Theater Shooting

A. M.
By A. M. on Sun, Jul 22, 2012 - 1:41pm

We've probably all heard just about our fill on this latest tradgedy, and I don't want to talk about the politics involved. This event has brought a few key points to my attention, and I'd like to address them with this community, so we can hold a more comprehensive understanding of crime, and personal safety - even if we're not in our homes, we need to be thinking about these kinds of things.

If you're not familiar with this event, here are two articles upon which I'll draw when making my inferences:

So, we can look at this problem from 3 Environmental angles:
1. Tactical - dealing with movement and threats
2. Kinetic - the application of force and the results
3. Physical - the elements of the event and their impact

With this in mind, this is a "Response to Active Shooter" scenario, and a hugely difficult one.
First, let's look at the environment:

The event took place in a crowded theater, at ~midnight. The theater was an opening event, and was crowded. Theaters generally have on external exit, and one main exit, with two relatively long corridors, which are open overhead, leading to the seating area, and stairs flanking and bisecting the seating areas. Theaters are also dark. While this is all common knowledge, we need to 'be there' mentally for this exercise.

This is particularly important, because most of the seating sits elevated above the entry. The architectural geometry creates some very distinct problems:
- At the height of the seating, you're as far from the exit as you could be, in terms of distance traveled.
- Because of the open top corridors, a motivated person can jump from the seating area, to put themselves closer to the exit.
- You have to descend narrow stairs to reach the exit, and the exits are located at the end of two long corridors.
- Each corridor is, in essence, a "fatal funnel" - an area in which you are at risk of being in the direct line of assault.
- The maximum capacity of a theater is ~300 people.

...and it's a gun free zone.

With regards to the kinetic aspects, we have two clear options - escape, or engage.
To do either, you would have to traverse this environment, moving through a sea of people, of which, many are being targeted, are wounded, or are panicing. This presents a huge problem to both of our kinetic options. A clear opportunity to engage and the ability to escape are severely hampered by the physical environment, and the liability of engaging the threat carries with it a very significant chance of inadvertantly injuring an innocent. This environment makes it very difficult to do anything, and puts us squarely in the Type I emergency category.
In addition, the aggressor was armored head to toe.

The tactical environment offers very little in the way of advantage. Almost anything you could conceal yourself behind will be insufficient to stop bullets of any caliber. The seats are low, and offer no ballistic protection. The adversary has entered the facility facing the audience, and created a visual diversion by using smoke bombs. This process effectively blocked the most distal (exterior) exit, which allowed the threat to utilize the physical environment to his advantage.
This tactical situation accomplishes several things:
- It maintains the three principles of CQB: Speed, simplicity and violence of action.
- It severely degrades a responder's ability to counteract an attack.
- It buys him time.

So, with these things in mind, what can we do?

First, we establish our priorities:
1. Stay alive - seems like a good place to start

2a. Observe: analyze the options; engage or retreat - from there, we will decide how best to address the threat. Do you have loved ones with you? Children? WHere are you positioned in the theater? Where can you exit to? Use as cover or concealment?
- Engage: In order to do this, we need a few things:
* A weapon - the one between your ears, most notably, but your odds will increase with proper tools.
* A clear line of sight, unobstructed by innocents
* A position of concealment, cover or an angle from which you can regain initiave (If you want to survive the exchange)
- Retreat: This option is almost as bad as engaging, as you're competing with ~300 other who've got the same idea. A good majority of the injuries were those trampling one another to get out.

2b. Orient: Take stock of where you are, what angles you can use, where the flow of foot traffic and the angles of attack are. 

2c. Decide- The overwhelming impression I get is that no one made a decision in this case. The disorientation was so prevelant, that people defaulted to panic. Having your wits about you is empowering when you are forced into a 'reactive' scenario - think these things through in advance... contemplate the possibilities as a mental game, not as a continual fear or paranoia.

2d. Act - Whatever you do - move! Don't get caught by the panic, and bind up. The hysteria that comes with mobs of terrified mammals is not something you want to get trapped in. Act deliberately, and use your observations (knowing who's around you, good and bad), orientation (forming a plan quickly to meet the emergency)  and decision to act intelligently. How are those around you going to react to you presenting a firearm? Are you capable of making the shot? Of wrestling the weapon away?

The military uses the term "assault through" to denote fighting a losing battle against a superior force. Surprisingly, it works. An overwhelming and unexpected counterattack can steal initiative and buy you some precious time to work the problem on your terms. 

If you can't fight through, be deliberate and stay oriented. Staying alert and not panicing will go a long way in keeping your OODA loop going strong.

3. Be prepared for the fallout of either decision. If you've got the equipment, get out from under fire and treat the injured - be ready for the police to rough you up. Be ready for a disorientating slew of events; media, police, judicial, familial - all these things are going to be post incident impacts that you need to be mentally ready for right now, regardless of whether you flee or engage. Do you have a way to contact you loved ones? Account for those with you? If you're placed in police custody, do your family members understand what to do?

An important note "Holmes had 4 weapons, three of them were actually found in the back of the car". (Source: USA Today, video). It's important to remember that, considering the media circus is hyper-focused on the weapons involved. 

I'm curious to hear how others view this problem, how you'd react, and what you would do if faced with this absolutely terrible situation... it's as close to a "no-win" as possible, and as evidenced by the outcome, not 1 of 300 people made the decision to fight.

How could this have been different if they had?
The outcomes could be positive or negative - the event will always be a tradgedy - but what we do can shape the scope of that tradgedy. 

I hope to hear your thoughts.



Organic Raw Veggies's picture
Organic Raw Veggies
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Jul 24 2012
Posts: 49

Maybe you are right about the imposter. trolls are easy to spot on the investment sites, not so easy here.

Everyone should see the movie Next with Nicholas Cage.

Travlin's picture
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 15 2010
Posts: 1322
And the answer is?
Organic vegan raw wrote:

Does Aaron Moyer even know who Arundhati Roy is? I think Aaron should be thankful that she responded to his post. Maybe he will read a book or two of hers.

Would the poster using the screen name Arundhati Roy care to enlighten us about their identity?



srelf's picture
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 20 2011
Posts: 11
(No subject)



srelf's picture
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 20 2011
Posts: 11
Training with a weapon firing at paper targets a whole other thing. Without combat training most people will be more or less deactivated by their involuntary bodily response to such a situation. Fine motor skills cannot be depended on. Unless you are carrying a sawed-off to the theater, you probably wouldn't be able to hit the broad side of a barn door.

thc0655's picture
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 27 2010
Posts: 1436
On the other hand....

Civilians DO successfully defend themselves and others with force, though the mostly liberal media is loathe to cover those stories because it generally doesn't fit with their ideology.  Here's a few that have been covered:

Here! Here!

Doug's picture
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 1 2008
Posts: 3101

Good post

I was reminded of Charlie Starkweather (showing my age) who passed right by my house on his murderous rampage from Lincoln, Nebraska to Wyoming.  In the end he was caught by a Wyoming police officer who didn't realize who he was stopping until there was a gun pointing in his face.  His solution?  He reached out and took the gun away from Charlie.  

There is an increasing wussification of Americans that I too find distressing.  Sometimes, a little presence of mind and courage can stop or prevent horrific tragedies like the Colorado shootings.


A. M.'s picture
A. M.
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 22 2008
Posts: 2367
Srelf - Training, Roy - Flaggers needed (even in a bad economy)

Arundpauli Fox,

Flagging your comment, as it has absolutely nothing to do with anything. 
Please start an "I am neat" thread where your onion of infinite wisdom can be peeled slowly by the interested in its proper venue. 



The dichotomy of "Combat Training" is a difficult one to talk about. The two words are entirely seperate parts of a greater whole - that being both martial skill, and stress innoculation.
There really isn't a lot of "combat training" that can be had, as there is no way to fully articulate the level of lethality of combat in a training environment.

Because of this, we need realistic training that provides a progression of:

This approach allows us to continue moving "up" as we build skill, recognize deficiencies and successes and that will help us lessen our reaction times when we're stuck in the "orient" phase of the OODA loop. This applies equally to rescue medicine, firefighting, and athletic sports, so the template for learning is more important than the actual topic being studied. I believe this is what Miyamoto Musashi meant when he said "To know 1000 things, know one thing well."

For these reasons, I think that even a modest amount of training could be hugely beneficial - even in a situation like this, where you may elect not to use it. Knowing the difference alone is important.

Hope this is somewhat clear.


Jim H's picture
Jim H
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 8 2009
Posts: 2363

Aaron.. I think Srelf was probably tweaking me since I talked about hitting the range much earlier in the thread.  I agree with you completely.. as a novice, I need to focus on just getting comfortable with my machinery at this point... loading and reloading quickly and smoothly, firing and re-acquiring (I was not shooting paper targets - but rather a menagerie of steel and other things set up by a gun club I have become associated with), clearing a clog, etc.  I have shotguns and pistol cal carbines, depending on the need.  I am not ready for the Special Forces, but I am in pretty good shape against a regular bad guy, and I am ready to be helpful to a neighbor anytime, or the broader community in a SHTF situation.  I have also learned a lot from watching NutnFancy on youtube, etc.  


idoctor's picture
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 4 2008
Posts: 1731
Howard's picture
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 7 2012
Posts: 5
In war, there are no innocent victims


I like your video and stream of thought, yet there has to be opposition to the framing of an argument, even if the surface subject appears written in stone.

Albert Camus once wrote:

"If a philosophy followed from [..] revolt, it would be a philosophy of limits, of calculated ignorance and recognised risk.

In the conflict between freedom and justice, absolute freedom becomes the right of the strongest to dominate; absolute justice on the other hand suppresses every contradiction, and thus destroys freedom."

Absolute justice, therefore, requires rigor in its opposition to form sound judgement, yet sadly, human nature is formed with an unfortunate limit:

Human choice isn't rational in groups larger than 5, who - if you think about it - believe that it is sound to presume a truth built upon a factor of:

70% of how a person looks

20% of how a person sounds

10% of what a person says

As of the 20th and early 21st century - through a supposed public choice - our representing representitives have been given tools that present facts selectively (thus the possibility of lying by omission), in encouraging a particular synthesis using messages to produce an emotional, rather than a rational response to information presented.

Public relations - so its name denotes - is a means to fabricate a subtlety within a dialogue, making it appear orderly and without objection by the public. Those that object are more often marginalized, particularly as there is so much invested toward a greater profit.

Part of the structure of subtlety within the meme would be, for example:

"You are either for or against guns"

"You are either for or against training in combat with guns"

As you have found in explaining to people the subtlety of the Crash Course for example, you've used the mid-ground to express a reasoning to a series of subjects more complex than can be simplified into yes/no and right/wrong answers. If the public cannot either make a choice in a group above 5 - or be allowed the right to complex debate of the subtleties of a subject through an unlocked media - and its previously compounded series of messages - the outcome is nolonger democratic, but formulated to appear so.


ao's picture
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 4 2009
Posts: 2220
another alter ego
Jello Biafra wrote:

Human choice isn't rational in groups larger than 5


Can you provide evidence for this statement?

Howard's picture
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 7 2012
Posts: 5
How Group choice And Consensus Are Built
ao wrote:
Jello Biafra wrote:

Human choice isn't rational in groups larger than 5


Can you provide evidence for this statement?

By you truthfully justifying to yourself why you would ask such a question.


robie robinson's picture
robie robinson
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 25 2009
Posts: 1123

may have said it best,"Lucidity is a uniquely individual accomplishment." I like this less offensive axiom

w/o absolutist numbers

Howard's picture
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 7 2012
Posts: 5
robie robinson wrote:

Twain may have said it best,"Lucidity is a uniquely individual accomplishment." I like this less offensive axiom

w/o absolutist numbers

Nice quote Robie.

As is the case, even Twain never attained perfection.


A. M.'s picture
A. M.
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 22 2008
Posts: 2367
Next step...

Hey guys and gals,
I appreciate good conversation, but this is horrendously off topic.
This isn't about politics. It's not about how people think in groups, or how they act.
If we can, let's keep this on the followings topics:
- Emotional and Mental responses 
*During stressful events
*Post-stressful events
- Dealing with Violence in a physical or emotional way
- Establishing protocols with friends, family and painful as it is to say, your attorney
- Entertaining the hypotheticals about how you would deal with stressful situations before they happen.
- Applicable training and skillsets for emergencies of this class (Type I)

If not, I'm going to politely request that THC starts removing posts that are just banter or off topic.
We can start new topics about these other things if you all want, but I want this to be something we can learn from - not just a place to flog the concepts with errata.
Thanks folks, 


Mark Cochrane's picture
Mark Cochrane
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: May 24 2011
Posts: 1216
Rational response in the face of panic

Aaron poses an interesting set of questions. I do not know the extent to which one can guarantee that they would respond rationally in such an event but even the concept of rationality is situational, depending on where you were in relation to the shooter and who you had with you. If my loved ones are with me I will first default to protection of them. It is a judgement call if that is through shielding them directly or intentionally drawing attention away from them.

I have never experienced anything directly like this premeditated mayhem but I have been in multiple potential life or death scenarios and my default has always been fight over flight. Perhaps a product of a mispent youth on the wrong side of gangs. If you were sitting near the shooter the only reasonable activity is to flank and attack, using darkeness and confusion to attempt to get inside of the long gun's effective range. Talking him down allows others to assist in subduing the target. With a hand gun the prime need is to control the armed hand until help arrives. Such action poses substantial risk but no action equates to zero control. I'd trust my judgement more than his.

The problem is much more complex for people seated in middle rows higher in the theater section. Mobility is hampered and therefore direct attack is impractical. Duck and cover is an initial move, allowing the panicked people to cluster and draw fire on the exit paths. The objective would be to move you and loved ones away from whatever approach the gunman takes while staying low and drawing as little attention as possible and avoiding the stampede.

In short there is no one appropriate response, even if you can keep your head. I will hopefully never be faced with such a situation but I have prepared my family for how we should individually respond in similar situations for several years. I cover their escape, then switch to self preservation. This approach stands for any threat, not just something like this theater tradgedy. I don't think anyone can be sure of how they would react but in conditions of immediate life and death decisions when the adrenaline hits, but I have always gone unnaturally calm while those around me panicked. Time slows down and rational decisions can be made and it feels unrushed despite only a few seconds passing. The shooter is under similar pressure and adrenaline which may open up opportunities for evasion, attack or distraction (e.g. a lobbed 32 oz soda).

I would like to hear other tactical or strategic actions to improve survivability and protection of loved ones.


P.S. Note: I would anticipating being unarmed.

P.P.S. Working in Indonesia there are continual security checks when entering any hotel or public building. Every car and bag is swept for explosives and guns. They've experienced multiple bombings over the years. I will say that there security while omnipresent is also very efficient.

Ken C's picture
Ken C
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 13 2009
Posts: 753
AO - Excellent post.
ao wrote:

OK.  I know I'm going to get my head handed to me saying this but there's something about this theater shooting that has bothered me since day one.  Isn't it strange that not one person out of hundreds in a crowded movie theater decided to charge the shooter ..


You get no disagreement from me.

I am continually flabergasted each time I hear someone in a position of supposed authority say that bystanders, civilians, good samaritans should not get involved. Run and hide, call the police and wait.


If someone is a threat and you have ANY opportunity to minimize or eliminate the threat then do so- the sooner the better. Unfortunately, that is not what we hear and you are right about our society is really becoming a group of passive sheep.





A. M.'s picture
A. M.
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 22 2008
Posts: 2367
Doc Cochrane/Interesting Info

Here's a link that shows that some took decisive action, and a few inferences can be made from the stories:

The first thing I took from this is that some people did make decisions. They decided to put the lives of others before their own. 

Here are my inferences, and I could be wrong - please feel free to bring counterpoints to my attention:
1. Those who chose to shield or protect someone often forfeit their opportunity to save their own life.
1a. Because of this, we can infer that the gunmen perceived and acted upon the movements he saw that looked proactive.

2. If given ~1 second to respond, you do not have time to perform two decisive actions. 
(Defining decisive as "engage and shield", you can do one or the other, you can shield while drawing, and your can draw while engaging - but based on averages, your chances of performing both are hugely limited)

3. This is a high intensity, short duration event: by limiting the duration, you increase your survivability. By decreasing your proximity, you can incraese your survivability. Probability is a useless metric in this instance, as the event has already begun. Using this logic, coupled with the 1 second rule, it seems that some proactive planning (protocols) amongst your family/friends. You family should know:

4. If you're armed and plan to respond, or;
4a.You're not armed and you need to escape.

So, to tie it together, the actionable steps are as follows:
- Have a plan. Just like a fire drill. Talk it over, establish some guidelines, and make sure everyone knows their responsibility.
- Pre-game by knowing things like "where am I going to sit?", "which exit will I use?" and "where will we meet up?"
- Try and keep things consistent: If you plan for the fire drill, meeting at your car in the drive way is cool. You can do the same at a theater. Or the Mall. Or a football game. Just make sure everyone knows where your rendezvous spot is.

I suppose for me, doing something and dying is better than doing nothing and dying. I really like Dr. Cochrane's thoughts on the matter, and hope that between a good distraction and some proactivity, a different outcome would be possible.


I totally agree. Response to active shooter training has become a joke - any agency is going to tell you to run and hide. The MILITARY is telling people to run and hide. It's a sad, dull state of affairs. Personally, I'd rather see us go the way of Israel, and have a continually armed populace, than the way of England, and have a perpetually helpless society.



Oliveoilguy's picture
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 29 2012
Posts: 578
Aaron Moyer wrote:

Personally, I'd rather see us go the way of Israel, and have a continually armed populace, than the way of England, and have a perpetually helpless society.



Speaking of England........... We were in London during the riots last summer, and wondered how on Earth they could manage the security for the Olympics. Even the Brits we spoke with expressed reservations.

thc0655's picture
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 27 2010
Posts: 1436
Video on civilian response to shooters

Here's a short video produced by the Houston PD with DHS funds entitled, "Run, Hide, Fight" instructing civilians on how to respond to an active shooter situation.  I expected Run and Hide, but not Fight.  Looks solid to me, considering its short length.  (No mention of weapons carried by civilians, just improvised weapons.)

treebeard's picture
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 18 2010
Posts: 580
If we stay in the moment of

If we stay in the moment of the event, I think that we loose the possibility of learning more deeply about the event.  If we take a broader perspective we can learn more not only about our selves and also about the causes of the event.

I think that this discussion is more focused on a strategem for individual survival so I will focus my remarks there, but I feel I must say a few things first about the cause because you can not entirely separate the individuals that collectively experienced the event and their ability to survive from the causes of the event.

The "shooter" did not beam down from Mars and suddenly appear in the theater.  He was an American. He grew up going to American schools, watched American television, ate American food.  LIstened to American radio, watched American movies, shopped in American stores and was raised by American parents.  He is one of us and is a product of the culture that we collectively create. The American flag is his flag.  Do any of us have the courage to take responsibilty for our own part in this mess?  This is our America, are we responsible for what happens here?  What do we do in our daily lives to create the culture conditions that bring about these kinds of events?  Do we feel collectively responsible for one another?  Are we all entirely innocent.  I think that the courage to look at ourselves honestly leads to the kind of courage that some noted was conspicuously missing in the theater that night.

In regards to individual survival, perhaps we should say the avoidance of our own death. Have we dealt with our own death.  Have we thought about we it means to die, have we even accepted the that fact that we will die, really looked at it.  Have we thought about how we would like to die.  How about the things that we feel that are worth dying for.  Family, friends, strangers?  How about if those strangers are of other nationalities, religions.  Women, children, the innocent, the guilty?  If we have not thought about our death, regardless of well we have tactically trained, could we act "rationally" when we suddenly are confronted with our own death, if was for the first time?

Are we kind of individuals that deal with difficult situations, or do we avoid them.  Do we speak up when the possition we believe in is unpopular, particullarly with someone who's opinion is important to us?  Are we willing to endure a certain amount of physical pain to achieve a certain end.  Are we able to put off immediate gratification?

Are our daily lives filled with pursuing our own personal interests, or do we spend time thinking about others.  How far are we willing to put ourselves out for family, friends, strangers.  How big is the group that we feel part of?  Family, neighborhood, town, state, country?  Member of the human race?  Life on planet earth?

Do we feel that our life has any particular meaning or purpose, or is it to just accumulate wealth and have as much fun as possible, live as long as possible at all costs?  Do events just "happen to us" or are there meanings to the events that unfold in our lives?

What are the kinds of things that build the inner strength that allow us to deal with thesse devastating situations in life?  How important is inner strength compared to tactical training?  If you had to choose between one or the other which would you choose?

When we are preparing to survive whatever it is that we imagine that is about to happen, what do we imagine that the world will be like when the crisis is over.  Will we recreate the same mess over again because we are still the same people that crearted it in the first place.  Do we have any responsiblity for what is happening aournd us in the world today or are we all just helpless bystanders on whom these terrible events are inflicting themselves on?

joemanc's picture
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 16 2008
Posts: 834
Lawyer With Gun In Theater Says He Felt Need For Protection

So what happens when a law abiding citizen, in this case a lawyer, brings a gun to a theater for protection? He gets arrested...


Sung-Ho Hwang, 46, said he normally doesn't carry his gun, but brought it with him Tuesday night because the movie didn't end until 1 a.m. He has a valid state permit to carry the gun.

"There is no posting at [Criterion-Bow Tie Cinemas] that states that weapons are not permitted. As far as the law is concerned, I have a right to carry there," Hwang said during a news conference on Wednesday at his New Haven law office. "We should focus on the real question: Why is New Haven so unsafe? Why do law-abiding citizens feel that they need to carry a weapon?"

I hope he sues New Haven for every last penny...,0,6143955.story

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Login or Register to post comments