Should You Ever Rush A Gunman?

A reader writes:

Okay, I can see how McArdle's suggestion sounds silly, but it does work. That's how they stopped the Springfield, Oregon shooter. It's also what they teach us in the Marine Corps: If you're ambushed, charge 'em. If you don't charge, you're all dead. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but it's true.

Another writes:

McArdle’s point about the efficacy of gang-rushing shooters is that it was another solution that would work "if only" you could get people to do it, just like an all-out gun ban would work if only you could pass it, or detaining all people with dangerous mental illness would work if only you could identify them.  What all of these things have in common is that they’re theoretically efficacious but not practical in our messy real world.  It was a much subtler point than it’s being taken for, but too downbeat for you and the rest of the crusaders that have decided "enough’s enough and damn it, this time we’re going to do something."  Funny how often the very progressives that congratulate themselves on seeing the shades of grey, unlike the "black and white" conservatives, revert to cut-and-dried solutions when they too are seized by frustration and anger.


McArdle picked the wrong mass shooting to make her suggestion, but is it really that awful of an idea in general? It seems to me a logical extension, to some degree, of what happened on Flight 93.

Another adds, "But, of course, box cutters and smoking shoes are not guns." Another reader:

"Rush a gun, run from a knife" is standard training for a lot of self-defense schools.   You have to rush a gun because you can't run faster than a bullet.  The alternative, of course, is to let yourself get shot without even trying to defend yourself.


I'm a gun safety consultant currently working with the Danish government.  While it's easy to mock McArdle for suggesting shooter rushing, there is actually a long tradition of shooter rushing in many of the Nordic countries, and these countries have traditionally had among the lowest rates of mass shootings (Anders Behring Breivik being a true outlier) of any western countries.  It's counterintuitive, but most shooters "freeze" when run at by a group, even a group of children.

The above email appears to have been a Balloon Juice blogger trolling the Dish with false information. An actual Dish reader:

Running towards a gunman trying to kill as many people as he can strikes me as an insanely bad idea.  Most of these killers have little or no military or law enforcement training with the types of weapons they are using, so one can assume (always dangerous, I know) that they may not be the best marksmen around and, even if they are, closing the range of the target (you and others rushing at the shooter) would likely increase the number of those shot. On the other hand, an untrained shooter may also not have the ability to quickly clear a jammed weapon such as an AR-15 variant (as happened in Washington last week).  By all means, if the shooter is close enough and you are not armed and believe it is your best or only chance to survive or stop the violence then rush/tackle/grab do whatever it takes to try and stop the carnage, but otherwise run and hide.

One more reader:

Loath as I am to agree with a Malkin Award winner, I have to say I've mulled this over quite a bit. As someone who was working at a university when Virginia Tech happened and is working at an elementary school now, I've thought over and over about what I would do if confronted by a mass-shooter situation. There are procedures in place in the school district where I work (we even run drills) and they involve locking the door, turning off the lights, and remaining perfectly still. However, when I consider things like the fourth plane on September 11th or the Knoxville church shooting – where fatalities were kept at two people when several congregants rushed the shooter – I have to wonder if sitting still is the best approach.

If I, admittedly a slight-built woman, tried to tackle a gunman, would it help? Would it slow him down enough for others to subdue him, even if I died as the first one in? And if so, and that saved my kindergarteners, wouldn't it be worth it? I don't know the answers to the first two questions, but I think they're worth asking.