Umpqua Community College – Monday Morning Quarterback

The news has been hot since last week about the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. John provided some thoughts here, and I agree with everything he said.   On the rest of the web and cable news networks, there’s been the usual discussion of the murderer (notice I did not say “shooter.” I am a shooter. This guy was a MURDERER!), his motives, gun-free zones, concealed carry permits, assault weapons bans and gun-show loopholes (huh?), but one story that many latched onto was the story of John Parker.

I’ll include a link, but who knows when it will no longer work. The fast version is that Mr. Parker is a 36 year old veteran of the U.S. Air Force. He has an Oregon Concealed Carry Permit and chose to carry his pistol that day. He and other students learned of the active-shooter situation playing out in another building, reportedly about 200 yards away. Mr. Parker chose not to intervene, but instead to stay in a classroom with other students and “protect” them.

Something’s Buzzing!

There has been some buzz about his story. The anti-gun types have seized on his decision as proof that having a gun didn’t save anyone from the shooting, as Mr. Parker, a trained veteran armed with a gun, did not intervene. This completely disregards the fact that, by exercising such judgement, he put to rest their other standard argument that, if people carry guns in public and a shooting erupts, everyone will die in the crossfire when “good guys with guns” start shooting. It also should be noted that, when informed of the shooting across campus, the first thing people asked in Parker’s class was “does anyone here have a gun?” Funny that, in that moment when the chips were down, no one asked for a rainbow or unicorn. That bit of buzz is easy to dismiss.

The louder buzz has been about Mr. Parker’s decision making. The gung-ho types, probably those who carry a Kel Tec and have never taken a class on how to fight with a handgun (see here), believe that Parker should have “marched to the sound of the guns” and taken out the murderer. I have seen it posted by many people in many places that Parker was a coward. Yes. A coward.

Now, people like me (and probably you, since you are reading this) have an interest in Monday morning quarterbacking. We do so as thoughtful, analytical people, not as a means to criticize others. We seek to learn from the experiences and—sometimes—mistakes of others. We do this so that we might perform better than we otherwise might have if, God forbid, some similar circumstances should arise in our own lives.

Monday Morning

So, were the actions of John Parker those of a coward?

Short answer: No.

Here’s why:

Disclaimer: I don’t know Mr. Parker’s skills in fighting, tactical training, skills with a handgun, etc. So the best I can do is insert myself into this situation, or just “average CCW guy.”

Let us assume that Parker did what the “commandos” wish that he had. He leaves his building and walks/runs 200 yards toward the “sound of the guns.” What risks does he face?

  1. He does not know how many bad guys there are. A mini-Mumbai or Westgate Mall could be going on. While heading toward the sound of the guns he hears, an accomplice can blow him away. Remember this story?

Joseph Wilcox had the right idea, but probably never thought that there was an accomplice who would shoot him from behind.

2.  He does not know what the bad guy is armed with. He has a pistol. Bad guy could have a long gun. If bad guy has an AR and good guy has a Glock 19, well, bet on the bad guy.

3.  Responding law enforcement do not know who he is. They are responding to “active-shooter / man with a gun” call. Parker wears neither a uniform nor badge. Parker draws his gun and then gets shot by police. The addendum to this is police now think they have their guy, and now several have to cuff and search him and possibly put themselves in danger by doing so, not to mention compromising their numbers when the REAL killer is elsewhere.

4.  There could be another good citizen practicing concealed carry who also felt the need to respond, and Parker and the second good citizen will have no way of knowing that they are BOTH “good guys.” I don’t think I need to spell out where this could lead.

I’m sure there are other things that I haven’t really considered, but the four points above are enough, in my opinion, to stay put.

Here are my feelings:

  1. I carry a gun to protect me and my loved ones. Other people getting slaughtered across campus are not my concern. I wear neither a badge nor a uniform. It is not my job to run around saving other people at great risk to myself. It might sound callous, but those being killed in that moment made a decision that day to go to school/work unarmed.
  2. I am much better served either just strolling away from the scene (if nothing seems to be happening nearby) or “defending in place.” Against a single active-shooter in a school building or the like, if I am armed with a pistol and holed up someplace, I like my chances. I can focus on the natural choke-points offered by doorways and corridors and deal with problems on my terms. Remember, a pistol is, for the most part, a defensive tool.

Final Thoughts

If you want to explore these ideas further, I would suggest getting some training. A number of training companies offer classes in this topic. A few examples would be the Civilian Response to Active Shooter class offered by Paul Howe of Combat Shooting and Tactics, Citizen Response to an Active Shooter by Sage Dynamics, and Terrorist/Active Shooter Interdiction offered by Suarez International. I have not taken any of these classes, though elements of Paul Howe’s CRAS course were incorporated into the Advanced Individual Tactics class I took in 2014 (AAR here). I have also heard good things about the Sage Dynamics class. It’s hard to find decent, non-affiliated AARs of Suarez International courses online (my own here on this blog might be the exception).

Obviously, any training you receive will not be specific to a situation you might find yourself in, since no two “active-shooter” scenarios are alike. Nevertheless, they may give you a framework you can build upon and tailor to situations you might typically find yourself in (for example, I work in a school, so I am constantly assessing my own situation: what happens if something happens when I’m in the gym? What about if I’m in the cafeteria? The classroom? You get the idea.).

Keep in mind, that several “active-shooter” scenarios have been ended by non-Law Enforcement “good guys” with guns. Two that came immediately to mind:

These situations didn’t become bigger events with larger death tolls, so we’ll never know how many lives were saved.

In the end, these “active-shooter” scenarios are a rarity, despite what the media would have us believe. Though it makes for some interesting chatter on the web, I pretty much discount “active-shooter” scenarios from my personal threat matrix. Where I live and work, there are unlikely situations that can arise that, despite their rarity, are still much more likely than the “active-shooter.”

****What thoughts do you have about Mr. Parker or intervention in active-shooter situations? Feel free to share!****

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