Today, the U.S. witnessed yet another active killer take out his sociopathic rage on hapless innocents, this time in a busy airport, in a common area outside of the security checkpoints. This one hit close to home for me. I’m a scuba diver, and I’ve made my way down to the Florida Keys through the Ft. Lauderdale airport too many times to count.
I’m going to limit my comments on the actual incident since I wasn’t there and the news is still very fresh and subject to change. However, here’s what’s been reported so far.
The shooter in this instance had military ID. He is reported to have been discharged from the Alaska National Guard for unsatisfactory performance. A few months ago, he was admitted to a psychiatric hospital after making suspicious comments about ISIS to the FBI. (Want to put people on a no fly list? How about this guy? Clearly, something in the system that purports to keep us safe is broken.)
Although we have no idea what the perpetrator’s training was, it is fallacy to assume that those who perpetrate evil are untrained. I will assume this individual had some training, as he was able to kill at least a few individuals with head shots. The head is not a large target, especially with a pistol. Also, it is worth noting that he supposedly reloaded his gun before lying down and being taken into custody. Indeed, based on the number of individuals shot, and the weapon shown in public crime scene photos (Walther PPS), he must have reloaded at least once.
Rather than focus any further on the scant facts available at the moment, instead I want to address some common points that recur time and time again. If you find yourself traveling by air, it is important to note that airports represent enormous transition zones where you may find yourself vulnerable to attack. In addition to my words below, I would suggest you check out this blog post from Greg Ellifritz and this article from SOFREP.
How can you defend yourself when you enter this very vulnerable position? One way that comes to mind is to be dropped off at and picked up from the airport, specifically at the security checkpoints, by a family member or friend that has a concealed firearm on their person and knows how to use it. Have them stay with you through ticketing and up to the point that you subject yourself to TSA scrutiny. Likewise, have them meet you inside the airport just outside the security checkpoint when you arrive. This plan may run afoul of local laws and airport policy, but as the old saying goes, “concealed is concealed”. The initial airport scene from the movie “13 Hours” comes to mind.
Next, adopt the mindset that you are never disarmed, even if you don’t have your gun or even a knife. What is available in the environment that can be utilized as an effective weapon? Fire extinguishers are found almost everywhere and can be used as an impromptu weapon. If nothing else, you always have your hands and your mind.
Also, many medical supplies are able to be easily carried through security. Keep a blow out kit on your person when you travel. This is cheap insurance if you or a loved one is ever grievously injured in an attack or accident.
Finally, and most importantly, be vigilant and maintain your situational awareness. This is one environment where you CAN’T relax. Resist distracting yourself with your smartphone or tablet. If you must occupy your time with electronics, I would eschew the use of headphones and at least keep your ears open. Who isn’t acting right? What seems off? Pay attention to these things! Where are the closest exits? Remember that mobility equals survival.
As with all of these incidents, no good will come of this. I fear that we will be subject to further restrictions on our rights in the public areas of airports, and worst case scenario would be an attempt to ban the carrying of firearms in checked luggage. As with most of the suggested ways to increase security, these are untenable at best, and draconian at worst.
We would like to extend our condolences to the families of the deceased victims and prayers for speedy recovery to the injured.
Si vis pacem, para bellum!