Doing it wrong

I’m over a 1000 miles away and as far as I know don’t know anyone that was in the theater that was shot up last night. But still it’s very upsetting and my sympathy goes out to all those who were injured, killed, and/or had family and/or friends there. I’m just glad the murderer didn’t think past getting and using guns to do his evil deed.

The following is from putting on my “black hat” to do a threat assessment of our vulnerabilities to mass murders in public spaces.

It could have been much worse had the murderer chosen to use something other than guns as his weapon of choice. In a sense we could say that it’s a good thing guns are readily available because if had he used other tools the carnage could have included everyone in the theater.

There are indications the guy that shot up the theater in Colorado had mental health issues so we may never know and/or understand what the motivations might have been. Trying to make sense of the actions and/or thoughts of the mentally ill is a fools errand. But assuming the goal was maximum carnage there were better ways to accomplish this.

What follows is one way that someone could have killed more people in the same exact location. This is modeled on the plan used for the Happy Land Fire (87 dead) and by the Columbine murderers. The Columbine bombs failed so they made up an alternate plan on the spot when the first plan failed. The first plan was actually pretty good but really needed more people and they should have tested their explosive devices. Read the book Columbine for a much better understanding of what happened and the motivations. Had “Plan A” worked there could have been thousands dead.

If the murderer was able to get long guns into the theater then getting multiple backpacks into the theater should have been possible too. For example one could prevent the emergency exit from latching (duct tape for example) and then make multiple trips to the parking lot to retrieve a set of backpacks. Place the backpacks at each of the exits. The backpacks contain a timer, thermite, and propane tanks. Set the timers for simultaneous ignition of the thermite. The thermite (easily made from iron and aluminum) will melt a hole in the propane tank and ignite the propane. The theater patrons are trapped in a fiercely burning room. If the fire doesn’t get them the smoke inhalation and/or mass panic will.

Using easily available materials the murderer could have been a mile or ten away when the event happened and may have never been caught. When using a gun the odds of them getting caught are much greater and they are much more likely to be stopped before they run out of victims.

People that care about the victims should be glad we have guns in this country and encourage more sane and law abiding people to carry them almost wherever they go. It gives the crazy and the stupid an easy path to being caught and/or stopped before they can do the maximum damage.

10 thoughts on “Doing it wrong

  1. As I understand it, Century theaters is owned by Cinemark who are anti-gun and establish all of their theaters as “weapon free zones.” One would hope that tragic events such as this would make people change their minds about restricting legal carry in places like this. But I might as well wish for Unicorns and Mermaids, they are probably more realistic goals.

  2. I suspect that Cinemark will start prominently displaying “Gun-Free Zone” signs at all of their theaters to deter any future would-be murderers. Perhaps James Holmes wasn’t aware of the theater’s policy.

  3. I am reminded of my experience taking a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) class a while back. One of the units was on terrorism response. CERT may handle search and rescue and triage for attacks, so it was included. The instructor asked whether there were any likely terrorist targets in $Small_Town. Everyone else shook their heads. I replied, “That depends on their objective.”
    The instructor looked surprised. I explained that if they were looking for a flashy, headline-grabbing attack, we were a terrible target. However, if they wanted straight up intimidation-based terrorism, any town or city could be a gold mine. Also, that a strategy based on numerous low-risk attacks like the ones I could envision would be more effective than recent past efforts if they were trying for terror and demoralization.
    The example I gave was similar to what you mentioned for the theater: most grocery stores and gas stations here have propane exchanges. A small, timed thermite charge would be easy to get into the cage. The canisters and cage turn into shrapnel. Time it right with a little surveillance and you have a crowded parking lot and storefront full of victims.
    The class was shocked, and I know some of them were giving me funny looks later even after I explained what red teaming/scenario analysis was. Oh well. The truth is that someone who wants to kill or maim a lot of people and has at least two brain cells to rub together will. Ultimately all we can do is be prepared to react.

  4. First mistake was letting the guy into the theater, no one noticed this guy, what no red flags in anyone’s head? and just how did he get all of his things into the theater? How does one sneak in everything he had?

    You’re quite correct in the fact he could have done worse. Even if he did not have access to firearms it looks like he could have easily taken something flammable into the theater and and torched the place with something as simple as a road flare…

    But hey, lets blame the firearms, right… It’s easier that way.

  5. Putting on my own red team/black hat I came up with two other methods in less than five minutes.

    Pipe bomb ‘grenades’, the use of which would be fairly self evident.

    Some of those green ‘disposable’ propane canisters filled with anhydrous ammonia. A simple 90 deg. valve on the canisters sets them to venting. Having apparently entered from the emergency exit by the screen he could have easily lobbed an AA canister toward each upper entrance effectively blocking exit in that direction, drop one at his exit (reports I’ve heard state that he had a gas mask) and the other near-screen exit, lob a few extras into the crowd proper, and slip out the door. (He apparently did several weeks worth of planning and detailed instructions for distilling AA from regular janitorial supplies *are* available)

    Unsurprisingly, Japete is banging the Deodand drum yet again; blaming the object, not the actor. (funny how she hasn’t called for increasing murder control laws…)

  6. These incidents are highly suspicious. It’s like they have someone pop up every few months to keep the pot bubbling about gun control.

  7. May I ask, from your expert opinion, why you believe these sort of incidents — or other, similar techniques — don’t occur more often, while spree shootings do? My first thought would be that Columbine and the Texas Clock Tower shooters were high enough profile to set a concept that later shooters wrapped around, not an uncommon thing in schizophrenia, while even if the Columbine shooters thought of bombs as that’s not been widely reported. But we’ve seen at least a couple very high-profile bombings, and some of them were pretty hard to bring convictions or catch people.

    Red Team thought would be similar focus on things that are already on site. Power transformers, liquid or gas transport trucks, natural gas lines.

  8. I was thinking the same thing, along with gattsuru’s line. They use guns because they are flashy. They are dramatic. Otherwise, a few tow chains, padlocks, and some five gallon buckets full of ammonia and bleach will kill a lot more. If you are really good, you can proportion it to make hydrazine or nitrogen trichloride and blow up the theater as well.

    The killing is incidental. It’s the drama that they want.

  9. Pipe bomb ‘grenades’, the use of which would be fairly self evident.

    This. Toss a half-dozen or more pipe bombs into that no-doubt packed theater, and there would probably have been a much higher body count. Incendiaries and chemicals would have been even worse.

    But the anti-Rights shills will never admit that it’s the person and not the weapon, because their goal is not saving lives.

Comments are closed.