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The tragedy in Las Vegas last week has everyone talking about gun control, as usual. And I understand why: mass shootings are terrifying. They happen unexpectedly, and they can happen to anyone. So naturally, many people start demanding a solution that will make them feel safe.
But here’s the thing about this particular shooting: stricter gun control laws wouldn’t have stopped it. The shooter, Stephen Paddock, had no criminal history, no extreme political views, exhibited no strange behavior, had no history of mental illness, and acquired most of his guns from local gun stores which ran background checks. Even a ban on large magazines wouldn’t have stopped him, as he had plenty of time to reload from his position on the 32nd floor.
Really, the only thing that might have stopped him was a total ban on guns, but even that is debatable. Drugs have been banned for decades and there is still a huge black market for them. And guns aren’t the only way to kill a lot of people, as terrorists have proven time and again by driving trucks into crowds or making homemade bombs. I just don’t see the point of taking away everyone’s right to defend themselves from criminals just because of a few mass shooters who would find other ways to kill people anyway.
The other thing people are talking about is his motive. So why did he do it? Unfortunately, we may never know. (Even his girlfriend didn’t know he was planning anything.) ISIS is claiming responsibility, but the FBI says there is no connection, and ISIS has a history of taking credit for things it didn’t do.
Here’s a thought: maybe he was insane. I know that sounds overly simplistic, but as Chris Rock once said, “Whatever happened to crazy?” In a world with 7 billion people, statistically speaking, every now and then one of them is going to go nuts. It’s happened before, and it will happen again.
So now I want to shift gears and talk about what to do in case you’re anywhere near the next mass shooting. Some of the advice in this article will probably seem paranoid, but at least keep it in mind when you’re out and about. Remember, the police typically take 10 to 15 minutes to respond to shooting incidents. Until then, you’re on your own.
How To Prepare For a Shooting
1. Know Your Exits – Whether you’re in a theater, at a concert, in a sports arena, or some other crowded event, always be aware of the nearest exits. Not only that, look for faster exits that most people might not notice. For example, if you’re in a mall and there’s a shooting, don’t run for the main exit along with everyone else. Instead, cut through a store and go through the stock room and out the back door.
2. Sit Near an Exit – Most people hate sitting on the edge of the theater or in the corner of a stadium, but better safe than sorry. You never want to be right in the middle, and that goes for all sorts of situations that cause mass panic (tornadoes, power outages, earthquakes, etc). Personally, I can’t stand being in the middle of a crowded room. It makes me feel trapped, as I would be if someone opened fire on the crowd.
3. Dress Appropriately – Obviously, this depends on where you’re going, but the rule of thumb is to dress in a way that won’t draw attention. Anything that could make you an easy target–such as a bright shirt, hat, or backpack–is a bad idea. My wife has complained about this, but I always wear plain clothes without designs or anything flashy. I don’t just like to stand out in a crowd. Also, wear good shoes. You won’t be able to run from danger in sandals.
4. Practice Situational Awareness – Everywhere I go, I see people staring down at their phones. It used to be just a few people, but now it seems like everybody. It’s like an episode of The Twilight Zone out there. Don’t be one of the pod people. Instead, practice situational awareness everywhere you go. If you do it often enough, it will become second nature, and you won’t be caught off guard if something terrible happens.
What To Do If It Happens
5. If Something Doesn’t Feel Right, Just Leave – In 2012, when a shooter opened fire on a theater full of people in Aurora, Colorado, many of the moviegoers later said that when they saw the shooter, something didn’t feel right. But their minds tried to make sense of what was happening and came up with the explanation that it must be part of the show. This kind of thinking is because of the brain’s normalcy bias. To avoid this, you need to be the kind of person who is always in condition yellow: know your exits, practice situational awareness, and be prepared to react. If something doesn’t feel right or if you don’t feel completely safe, get up and leave.
6. Leave Your Stuff Behind You’d be surprised how often women reach for their purses before fleeing from danger. It’s just the force of habit. You have to mentally run through the scenario a few times in your head and think, “Get up and run. Get up and run.” In a situation like that, every second counts, so you don’t want anything to slow you down. Of course, exceptions can be made for children and loved ones. People are not stuff, so make sure the people you care about go with you. And if you have small children, try to stay between them and the shooter as you make your escape, if possible.
7. Once You’re Out, Keep Going – Just because you’ve gotten outside doesn’t mean you are safe. For all you know, the shooter is in pursuit. In 2015, when terrorists shot people in a stadium and at a concert hall in Paris, many people ran outside and immediately took out their phones. The same thing happened Las Vegas. People ran a little ways, then stopped to check their phones, not realizing they were still within range of the shooter. Don’t do that. Keep going until you’re absolutely sure you’re out of danger. Then and only then should you call 911.
What If There Is No Escape?
8. Take Cover – If the shooter is between you and the only exit, the best thing you can do is take cover behind the thickest thing you see and lie face-down on the ground to make yourself a smaller target.
9. Hide and Don’t Make a Sound – If you’re in a building and the only exit is in the direction of the shooter, get inside a room and lock the door. Then turn off the lights, your cell phone, and anything else that could attract attention. Make it seem like no one is there. During the shooting incident in Columbine, dozens of students and teachers hid in closets for hours. Doing so may have saved their lives.
10. Fight Back – If you are cornered, never sit still and plead for your life. Killers have no compassion, so your odds of survival are much higher if you charge forward and attempt to tackle the gunman. I’m not going to get into combat techniques here, but if you have a concealed carry permit, I hope you have some firearms training. If not, try to find a local course because when it comes to guns and combat, you can only learn so much online.
What happened in Las Vegas was a horrible a tragedy, but as I said, it won’t be the last one. Stay safe out there.