I haven’t paid much attention to the mainstream media lately; but, from what I gather, the church shooting in White Settlement, TX has gone largely “under the radar”. The cynic in me would argue that it hasn’t gotten much press because it doesn’t “fit the narrative”. Whether that is the case or not, I don’t truly care. What I do care about are the lessons this incident can teach us if we pay attention.
First, if you haven’t already, go watch John Correia’s analysisof the video at Active Self Protection on YouTube. He gives a thoughtful, unbiased analysis of the incident which is worth anyone’s time regardless of whether you carry a gun or not. Here are some of my thoughts after thinking on this.
1: Evil can happen anywhere. Even in a “House of God”. This shooting took place in a suburb on the west side of Ft. Worth. According to Google Maps, West Freeway Church of Christ is 24 miles / 28 minutes from my house. This isn’t the 5TH Ward in Houston, the south side of Chicago or some other big city “bad” neighborhood. This is flyover country suburbia. It could have been anywhere. Tragedies happen every day and just about every corner of this old mud ball we call home. Sure, we expect tragedy in a war zone or even a “bad neighborhood”. A lot of us get complacent because we live in a “nice neighborhood.” If you want an eye opener, look up the police blotter for your area. You would not believe the amount of stuff that happens within walking distance of your front door. You can also plug your zip code and email address into, and you will get a daily email of the crimes committed within 5 miles of your home.
2: Evil happens fast. Go watch the video of the shooting. Go watch videos of any violent encounters that are out there. The White Settlement shooting went from a peaceful Sunday at church to full rodeo to over and done in less than 10 seconds (the seven seconds mentioned in the title). We can quibble about the reports that the church security team had concerns about the shooter before he pulled the shotgun and what they coulda shoulda woulda done; however, the simple fact is that no “civilian” in the congregation had time to say hello to a 911 operator much less give any detail before the entire incident was over. The police, even with an officer in the parking lot, could not have responded fast enough to handle this situation without even more innocent people being killed or injured. The only incident I can recall in recent memory where police stopped a shooter cold before they had a chance to do harm was the “Draw Mohammad” Cartoon Contest in Garland, TX where a police officer working an off-duty security gig stopped the would be shooter in his tracks before he even had a chance to get inside.
3: The only human being you can rely on to protect you is you. The US Supreme Court ruled in the 2005 case “Castle Rock v. Gonzales” that the police do not have a constitutional duty to protect a person from harm. This ruling affirmed a 1981 court of appeals case with the same finding. The police cannot be everywhere, nor can they be everything to everyone. They generally do not have legal justification to act until a crime has been committed. Even then, the old saying is true: “When seconds count, the police are minutes away.” This is not intended as a harsh indictment of the police but rather a statement of fact. Look up the average response time for police in your area. An active shooter situation will get the highest priority the department can give it, but the time between when dispatch makes the call to when officers arrive on scene will be more than a minute and likely more than a couple of minutes. As this incident shows, life and death is measured in seconds.
There is a quote I usually see referenced as Rule 23 for Combat that goes: “Your number one option for personal security is a lifelong commitment to avoidance, deterrence and de-escalation.” I take this to mean that you cannot live in a bubble and expect everything to be just fine. You have to take an active role in your own protection. Walking around oblivious to the world around you is a recipe for disaster and tragedy. Look at the video again closely. How many people had guns out by the time it was all said and done? At least 5 that I counted and I’ve heard as many as seven.
4: Your mind is the weapon. Everything else is just tools. Train your mind to use any tools you can to defend yourself. There was an Air Force fighter pilot by the name of John Boyd who came up with the concept of the OODA loop. An OODA Loop is not an aerobatic maneuver, but rather a tactical and strategic concept that can be applied broadly in a variety of endeavors. OODA stands for “Observe, Orient, Decide, Act”. Jack Wilson, knowingly or unwittingly applied the OODA Loop to great affect in less than 7 seconds. You’ve probably heard people say there is no timer in a gunfight. The truth is there is a timer, and it is the aggressor who starts the clock. You, as the defender, have to “get inside the aggressor’s OODA Loop”. You do that by implementing your own OODA Loop that will hopefully throw off the aggressor’s plans enough for you to gain the advantage. If that means taking a shot, throwing a book, tackling the aggressor, etc., you use the tools at your disposal to eliminate the threat.
5: Evil will find a way. Felons don’t get their weapons legally. Very few mass shooters in recent history obtained their weapons through legal means. When guns were not available, rocks, sticks, cars and other weapons do stand in duty as the tool of choice for those intent on committing murder. 9/11 proved that a box cutter is all that is required to take control of an airplane and turn that plane into a flying bomb.
6: Evil isn’t always easy to identify. The White Settlement shooter reportedly walked in wearing a trench coat and a fake beard. I’d call that a tad odd but not necessarily evil. As odd as that is, very few people have the ability to read the mind of another human being and know their intentions. Two innocent church goers paid the ultimate price because it was not possible to discern the shooter’s intentions before it was too late. Could they have handled the situation differently and avoided unnecessary blood shed? I don’t know, and neither does anyone else. I am sure they believe they made the best decision they could at the time with what they knew and saw, and I am equally sure the survivors will second guess those decisions for the rest of their lives.
7: Skill training is important. As Wyatt Earp said: “Fast is fine. Accuracy is final.” Do not ignore basic marksmanship skills. Shot placement is critical, and putting shots where they need to go on demand when it counts is literally life and death in a situation like this. You cannot expect to “rise to the occasion”. Here’s a simple test: go to the range, no warm up/no practice, set up a life sized silhouette target at 10-15 yards, put a 3x5 index card in the head of the target, set a shot time for random start and find out how long it takes you to put one cold bore shot in the index card. Did you even hit the index card? If you did, was it less than seven seconds? Now, add adrenaline and movement into the mix. Did you still hit the target? Now, add in some “no shoots” between you and the target, some sweaty palms and a bunch of chaos and noise. Some of this is impossible to practice, but any training is better than no training.