Dealing with an Active Shooter Situation


Mass shootings have seemed to be on the rise in recent years. Even worse, many of those mass shooting incidents have taken place in schools, putting our children in danger. These shooters tend to pick gun free zones for their last act, looking to make the biggest splash by taking out the most victims, before they meet their end.

The very idea of gun free zones is dangerous. All that means is that the only people who are going to be armed there are those who aren’t concerned about breaking the law; in other words, criminals. Law abiding citizens will leave their guns in their cars, ensuring that they have no way of defending themselves or others, should a crazed shooter open fire.

That’s the world we live in and until the world changes enough to get rid of those gun free zones, there are those who will take advantage of them.

Of course, a criminal does not need a gun free zone to commit a crime. People were shooting others long before gun free zones existed. Those who want to kill will find a way to do so, no matter what any law says.

Nevertheless, there’s nothing that says we are required to be their victims. Rather, I would say that it is our job to make sure not only that we aren’t victims, but that those around us, especially our loved ones, aren’t victimized either. That means knowing what to do when the bullets start flying.

It Starts by Being Aware

One of the things that criminals count on is that their intended victims won’t be ready for an attack. That gives them a few seconds of time to take action, before anyone can respond. Those few seconds are crucial, as much of the death and carnage will happen during that time.

We can shorten our reaction time considerably by increasing our awareness. Doing so helps us to anticipate potentially dangerous situations, so that by the time the bad guys take action, our hand is already moving towards our gun. That awareness can be broken down into four different levels:

  • Condition white – Where most people live, oblivious to what is happening around them. People operating in condition white become victims, because they are taken by surprise.
  • Condition yellow – Where we should be, all the time. We are constantly looking around us, including “checking six” to see who is there and what they are doing. If something catches our attention as being a potential threat, we step up our surveillance.
  • Condition orange – We have identified a potential threat and are looking to see if it manifests into danger, while at the same time, looking to see if there is some other danger we might be missing. Criminals sometimes work in teams, so we don’t want to be so focused that we miss the main attack. While looking, we are also thinking of our options, should things go south.
  • Condition red – We are fairly sure that a crime is about to be committed or that we are about to be attacked. At this point, the only thing that is keeping our gun hand from grabbing our gun, is that the hand is waiting for the brain to say “Go!’ At the same time, we are trying to move to a more advantageous position.

Many times, criminals will recognize that someone is aware of what is going on and wave off, looking for other victims to attack. So even if you don’t have to take any direct action, heightening your awareness and preparing to take action is sometimes enough. If it stops the crime, it was effective.

When that’s Not Enough

Some criminals are determined to carry out their crime, regardless of how ready you and I are for them. There is no guarantee that any of them will wave off, just because they realize that we’re ready for them. Of all categories of criminals, active shooters are more likely to go ahead and take action than others, because many of them have planned out their “mission” and don’t expect to survive it.

When the shooting starts, there are three potential actions we can take. Which one you decide to take will depend a lot on the situation, which may make it totally impossible to use some of these options.


The first and best option is to get out of there as quickly as possible, preferably before the shooting starts. I realize that might go against the grain, as we all want to be the hero in that moment. But being the hero is risky. There’s a pretty high probability that we’ll be the shooter’s next target.

Our responsibility is to protect our families. If we can, it’s good to protect society at large as well, but that isn’t our responsibility. Trying to protect everyone will most likely put us at risk, making it impossible for us to complete our prime responsibility.

On the other hand, things might work out that you have to take on the shooter. If that’s the case, then you will have protected society as well. But that would be incidental to your true purpose, which is to protect your family.


Most anti-gun people will recommend hiding as the number one option in an active shooter situation. But hiding is actually a very poor option; something to be done only if you don’t have any other option left to you. The shooter can always come find you hiding and take you out.

There is very little in a store, restaurant, office or home which can stop bullets, other than cement columns. So hiding doesn’t really offer any true protection, merely the appearance of protection. Those who don’t know guns don’t understand this, which explains why this idea is so popular amongst them.


While your first tendency might be to fight, you should only do that if you have to. You’re better off getting out of there, than you are fighting. As long as you are in the same area as the shooter, they might succeed in shooting you.

However, if you can’t flee and there really isn’t any good place to hide (someplace that will actually protect you), then you should fight. Take the time to think your actions through, before starting and then work as quickly and violently as you can to stop the shooter, before they can kill you or anyone else. Just as they use the element of surprise to their advantage, you should use it to yours, trying to catch them off-guard and then shooting them before they can properly respond to your gun.

Fighting back is still a viable option if you’re not armed. An active shooter going into a restaurant, bar or church is going to have more targets than they have bullets. If a number of people charge them at the same time, chances are very high that they’ll be able to get to the shooter and tackle him before he can shoot them all. The more people involved in that attack, the better.

Granted, this is a last-ditch effort, only to be undertaken in cases where you can’t flee and you don’t have a gun with you. It’s a highly risky move. Nevertheless, it’s not as risky as just sitting or standing there, trying to keep your knees from knocking, while you wait to be shot.

Get Some Armor

One of the easier ways to survive an active shooter situation is to wear ballistic body armor. Unfortunately, that’s not practical daily attire for most of us. People will tend to notice us walking around in a ballistic vest and call the police on us, even if it is legal.

However, there are Class III-A ballistic panels that can go in backpacks and briefcases, offering the same protection against pistol rounds that ballistic body armor does. These are unobtrusive and not very obvious, making them a practical alternative, both for business people and for children attending school.