I read a quote once that amounted to the fact that if you don’t decide beforehand to do the right thing when it matters, then when presented with the opportunity, you will likely do nothing.
I was a junior in high school in Columbus when the Columbine High School shooting occurred in Colorado. I was deeply affected by this, as were many of my generation. In no way do I mean to be heartless, I am deeply saddened by the loss of human life, but even then, I thought to myself, “Why didn’t anyone assume an offensive role against those boys to prevent the number of deaths?” Thirteen years and countless “crazed gunmen” later, I feel much the same way. I’m not the same person as I was then. I’ve been a cop for 8 years now. Regardless, I still ask the same question.
My message is in no way intended to blame the victims. But I submit that while talking heads on TV want to discuss “mental illness,” “bad parenting,” and “radicalism,” I can’t help but recognize that no matter how much these people talk, nothing is being done to prevent the next incident. In fact, for every one incident that is showcased on television, there are another 100 deranged people out there fantasizing, thinking about when it will be their turn to get that kind of notoriety.
I have no doubt that if one unarmed person in that theatre in Aurora, Colo., would’ve jumped on this “crazed gunman” that dozens of others wouldn’t have followed suit and many lives and injuries could’ve been spared and that they would’ve lived to tell the tale. The problem is that there wasn’t one person who took such action for others to follow. Therefore many were killed, and dozens of others injured. Had the headline read, “Man with gun kills two in theatre then attacked by movie goers and arrested,” perhaps those previously mentioned deranged weirdos wouldn’t be fantasizing and perhaps, perhaps, we could prevent the next tragedy. Only that’s not what the headline reads. The headline reads exactly what the man who perpetrated this crime wants it to read. The headline reads something that other deranged weirdos love to read while fantasizing.
Speaking of my point, I will make it. No matter your walk of life or political affiliation, you better have a plan in order to conduct a normal and productive life. No matter your “feelings” on violence and guns or gun “control,” you better make a plan, individually or, preferably, with your family. Armed or unarmed, the fact is, violence has been a part of society since before society was a word and long before the center-fire cartridge was invented. This is not a new phenomenon. If you’re not prepared for it, then you better be prepared to be a victim. Furthermore, psychologically, the kind of people who perpetrate these crimes are not expecting offensive action by you. After all, they are all-powerful behind that gun and we have proven them right time and time again. With that said, no one is going to take better care of you than you. Not the cops, not your neighbor, not the guy sitting next to you in a theatre.
It is our responsibility as citizens in a free society to control each other. Letting these “crazed gunmen” get away with their crimes is the first step into anarchy. The conversation that I have with myself everyday when I wake up, even when I’m not “on duty” as a cop, goes something like this, “If anyone threatens my life and the well being of my family, it will be the last thing they do, even if it’s the last thing I do.” Though I’m highly trained in the use of them, I don’t carry a gun as often as I should when I’m off duty. Regardless, I always have a plan. Most importantly, I do not live in fear. And for those of you who are picturing a stout young wedge-necked cop, I’m not that either. I’m a 30-year-old slightly over-weight regular guy who has the same worries about everyday life as you.
Dialing 911 is not an “action,” it is a request for response, or a “report of an emergency.” If you are there, in the flesh, and you have the opportunity, it is your right and responsibility to take action yourself to preserve your life, the lives of your family, the lives of your neighbor, and the person sitting next to you in a theatre. However, your action will be based on the decisions you make, consciously or unconsciously about how you will respond if a threat is to present itself.
The call to action is to make the decision to not tolerate this kind of incident in your presence at any time right now. Gunshot wounds, contrary to popular belief, are survivable. Panic and mayhem are most often not. In the days of the U.S. Cavalry vs. the Native American Indians, many a Cavalryman lamented in their letters home that Indians could not be killed with one shot, but with many, and only to vital organs. These courageous Indian warriors had the will to fight through “superficial” bullet wounds, even if it killed them later by infection.
Early in my career I was told by a very wise officer that even if it’s later deemed wrong, do something. Whatever you do, don’t cower to these kinds of criminals. Do something. Your life, and your society, depends on it.
Ben Woods is currently a deputy sheriff with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and has 8 years of experience in law enforcement.
He has specialized training in response to active shooter incidents, in addition to SWAT certification, and has a BA in sociology from MSU-Billings.