Written by Greg Ellifritz
I was recently doing some research on historic active shooter incidents and found these articles about an election night shooting in Canada. This shooting didn’t get much media traction in the USA, but it was an interesting case. Read more about it at the links below:
The shooter was allegedly mentally ill and upset at the increasing levels of government bureaucracy affecting his business. He began to shoot up a politician’s victory celebration at a public club. He fired several rounds from an “assault rifle” before his gun jammed and he was apprehended. An official police statement described the events:
“In fact there could have been many more injuries and possibly more fatalities — the reason for that is that the man had an assault rifle…and we’re hearing from witnesses the gun appeared to have jammed after only a few rounds were fired,”
Jamming weapons are not uncommon in active shooter events. In fact, another recent shooting with much more media coverage (the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado) had a similar ending…
“A federal law enforcement official told the Washington Post that a weapon malfunction likely saved lives by forcing Holmes to abandon the M&P15 he had equipped with a 100-round drum magazine after it jammed.”
Note that both of these shooters had weapon malfunctions. Both also had additional firearms in their possession.
Even more recently, victims took the opportunity to flee after the terrorists’ guns jammed in last month’s attack on Paris.
Weapon malfunctions give victims time to escape. They also provide opportunities for unarmed victims to violently resist the killer with less danger. Similar opportunities are presented when shooters reload their empty weapons as well. In looking at past active shooter events, it is exceedingly rare to find one where the killer didn’t have either a malfunctioning or empty weapon at some point in the engagement.
Take a look at some of the active shooter events in recent history. The shooter had a malfunctioning or empty gun in every one…
1988- Atlantic Shores Christian School. Shooter subdued by a teacher after his gun jammed.
1999- Columbine High School- Two shooters reloaded several times each
2007- Virginia Tech. Shooter reloaded several times
2009- NVCC Woodbridge College. Shooter’s gun jammed after 2 rounds
2009- Bridgeville fitness club. Shooter reloaded at least twice
2009- Fort Hood Army Base. Terrorist reloaded several times
2010- University of Alabama Faculty meeting. Shooter’s gun jammed and she was locked in a closet by coworkers until police arrived.
2011- Tucson Shooting. Shooter had to reload and had a jammed gun
2011- Norway shooting. Multiple reloads
2012- Chardon High School. Shooter fired 10 rounds with .22 pistol and then ran out of ammunition
2012- Oikos College. Shooter reloaded several times
The shootings listed above were just the ones I could think of immediately. There are likely many more occasions when an active shooter’s weapon jammed or ran out of ammunition.
Knowing that active killers often end up with jammed or empty guns really doesn’t affect the response priorities of armed individuals. If you are armed and within range of an active shooter, your safest course of action will be to shoot the killer as quickly as possible.
If you are unarmed, things get a little more tricky. Rushing a shooter with a fully functional firearm may or may not be successful. Seeking cover and waiting for a better resistance (or flight) opportunity when the shooter’s gun stops working is a much safer strategy. Knowing how to recognize and unloaded or malfunctioning gun is key.
Most shooters will understand what an empty or malfunctioning gun looks like. If you are reading this article and you don’t know how to tell if a gun is jammed or malfunctioning, have a friend who owns guns show you what it looks like. Such knowledge may one day save your life.
Even more importantly, do your children know how to identify jammed or empty guns? They need that information as well. Take the time to discuss some response options with your children if they are old enough to understand. Stress rapid action, either by attacking or escaping, as soon as they notice that an active shooter has a jammed or empty gun.
Making your move when the shooter’s weapon is empty or jammed makes good tactical sense. Two cautions are in order, however…..
Don’t wait until it’s too late. Use this strategy only when you have cover or are hidden from the shooter. If the shooter has you in his sights and is firing, act. Don’t wait.
Many active shooters (like both of the ones above) carry more than one weapon. Be prepared to deal with the shooter attempting to access a backup gun as you attack. Don’t let your guard down until you are sure the fight is over.
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