Ed. Note: Presidential candidate Ben Carson created a controversy when he said regarding the Oregon shooting, “I would not just stand there and let him shoot me. I would say, ‘Hey, guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me, but he can’t get us all.'” But is this really an outlandish statement? Here is a Marine who agrees with Carson that the best defense is a good offense:
Have you ever asked yourself what you would do if you encountered a crazed shooter at your school, workplace, or a public space? Your actions in that moment could save your life, and those of others.
When the Columbine High School shooting happened in 1999, I was in the seventh grade attending a moderately sized middle school. I remember being very torn up. I remember seeing the images of the kids running from the building, the bloodied boy being dragged out to safety from the second story library window by the police.
I remember struggling to concentrate at school for some time after, constantly thinking about the tragedy America witnessed and the media onslaught that followed. This line of thinking stayed with me through high school, as I continued to worry about the locations and layout of classrooms, and planned my escape routes should the situation occur. While it didn’t occupy my entire schooling experience by any means, it certainly lingered.
I joined the Marines out of high school and went to boot camp that summer. There I learned many things, notably a newfound mental strength and confidence I had never known. But I also furthered my understanding of tactics in dire situations, whether it be a war zone, a restaurant, a city center, a classroom, etc.
As I sat in class at the University of Washington in Seattle only a week after graduating boot camp, I went back to thinking about how to react in potentially grim situations, only this time using military terms: cover/concealment, weapons of opportunity, avenues of approach, EMLCOA (Enemy’s Most Likely Course of Action), etc.
My college and active duty military time passed by and school shootings tragically kept occurring every few months or so on average. In 2013, I returned to school to complete some business credits at Santa Monica College in Los Angeles before heading to graduate school. On June 7th, 2013 a shooting happened on campus. The shooter wasn’t necessarily targeting school-goers but ran on to campus during his getaway, into the library where he was eventually shot and killed by police. Before he was killed, he shot and killed Margarita Gomez, a woman who worked for the college, at random outside the library entrance. This occurred on a Friday at approximately 12 noon. Luckily, I was not on campus that day, but exactly 24 hours earlier, I was walking into the library at that very same location.
Strangely, I didn’t, and still don’t, consider this very scary or nerve-racking that I had come so relatively close to a situation I’ve thought about for 15 years prior. But thoughts do pass through my mind, as with every shooting, on what I would have done in that situation.
Fast forward to the shooting that occurred at Umpqua Community College in Oregon on October 1st, 2015. Let’s look at the President’s response to this most recent tragedy. There’s nothing new here other than the usual bashing of gun laws, and the idea that America has become “numb” to these incidents.
First off Mr. President, I am far from numb. Every single school shooting angers, frustrates, and controls my thoughts for a great deal of time after. I do not blow them off. I read, research, and study them more and more every time. I sure hope someone in your administration is doing the same.
We seem to just keep hearing the same nonsense about having too many guns in this country that are too easily obtainable. In some respects that may be true. But the President and those who support him dream of a Utopia where guns don’t exist. Their views are illogical; they are formulated to score political points, and to make them feel and look good. It’s the same with the celebrity videos that will surely arise after this most recent tragedy. Famous faces staring into the camera with tears in their eyes saying “No more gun violence,” “no more school shootings.”
It’s pathetic. And not at all helpful.
What we need are politicians — and sure, celebrities if they want — to stop blaming Americans for this issue and instead look at it objectively. It is a very complex issue, given the history of arms in this country, and the social construct with regard to teen and young adult males, built upon unstable values and morals. It’s not as simple as having stricter gun laws or mental background checks.
President Obama said, “we’re the only advanced civilized nation with this problem.” This is not true — a day after he made that statement there was a shooting incident in Australia. But we are the only nation with unmatched freedoms and liberties available to its citizens. Sometimes that creates issues, but it doesn’t mean you place blame on this great nation as a whole. Be a leader, tell us what you’re going to do to fix it — all of it. If you go through the Marines bashing the entire Corps for every wrong-doing, and offering “shoulda’s and coulda’s” as solutions, I guarantee you’ll be exceptional at cleaning latrines.
Honestly, when have you ever heard a President say such words as “I’ve had to do this too many times…” directed at the people of the country. You’re the President! Figure something out! This “woe is me, Republicans have ruined the country” BS is astoundingly weak-hearted and not what we need from a true leader. Perhaps the first step is saying “I’ve failed in this regard as President, but will do all in my power to correct it…..” A true leader will admit their mistakes. But Barack Obama never makes mistakes — just ask him.
Furthermore, I believe there needs to be a drastic change in the reporting of shootings. Really, do we need to know about his diary and his Facebook quotes and his arsenal of weapons and his childhood abuse?
After the most recent Virginia Tech shooting we saw that coward’s face everywhere. Non-stop with him toting his guns and all about his letter to NBC. Why we feed on this, I don’t really know. But more importantly, please understand that the next shooter feeds on this. Every single one found interest in the previous shooters.
Dare to be a news channel that’s proud to show minimal, or even no news on the coward, and show all kinds of news on men like Chris Mintz (who I am glad does seem to be getting a lot of attention). Or Jon Meis who tackled the shooter at Seattle Pacific University in 2014. What an absolute hero. Or Assistant Principal Ryan Rollinger who subdued a shooter at a San Diego high school just one day before the Oregon shooting. True bravery. And there are a lot more heroes out there. How about we dare to be a country to care more about these people, than to become victims of the media’s negative, shock agenda they call news.
I find it interesting how people are affected by shootings, devoting hours to the news and social media to talk about it, but don’t take the time to really think of what they would do if the situation happened to them. The FBI even has a preparedness curriculum entitled Run, Hide, Fight. Run when the shooting is fairly distant and you can escape. Hide when you can’t escape easily but can barricade or hide in your location. And Fight when you can’t escape or hide, and are face to face with danger. Above all, don’t be a passive victim.
Let’s focus on Fight. This is the one I’ve considered for 15 years. And has been heightened by my time in the Marines. When there is no escape, you MUST fight. Charge the attacker. Throw a water bottle, binder, book, coffee, chair, desk, back pack, anything, to throw them off. Then charge them. They’re “in control” when they step in the room. Take back control. Do the unexpected. If everyone had this mentality in the room, many lives could be saved.
Now, I’m not expecting high schoolers or kids to have this way of thinking naturally. And to those who have lost sons and daughters, believe me, they did not die in vain. But if we can learn something from the prior incidents, it is that if you throw the shooter off their plan, and multiple people attempt to do so, the shooter is much less deadly. This does not mean everyone will come out unscathed necessarily, but, lives will be saved.
Ultimately, with greater top-down leadership from our politicians, taking logical approaches instead of emotional ones, competent reporting with greater balance toward the heroes of each incident (of which there are many), and a greater tactical understanding of these terrible situations, we can help curb many tragedies.
It’s time to face the fact that we will likely live with these tragedies for many years to come, and hoping they go away with good intentions or laws that wouldn’t have even prevented the previous situations in the first place, is ridiculous. We need strong leadership from people who can do many things to counter the actions of the cowards through parental guidance, friend-network, social-network, or even online policing. And when the time unfortunately comes, albeit as important in politics, or unfortunately during the situation itself: steadfast, and decisive action is critical to success. Inaction is far more costly.
Coleman Jennings is a former Marine Captain and Afghanistan veteran who recently received his MBA from Pepperdine University. He and his wife reside in the Seattle area.