Most of the lessons of the Orlando shooting were already clear to those of us who carry firearms for personal protection. First, “Gun-Free Zones” actually aren’t; time after time, mass public shootings occur where guns are prohibited. Yet in spite of the glaring failure of GFZs to prevent shootings, opposition to allowing firearms continues.
Even proposals to have teachers armed to protect young children are attacked as “reckless” and “dangerous”—ironically, the Newtown shooting should have shown the folly of “gun-free zones” but instead it has been used as an excuse for continuing such policies.
However, even if “gun-free zones” were eliminated, but you happened to leave your gun at home “just to run down to the store” and found yourself facing an armed assailant, it wouldn’t matter. I personally never leave my house without my gun, nor do most of my fellow “sheepdogs.”
But there is another aspect to consider. Even if personal carry guns had been allowed in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, and one or more people (other than the lone security guard) had been armed, the tactical situation that night was simply a disaster. Hundreds of people, all packed into a relatively small space. Lots of noise even before the shooting started. Limited and unclear exit pathways. Confusing lighting. And once the attack began, chaos and confusion made for an impossibly bad situation.
In the cruelest and most horrific sense, the patrons at the Pulse nightclub really were “fish in a barrel”—and the results were catastrophic. But that is one of the main reasons the home-grown jihadist picked it in the first place. He had done his “recon” and had found precisely the kind of “killing field” that he wanted: crowds of people trapped, confused, and defenseless.
But a busy, noisy nightclub is only one kind of situation that can become a virtual trap. The Colorado movie theater shooting is another example. Much like the Orlando assailant, the Colorado shooter passed up more nearby venues in favor of one that banned guns.
Here again, though, even if there had been one or more permit holders on-site, the scene would have been just as chaotic as the nightclub, if not more so. Because when you throw in darkness on top of the noise and flash of a movie screen, knowing who is shooting at whom becomes extremely difficult. Could one of “us” have taken down the cowardly theatre shooter? Perhaps.
But I have friends and acquaintances with some pretty hard-core backgrounds—Rangers, Marine Recon, Navy SEALS, even a former SAS operator. With their experience in actual night combat, they might at least have a better chance of surviving, and even taking out the attacker. But they have told me that situations like Orlando and Colorado would be nightmare scenarios, even for them.
Make no mistake, we at the USCCA heartily recommend carrying whenever and wherever you can. We also strongly encourage everyone who caries to train often, and to train as realistically as possible, for varying situations you may encounter.
But as always, be aware of your environment. Do everything possible to avoid becoming trapped. Wherever I go, whether in my vehicle or on foot, I always note potential escape routes—and even in a “nice” restaurant, I typically sit near an exit, with a clear view of everyone nearby. Weather permitting, I generally prefer outdoor seating.
Remember, survival is the goal.