard that paid 17 million in income tax to buy that F-16 that will be used against me. And the income tax is unconstitutional too!

    Here's my first suggestion to help you lead the peasants in their revolt against the tyrannical government. Stop paying the unconstitutional federal income tax. No sense giving them more money while you're preparing to overthrow the oppressors.

    "We sold or gave them, shoulder fired missiles, to be used against Russian military aircraft."

    Hey, I bet those Russkies would be happy to get even for that by giving you some shoulder fired missiles. That's my second suggestion, you should contact the Russians and ask for a few dozen. Then you and your band of kooks freedom fighters would be all set to take on the US military.

    Good luck!


    I choose a life of poverty 30 years ago and haven't paid any federal income tax at all

    A FREELOADER, leech, moocher, parasite? 


    Manners? Where were you, when it was apparent of the exaggerations meant to embarrass or humiliate? 

    Cat Kat got your tongue?

    Besides; it was posed as a question and as they say "if the shoe fits, wear it " 

    Everyone should pay something.

    That's it. You've reached the point where you're not even writing coherent sentences.


    Where were you, when it was apparent of the exaggerations meant to embarrass or humiliate?

    does not actually mean anything.

    Destor was, gently, reminding you of the ToS. I will remind you less gently. Your response to Ocean-kat clearly violates them.

    It is bad enough that you're clogging up the thread with repeated filibusters, making the same points over and over again. People who were not convinced by them once will not be convinced by reading them for the sixth time. But the five shrieking repetitions do drive other people, who might add something worthwhile, out of the conversation.

    Nobody insulted, embarrassed or humiliated you, or even gave it a try. Making up imaginary attacks on you is not an excuse for real and obvious attacks on others.

    You're done with this thread. I will delete any further comments from you (except an apoology to Ocean-Kat), and if there is more nonsense I will consult with the other mods about your ToS violations.

    While I do agree with the TOS and absolutely will not participate in unmoderated blogs anymore, I have to admit I did call Resistance a kook. "Then you and your band of kooks freedom fighters would be all set to take on the US military." So I have to own my part in it.

    I probably should have let it go but I just found the rants about the peasants taking on the 700 billion dollar a year US military with machine guns and "a few easily concealed shoulder fired missiles" too funny. I couldn't resist playing along. I wasn't offended by resistance because the whole thing just seemed too silly to take seriously.

    Just like Romney I've reduced my tax burden in an entirely legal fashion. Though without the 100 million IRA or the Cayman Island tax shelter. I simply don't earn enough to pay income tax. I don't need that much money to be happy. In fact I'm much happier with large amounts of free time.

    I don't think this is really all that controversial, except for a few on the fringe.  Nearly all of us  accept that there are limits on armament that a private citizen can possess.  Restricting 100-round drum magazines is based on the same principles as restricting hand grenades.

    FWIW, I've recently heard both Bill O'Reilly and Michael Savage come out in favor of restricting the purchase of large magazines.  There is a sense on the right that they need to get out ahead of this issue lest they end up with restrictions that they find less desirable.  Pushing on this looks like a pretty easy win to me.

    Well gee whiz, you think maybe Bill O'Reilly and others of the mainstream media capitalists fear an uprising?

    If they are Caesars or Cromwells, they seize power for themselves. If they are spineless courtiers, uninterested in doing good yet dangerous when they seek to do harm, they go back to lay their power at their master's feet, and help him to resume arbitrary power on condition they become his chief servants. ”

     — Maximilien Robespierre, 1791

    Honestly?  No, I don't.  I think things are pretty much running according to plan.  Corporate control and profits are going supranational and there are 3 billion would-be consumers in China and India to fuel the next century of commerce.  And Americans continue to vote for more of this.  It is, as Mencken said, the result of Americans knowing what they want and getting it good and hard.

    There are already almost as many guns in this country as there are people.  When, pray tell, will I experience the freedom dividend from this phenomenon?  Or does it only get better after bloodshed of Biblical proportions?

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