On the Ides of March 2019 Christchurch, New Zealand joined the list of communities that have experienced mass murder from an evil person with a plan in mind, a gun in hand, and hate in their heart. At least 50 people were murdered. By the time you read this the news media will have whipped this dead horse to a pulp and maybe there will have been some international summit on the continued problem of people like you and me having access to evil, black rifles (yes, racism and prejudice extends to rifles too…) As reported by the New York Times (online 3/17/19) government officials are speaking out…
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand at a mosque in Wellington, the capital, on Sunday.CreditHagen Hopkins/Getty Images
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Sunday that the suspect, an Australian, would be tried in New Zealand, and that her government would discuss gun regulation at a meeting on Monday. “There will be changes to our gun laws,” she said. (Editor: according to USA Today on March 23rd, the Prime Minister announced the banning of “military-style” rifles and “high capacity” magazines. They think this is the way to stop this type of event – more laws, punish the majority of gun owners. For a moment of levity, with no disrespect intended toward victims or their families, check out the three-minute video clip of Steve Martin in his 1979 movie “The Jerk” running from the sniper…” it’s the cans…he hates the cans!” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tcwz8-EfFYE.)
Police officials say it took 36 minutes from when they received the first call about a shooting at a mosque to when the suspect was taken in custody. “That is an incredibly fast response time,” said John Price, commander of the district police. “You have a mobile offender across a large metropolitan city, and I am very happy with the response of our staff.” (Editor: 36 minutes is “incredibly fast?” I can order and have a pizza delivered faster than that! No matter how professional and well-equipped responding personnel are, when seconds count they are still minutes – or half an hour – away!)
“I can tell you that within six minutes of police being called, on 111, within six minutes armed police staff were on the scene,” Mike Bush, New Zealand’s police commissioner, said on Sunday. “Within 10 minutes, our armed offenders’ squad were on the scene, and within 36 minutes, we had that mobile offender in our custody.” (Editor: This is why this type of event has come to be measured by what we call “The Stopwatch of Death.”)
Again I say that I mean no disrespect to the victims, their families, the responders, anyone who helped in any way, and everyone who may need help in the coming months and years to reclaim their lives from this terrible act. I will not venture into a mental health discussion at this point – a huge contributing factor. The point I want to reinforce is that a normal person with a modicum of training and a suitable pistol could have stopped this idiot before he ever breached the door of the first mosque! (We will come back to this point.)
Consider selected events from the last 20 years which illustrates the fact that our country, with all of its talents and resources, remains unwilling to learn simple but tough lessons. The criminals ARE learning, adapting, and trying new things (most facts and statistics below are from Wikipedia).
- February 28, 1997, North Hollywood Bank of America, Los Angeles, California was robbed by two men with extensive planning, body armor, and fully automatic rifles. Both robbers were killed, twelve police officers and eight civilians were injured, and numerous vehicles and other property were damaged or destroyed by the nearly 2,000 rounds of ammunition fired by the robbers and police.
- Takeaway: first responders were not equipped or prepared for this type of fight and the public was not in much of a position to help. Police officers had to arm themselves with rifles from a local sporting goods store because only shotguns were issued to patrol. This did not end as a barricade; the suspects left the bank and took the fight out into the streets of LA.
- April 20, 1999, Columbine High School, Littleton, Colorado was (at that time) the deadliest shooting at a high school in United States history. The suspects, two seniors, murdered 12 students and one teacher. 49 minutes elapsed from the first shot was fired until the two committed suicide.
- Takeaway: emergency services were not trained or prepared for a siege where the suspects were not barricaded…they just kept shooting. A teacher bled to death from survivable wounds because simple equipment (tourniquet) and training were not available.
- April 16, 2007, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University: in approximately 10 minutes, one attacker with 2 handguns killed 32 and wounded 17 in Norris Hall. He fired about 174 rounds, all of the victims were shot at least 3 times, and 28 of the 30 in Norris Hall were shot in the head. After the attacker left one classroom for another, not everyone who was capable of evacuating did so. The killer returned and finished the job on many of them. In an effort to delay the police response, the killer chained the doors. Note: there happened to be 2 fully geared police SWAT teams training only 800 yards away. Police arrived within 3 minutes but took an additional 2 minutes to gain entry. An officer used a 12 gauge shotgun to breach a deadbolt lock and get in. The suspect committed suicide after establishing the new record for the most killings in a school shooting so far.
- Takeaway: 8 years after Columbine, most schools still did not have plans or training to address this kind of event. My peers and I teach lock out, get out, take out and not run, hide, fight. Cell phone video of one student showed him trying to shove tennis shoes under the door to act as a wedge and keep the door from opening. The suspect killed almost 3 times as many people by himself in significantly less time than the two suspects at Columbine.
- July 20, 2012, Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colorado, theater #9 was the site where 12 people were killed and 70 were injured (from gunfire) during the premiere of Batman. At the time, this incident was the largest number of casualties until the Orlando nightclub in 2016. The attacker deployed tear gas and smoke grenades and began shooting with a Remington 870 shotgun (6 rounds), followed by an AR-15 with a 100 round drum magazine (which jammed after 65 rounds) and then a 40 caliber Glock (5 rounds). He was dressed in a load-bearing vest, helmet, gas mask, leg protectors, and since others were dressed in costumes for the movie, some thought it was a prank. He surrendered to police outside the building.
- Takeaway: in all of the movie theaters within 20 minutes of where the suspect lived, the Century 16 was the only theater where guns were posted as banned (https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/did-colorado-shooter-single-out-cinemark-theater-because-it-banned-guns). Posting that an area is a gun free zone is stupid advertising and about as effective as teaching “run” and “hide.”
- December 14, 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut: using an AR-15 that he stole from his mother after murdering her, the 20 year old suspect fired 154 rounds in less than 5 minutes killing a total of 28 people; 20 children between the ages of 6-7 and 8 adults. He committed suicide with a 10mm handgun. He had a Saiga 12 gauge shotgun in the car which he never accessed. No shots were fired by the police. The suspect had a history of mental health issues before the age of three including communication and sensory difficulties, socialization delays, and repetitive behaviors. In elementary school, he was diagnosed with a sensory-integration disorder (which does not have official status by the medical community as a formal diagnosis but is a common characteristic of autism). His anxiety affected his ability to attend school and in 8th grade he was placed on “homebound” status. He was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome at 13 and at 14 his parents took him to Yale University’s Child Study Center, where he was also diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. He frequently washed his hands and changed his socks 20 times a day, to the point where his mother did three loads of laundry a day. He would go through a box of tissues in a day because he could not touch a doorknob with his bare hand.
- Takeaway: mental health issues continue to play a major part in these mass murders. This kid should never have had access to his mother’s firearms. The state of our current health care system cannot manage the number of people who need this kind of help, including our veterans who are committing suicide at a rate of 16 EVERY DAY. Since 2008 we have lost over 6,000 Veterans each year to suicide. If you are a Veteran in crisis — or you’re concerned about one — free, confidential support is available 24/7. Call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, or send a text message to 838255.
- June 12, 2016, Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida: referencing racial and cultural issues this suspect set the new record for the deadliest mass shooting by a single attacker with 50 killed and 53 injured. Using a Sig Sauer MCX semiautomatic rifle and a 9mm pistol the suspect entered the nightclub around 2:00 am and was confronted by security (an off duty officer) at the front door, but was able to get past him. The fight was on and the initial “active shooter” event changed to a barricaded suspect with hostages incident. Of the thirty-eight victims to die at the scene, twenty died on the stage area and dance floor, nine in the nightclub’s northern bathroom, four in the southern bathroom, three on the stage, one at the front lobby, and one out on a patio. At least five of the dead were not killed during the initial volley of gunfire but during the hostage situation in the bathroom. (911 received calls for help from patrons in the bathroom who said there were people bleeding to death.) Police did not breach the building until 3 hours into the incident when SWAT engaged the sole attacker in the hallway and killed him.
Greg and Farley demonstrate tourniquet application in St. Louis. Photo: Todd Burke.
- Takeaway: while the decision to hold and not breach when this turned into a barricade with hostages is legitimate, here is another incident where potentially saveable victims were bleeding to death and no one knew what to do (like the teacher at Columbine). Civilians must learn basic life-saving skills such as hemorrhage control and this is a focus of the national Stop The Bleed campaign. Just because emergency services are on the scene does not mean you will have access to them in a timely manner. One severed artery can cause you to bleed to death in 3 minutes.
- October 1, 2017, Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada: a 64-year-old man fired more than 1,100 rounds from his suite on the 32nd floor of the hotel, killing 58 people and leaving 851 injured – over 400 of them by gunfire and hundreds more in the ensuing panic. The shooting occurred between 10:05 and 10:15 p.m. and about an hour later the suspect was found dead in his room from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His motive remains unknown. The incident is now the deadliest mass shooting committed by an individual in United States history. It focused attention on bump stocks, which Paddock used to help him fire shots in rapid succession. Bump stocks were banned by the U.S. Justice Department in December 2018, effective March 2019.
- Takeaway: using these numbers, while the murderer had the high ground, ammunition, and weapons systems capable of delivering a high volume of fire, his hit ratio was 36% and his kill ratio was only 5% for the 1,100 rounds fired. He pointed at the crowd and fired as fast as he could. This, like all of these incidents, was well-planned. Consider a person who has actual marksmanship skills and an open field of fire with hundreds or thousands of targets (such as the Texas A&M sniper in 1966 where citizens returned fire and helped). We must learn awareness, recognition, reporting, communication, teamwork, and preplanning if we are to change the outcome of these events. We have to get over the normalcy bias and learn to be attentive, diligent, and how to effectively fight back!
By design and deployment our police forces are mostly reactive. Even if we quadrupled the number of officers they would still have to deal with regular police stuff, everyday routines, security posts, and respond to calls for service. We could have SWAT teams in full gear, sitting in trucks ready to go, but the seconds vs. minutes fact will still prevail. Re-read or research Virginia Tech. Two SWAT teams were in full gear training less than 1/2 mile away! While we cannot stop murders, we can significantly reduce their impact, scope, and size!
I have seen the full video of the Christchurch, New Zealand mass murder; it is chilling. However, there are important things we can learn as well as reinforce much we already know. The suspect had a plan, equipped himself, laid out his gear and positioned at least 5 long guns for easy access in and from his vehicle. He had two red poly jugs that looked like gasoline cans in the back of his car but there were never used. Here is a synopsis of his actions during the attack:
- His approach took him past at least 3 people on the sidewalk and in the parking lot who he did not engage. None of them yelled any type of warning or alerted others. (It is understandable if they simply fled for their lives; they may have been callers to “111” our 911 equivalent, for now that is unknown.)
- His walk-up approach from the alley onto the sidewalk was in full view of the front doors for 15 seconds before he opened fire. Key Point: a greeter or person at the front door would have had an opportunity to sound an alarm, initiate a lockdown, and engage the suspect before he reached the building!
- When he was about 20 feet from the front door he opened fire with the shotgun, fired 9 rounds, then threw it to the ground to transition to a slung rifle.
- Using a strobing flashlight on the forend of the rifle, he stepped over those he shot and began engaging people in several directions as he crossed the threshold into the building. He shot again anyone on the ground in front of him who was still moving. After running dry he performed a skilled reload with a 2nd magazine and then entered the worship area from the hallway scanning right and left and firing at people on both sides. Key Point: he was skilled with his equipment. Any professional protector who is not near the top of their game with their own equipment must answer this wake-up call immediately or do something else.
- One person tried to tackle him or run past him when he entered the worship area but was unsuccessful. Most were huddled in the corners as the suspect fired many rounds into the masses of bodies. Key Point: “Run and hide” is not just ineffective, it promotes death! Those who “hid” in the corners of the worship area simply created mosh pits where everyone was eventually killed.
- There were so many people and so much movement that at times he was firing in one direction but looking in another – he was constantly scanning.
- Running the rifle dry he reloaded with a 3rd magazine and shot people who were already hit and on the ground.
- He had a stoppage that took him 18 seconds to clear and he did so standing still in one place, his attention focused on the rifle right in front of him. At this time it did not appear that anyone was on their feet or capable of putting up a fight. There were about 35-40 people down at this point.
- He reloaded a 4th magazine and turned to go back down the entry hall and head outside. From the time he took the first shot with the shotgun until he exited the mosque took only 2 minutes and 10 seconds. Key Point: as we have seen many times in the past, a responding battalion of armed police officers cannot stop the “stopwatch of death” if they are not physically there to engage the murderer.
- He fired the 4th magazine in opposite directions down the street, and when he runs the rifle dry he returns to the car, drops the empty rifle, and gets another rifle out of the back of the car. This took about 30 seconds.
- With a new rifle and the 5th magazine he ran past the main entrance to a side gate and fired 12-15 shots at an unknown target in the distance. He ran back and re-entered the main doors of the mosque. Re-entering the worship area, he closed the distance and fires the remaining rounds of the 5th magazine at very close range into victims who were already shot. Key Point: In many mass murders, the suspect(s) returned to areas they had already caused great harm in, such as the adjacent classrooms at Virginia Tech. If you physically have the ability to move – get out!
- With the 6th magazine he continued working his way clockwise around the room still shooting those on the ground. Some who were not dead but lying motionless flinch when struck again. He left the worship room and headed down the hall and out the front doors.
- Stepping outside he spotted two women in black dress on the street about 25 yards away and he shoots at them. One goes down, the other runs away, and he runs up on the woman who is down and shoots her two more times while she is crying out and reaching toward her companion. He gets in his car and runs over the woman he shot in the street. Key Point: history shows us that many people who thought they heard gunfire and went to investigate instead of creating distance and calling for help encountered the attacker and became victims. From the time he fired the first shot until driving away less than 6 minutes have elapsed. He fired 9 rounds with the shotgun and approximately 170 rounds with two rifles.
- When he gets in the car he is listening to music that begins, “I am the god of Mount Zion, and I bring you fire…” and he says to himself, “There wasn’t even time to aim; there were so many targets.” While driving to the second mosque he reaches down on the passenger’s floorboard and picks up a pump action shotgun. He shot two rounds through his windshield at two men in a car and they drive away. He continued to shoot at people on the street through his windshield and his blown-out side window. The last 4 minutes of the video is mostly of traffic and him driving.
If a culture is to have any hope of changing the course of these mass murders, it will have to embrace Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different outcome or result. We must stop focusing our energy and blame on inanimate objects (the guns) and an overabundance of laws that do not matter. The public must “take the law into its own hands.” This does not mean delivering vigilante justice. It means being aware, prepared, equipped, and ready and willing to help even if the “help” is simply providing good information to responders. The point I now return to is this – one protector with a serviceable pistol and the ability, willingness, and training to use it could have stopped this incident with minimal loss of life. You cannot dispute this fact. Had there been an usher/greeter/protector at the open front doors of the mosque, the suspect clad in black wearing load bearing gear with two long guns would have been spotted from a distance and could have been engaged. (Case Study: New Life Church, December 9, 2007 in Colorado Springs. Former police officer Jeanne Assam serving on their security team shot and stopped an attacker in the hallway leading to the worship center. She and Carl Chinn had seen the murder begin in the parking lot and they stopped it from coming into the sanctuary. Read Carl’s Book Evil Invades Sanctuary.)
I realize that to many of you I am preaching to the choir on the whole “guns are the problem” debate. The world is not a safe place, but security can be rather easily and intelligently managed. Sadly, New Zealand has become another example of what can happen when your primary safety plan is to rely upon someone else, such as the government, to provide for your safety or even worse – make the assumption that “it will never happen here.” And a parallel topic that we still fail to address is the advent of explosive and incendiary devices such as the pressure cooker bombs from the Boston Marathon. The disturbed mind can learn how to build these from the internet…and someone is doing that very thing at this very moment.