Guest post from Rolf.
Re-defining the “no-win” situation and dealing with sociopaths intent on mass shootings and murder
The “Kobayashi Maru” scenario has become a famous “no-win” situation. It is presented as a situation where no matter what choice the person makes, lots of people die, and they “lose.” Facing a “no-win” isn’t anything a person ever wants to face, but seeming no-wins do happen, so, what DO you do? Lie down and die, already? That, to my mind, is never the right answer, so then… what IS? Is it possible to think like Kirk and change how things play out, so something like a win is possible in a seeming no-win situation?
The first thing to do is to re-evaluate how you define “win,” particularly in light of the perpetrators likely goals. If “all the bad guys get caught/killed, and no innocents get hurt” is impossible, then what is the best you can aim for? Maybe all that is possible is to make the final outcome suck less. Maybe it is laying the groundwork for a future win – after all, the battle of Thermopylae was a loss for the Greeks (with the 300 Spartans and another thousand or so Greeks dying to a man, and their king butchered), but it laid the foundation for major defeats of the Persians later. Maybe it is nothing more than reducing number of total casualties, even at the possible (or perhaps likely) loss of your own life. Todd Beamer and the passengers of Flight 93 stormed the cockpit after it had been taken by hijackers, knowing that they were already headed for near certain death after hearing of the WTC crashes – their actions likely reduced the total number of deaths by denying the hijackers on their flight the opportunity to crash into a crowded target. His last known words in the counter-attack were “Let’s Roll!”
Looking at many of the modern mass shootings, such as Columbine, Stockton, Virginia Tech, Aurora (Batman), Luby’s Cafeteria, Ft Hood, and more, there are some similarities that may help change how we think about responding to them:
- The shooter is not targeting just a particular person or two, they are simply looking for high drama, high-visibility notoriety and personal involvement in the body count
- There are a lot of people present and close together, most or all of whom are unarmed
- The target is chosen specifically because of the expectation of an unarmed crowd of easily intimidated and controlled victims
- They demonstrated by their actions (shooting) that they intend to keep killing until stopped
Essentially, anything that denies the attacker HIS goals should be considered a point on the defenders score-card. If he wants to see immobilizing terror, let him face the fury of righteous anger instead.
Obviously, if you are carrying a gun and you are close enough for it to be practical, drawing and returning fire at an appropriate time would be a great option, but what if the situation is more complicated? Most teachers are not allowed to carry guns on school grounds; in a crowded theater, cafeteria, office, or mall, there may be LOTS of moving no-shoots; and so-forth.
In a case where a nut wants a body-count and associated media attention, what might constitute a “win?” I’d say anything that meets one or more of the following (in no particular order):
- Reduces the body count, either or both injured or dead
- Stops him at the scene, preferably by his intended victims
- Prevents suicide by cop
- Causes him serious bodily harm or death
- It humiliates the sociopath shooter, making them an object of derision and contempt rather than fear, respect, or emulation
- Prevents him from leaving one shooting scene to go and start another
- Makes others who might contemplate such a action think it’s not worth it
- Denies them a media victory, such as a wild chase with news cameras following, a platform for spouting their agenda, or whatever
- Empowers rather than cows the surviving victims to harden them for future encounters
- Creates heroes out of some of the intended victims
I can only think of one course of action that would apply in most lone-gunman mass shooting cases: EVERYONE on the scene channel the inner Super Hero, Marine, mama grizzly, Todd Beamer, or whatever amps up their kill instincts to 11, and as a group do a mass “charge the ambush!” with the express intent of taking his screw-cap off, ripping off his arm and beating him to death with the bloody stump, or stopping him in any way possible. Grab, bite, hit, pull down his pants, pull his hat over his eyes, jam a finger in the action of his gun, blind him, throw things at him, shine a flashlight in his eyes, do anything and everything you can to slow him down, tie him up, foul his vision, screw up his aim, distract him, cause him pain or disability. Assume others are coming and doing the same. If just one person does this, sadly, it may just hasten their demise; but if even a handful do it, he’s done for, he can be dragged down and halted.
In a true worst case scenario, like the Beslan Siege (dozens of heavily armed religious fanatics not only willing but almost eager to die, with large quantities of explosives, suicide vests and fully automatic weapons) there are going to be a lot of bodies in any case. In a “nearly” worst case scene, such as the Aurora Batman shooting, where he was well-armed, in a crowded theater in the dark, wearing some body-armor, used gas/smoke bombs, and he started shooting during an action scene, the transition will be hard to recognize. But if everyone, once they recognized the threat for what it was, had yelled out, thrown cell phones, flashed lights at him (such as cell phone camera flash), and CHARGED, he could have been dragged down, and many innocents saved. It would have been ugly, but possibly over quickly; it is extremely unlikely that it would have been worse than the 70 killed or injured that occurred.
In a typical school “gunman seen, lock down!” scenario, normally they have all the teachers close and lock classroom doors, draw the blinds, turn off the lights, and hunker down and wait… but there is NO plan for what to do if the gunman actually comes in your door, beyond pray, comply, and hope you get shot last! The best course is to follow procedure as far as it is, but then make sure you surround the door a little ways back, with the teacher and biggest / strongest closest. Everyone picks up something they can throw – textbook, chair, can of soda, laptop, or whatever (my favorite is the big heavy iron three-hole punch). The “front row” around the door has chairs or desk handy. If the gunman comes in, then everyone throw what they have and CHARGE! The front row holds their desks/chairs in front ( or up high in front of their chests) and CHARGES, with intent to batter, beat, rip apart, and disassemble the gunman. This sort of training and mindset MUST start in the schools
What does this do?
- Deprives the gunman of his feelings of superiority (he was dragged down by his targets)
- Gives the victims a psych recovery tool (hey, I CAN overcome adversity!)
- Reduces body count by getting it over quickly
- Gives us heroes to help restore our faith in our fellow man
- Reduces media glorification and coverage
- Likely to instantly cause serious bodily harm to the gunman- an excellent flavor of justice
- Empowers the intended victims to realize THEY can do what they need to, they need not depend on state actors to take care of them.
It has been known at least since the early Greek phalanxes 2500 years ago that massed infantry charges can be very effective, especially when they outnumber their opponents. Even heavily armored mounted knights feared to enter into a mass of infantry standing their ground with simple weapons, because once they were dragged off their horses the mass of grasping hands and clubs would crush them. Many on the political right will see this as common sense; many on the left may find it abhorrent (even though THEY are always the ones talking about solidarity and collective action). While the average man-on-the-street is not to be confused with a hoplite of yesteryear, I believe that the average American IS capable of learning that sometimes individuals taking collective action for the common good really IS the best course.
When a psycho is looking for sheep to slaughter, intending to see terror in their eyes and ready compliance at gunpoint, hoping to have his twisted ego stroked by his control over them, let him instead see the blazing rage of righteous anger, and feel the pain of furious defense ripping at his flesh, and know the pain and fear he had hoped to inflict on others. Let his battered and beaten face be shown on the screen, swollen and without arrogance or contempt, because HE GOT BEATEN TO A BLOODY PLUP BY THE VERY PEOPLE HE DISPISED. That will knock his psyche down more than a crowd of cops taking them would, where he can brag about how tough he was to stop. Let the sociopaths have no more than a moment of victory, like the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, before suffering a crushing, absolute, and total defeat at the very hands of those they wronged. Deny them any hint of a win in the final score. The next psycho will decide it might be safer and less humiliating to choose another path.