A reader writes:
I've also been thinking a lot about this question. Isn't rushing the gunman what Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung essentially did? We see how well that worked out for her.
Surely the question of whether or not to rush a gunman depends entirely on your proximity to him. I was involved in aborting a robbery in New York about twenty years ago when several people and I rushed a mugger on the 125th Street elevated subway platform. But he was less than ten feet from me and I had no idea whether he had a gun or not (he did have a knife, which we wrestled away from him). If he were farther down the platform and pointing a firearm at me I can tell you I probably would not have taken that action.
Do we even know what happened in the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary? Perhaps the school principle and the psychologist did this very thing. And perhaps they're dead today because of it. We just don't know, and anyone who argues for some course of action as if that's the obvious answer to such an incredibly volatile situation is living in a dream world.
Your reader who cited Marine Corps tactics is correct, but his analogy is off.
The react to near or far ambush battle drill we practice in the military does indeed state that the ambushed unit is supposed to counterattack immediately (and violently). This is because the tactical situation rightly assumes that anyone caught lingering in the kill zone will be dead in mere seconds. But an active shooter situation is not the same as a military ambush – active shooters target the unarmed, and the unarmed can't provide covering fire for the counterattack.
If I was caught in an active shooter situation unarmed, I'd seek cover and concealment and wait for the first responders to arrive. Police doctrinally are supposed to rush into an active shooter situation as soon as they get two or three officers on scene and take out the threat, so it wouldn't be long after the 911 call went out. The only situation in which I'd rush a shooter, unarmed, was if they were out of ammo or if they were experiencing a weapons malfunction and can't perform immediate action in the time it take for me to tackle them.
Another references the above video:
Mythbusters did an episode on this, though the actual question was should you bring a knife to a gun fight? They were obviously not using a semi automatic weapon. They started the experiment like a gun fight from an old Western, with the two parties about 50 feet apart. The finding was that if you started rushing the shooter as he started to reach for his gun, you would be able to strike with the knife before he could draw and shoot.
I have not seen you cite an obvious drawback in the "rush the gunman" strategy: suppose the gunman could have been talked down. By rushing him, isn’t that likely to lead him to pull the trigger a few times, and kill a few people? In a school setting, I would guess a fair percentage of those who bring guns and wave them in a threatening way can be talked down without casualties. So the rush the gunman strategy seems likely to lead to more deaths rather than fewer, even if teachers and schoolchildren were following it perfectly.
Another ties in a somewhat related post:
I know that you post the Malkin Awards so that we can all shame the dumbassery that prevails in some corners of the Internet, and I normally think that's great. But that statement by Charlotte Allen of the NRO puts me in such a rage that I wish you hadn't publicized it by reposting. It really makes me think I ought to just give up the Internet altogether, because then I wouldn't have to be confronted with the notion that people are reacting to this horrible event by suggesting that it could have been prevented if we told "burly 12 year olds" that it was ok to channel their natural "male aggressiveness" into tackling an armed grown man, or if there had been a janitor with a penis present to throw a bucket of sudsy water at the armed grown man than lives would have been saved. Or maybe if there had been a great big manly teacher who would choose, rather than sacrifice himself to protect the young people he was responsible for, to rally his burly twelve year olds to rush at the armed grown man.
The notion that these very small children just needed to be more manly is disgusting. The suggestion that these amazingly brave women who did just what all these armchair critics are suggesting, and rushed the gunman, would have been more successful if they were men is enraging.
And even if it didn't denigrate the women and children who were murdered, as well as those who survived, it would still be a really fucking stupid thing to say. This all happened within 20 minutes! Within 20 minutes a classroom of sixth graders down the hall is supposed to figure out what's happening, organize themselves and run to rush the gunman? Everyone can only hope to be as fucking ballsy as these women were.