My Thoughts on the Horror in Colorado

I watched CNN today with mounting horror as I learned about the shootings in the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. If there were ever an incident that should be defined as ‘senseless’, it’s this one. Twelve people are dead – seventy-one more are wounded. That doesn’t even begin to take into account the number of psychological injuries. Many of the people who walked out of that movie theater without a single scratch are going to find out that some wounds don’t bleed.

My wife and I talked about the incident on the phone tonight. I suppose that’s only natural, especially considering that we are both licensed to carry a concealed weapon. When she asked me what I thought about what happened, for a moment I was at a loss for words. What she specifically wanted to know was what I thought the fall-out was going to be.

First, the gun-control crowd is going to come screaming out of the woodwork; and they’ll do what they always do: focus on the firearm instead of the person firing it. The shotgun, pistols, and AR-15 that the Colorado shooter used last night are harmless unless someone pulls the trigger. The problem isn’t guns or even easy access to guns. The problem is the human heart, and that’s a problem that only Christ can fix. If there’s one thing that these sorts of incidents have proven time and time again, it’s that more gun-control laws aren’t the answer, since normally all sorts of firearms laws are shattered when this sort of thing happens.

Second, the folks on my ‘team’, are going to start screaming for more permissive concealed carry laws. The outcry will be loud and long: “If someone in that theater had been carrying a concealed weapon, this could have been stopped almost instantly!!”

Reality, however is another matter entirely.

I’m a firm believer (obviously) in the right to carry concealed, but I highly doubt that would have helped in this situation. Here’s why:

  1. The lay out of the theater. It’s my understanding that the gunman did his shooting from the front of the theater, i.e., in front of the screen. That puts the entire crowd of humanity in front of him, with the emergency exits likely on either side of his position and the normal exits directly in his line of fire. This made his attack something like shooting fish in a barrel. Given that most modern theaters have stadium-style seating, this means practically the entire audience were ideal targets. And some folks wonder why I avoid theaters like the bloody plague.
  2. Now we add the human startle response. When the first shot was fired, nearly everyone in the theater would have frozen – knees bent, dropped to a crouch, hands up at chest height, palms facing outward. Even the most diligent among us at the fine art of shooting a pistol would have done so, meaning that our reaction to removing a holster weapon (at waist level, no less) would have been seriously impeded.
  3. To make things even worse, add the adrenalin factor. Massive amounts of adrenaline are being pumped into your body. The “software” for the human “machine” is designed to react to the threat from a saber-toothed tiger, not a gunman. This means that your fine-motor control is instantly shot. One of the reasons that Krav Maga is such a successful self-defense system is because it works with this adrenaline dump, only asking you to use large muscle groups in your defense. Drawing a handgun requires good fine motor control.
  4. Let’s assume for a moment that you are able to overcome the startle response and adrenaline dump. The next factor is heart rate. In most panic situations, your heart rate is going to kick up to 140+ beats per minute. In a combat situation, you can almost count on it heading north of 200. This further decimates your ability to aim and fire a weapon with the appropriate amount of control.
  5. Then there’s the psychological factor. Your facing a heavily armed assailant who is killing folks left, right, and center. The desire for self-preservation is strong, meaning that the average person isn’t going to be sticking his head up to make the shot.
  6. Most folks don’t have CrimsonTrace grips on their weapon; this means that they’re going to have to fight the natural instinct to focus on the target instead of on the front sight-post assembly. This means that even if they do trigger off all ten, twelve, or seventeen rounds in their magazine, they likely aren’t going to hit the attacker. When you add in all of the other factors outlined above, this means the likelihood of stray shots hitting innocent bystanders increases exponentially.
  7. Now add in the fact that the shooter was wearing body armor. Shots to center mass are out. You’ve got to take a head shot. Maybe even from over 15 yards away. The human head does all sorts of weird movements, which makes head shots among the most difficult to make.

In sum, you’d have to have someone in the theater with a huge amount of training to overcome the points I’ve outlined above. This isn’t some punk robbing a gas station – this is a well armed and motivated killer. The United States military provides the training necessary to overcome the problems presented by the situation, but the vast majority of its firearms training is focused on the M4 rifle, not a pistol. And the difference between shooting the two is significant!

What might I have done if I had been there you ask?

Even with my background and experience (5 years in the US Army doing Long Range Surveillance, and monthly range trips where I’ve put nearly 10,000 total rounds downrange), I would have grabbed my wife, thrown her to the floor, climbed on top of her, and prayed like crazy. Only if the shooter was right on top of us would I have even considered deploying and firing a weapon.

My heart goes out to the victims, and their families…


"I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve." (Romans 16:17-18) Please read "The Comments Policy."

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