Note: we’ve been having some issues with WordPress and getting our posts on the blog reliably (you probably noticed last week was pretty sparse in the post department) so Jarhead Survivor was kind enough to post this for me. -Road Warrior
For the past couple months, shootings seem to be all I see on the news. Violence is running rampant, and though the people doing the shootings seem to definitely have mental illnesses or grudges, you can’t help but wonder if this is the new status quo for our country. With all the attention and media hype given to the subject, (I’d go so far as to bet that if the media stopped reporting and sensationalizing this violence, the number of shootings would drop – but what do I know?) as well as the always present debates of gun control and help for the mentally ill, it seems to me that these acts of violence are becoming more and more prevalent in society today as a way to “show the world” what your problems are, what your beliefs are, and how far you’ll go to show what a martyr you’ll be for your own cause. It’s appalling and frightening – and a reason to be prepared.
The shooting that has held my ear the longest is the one that happened last week in Las Vegas, Nevada. As of right now (June 10, 2014) the details are still pretty fuzzy about what happened, but a couple of stories you can read here and here seem to sum up most of the news stories that I’ve read pretty well. In a nutshell, a man and his wife, two people who were dissatisfied with the government and authority, decided to start their own two-man revolution. They packed all their arms and ammunition (a .38 revolver and an “AR-1” rifle or a shotgun) into a backpack, and walked past their neighbor on the way out the door. They told their neighbor that “they had to do what they had to do” and that they were “sorry”. The neighbor, even though she witnessed the couple walking out the door with guns, did nothing, even after the cryptic conversation. Several hours later, the couple, Jerad and Amanda Miller, walked into a pizza joint at an aging strip mall where two on-duty police officers were eating lunch. After yelling something akin to “this is the start of a revolution!”, the couple gunned down the officers, stripped them of their duty handguns and ammunition, and walked across the street to the local Wal-Mart.
image from Facebook/breitbart.com
Folks, what happened at the Wal-Mart is what’s really caught my attention, because it really hits home personally. The details of the happenings inside the Wal-Mart haven’t come out 100% yet – I’m sure they will soon – but from what I can gather, here’s what happened: The Millers walked in the door of the Wal-Mart. Amanda Miller grabbed a shopping cart, presumably to disguise herself as a shopper, while keeping her husband covered. Jerad Miller fired a handgun into the air, and yelled to everyone that “the revolution” had begun, for everyone to clear out if they didn’t want to get hurt, the cops were on their way.
I haven’t seen security camera footage yet, but I have to assume that at this point, the entire populace of the Wal-Mart at that time instantaneously panicked. After a second or two of “What the hell was that?!” I’m sure people in the back of the store ran forward to the entrance, only to find people who didn’t take immediate cover running for the back of the store. Cashiers must have gasped and ducked behind registers. People surely jumped on their cell phones to call the police or perhaps film the event (a phenomena I don’t understand…”I’m in danger! Better film it!”). Fathers and mothers grabbing their children and herding them behind cover. I imagine that for several seconds, the tens of thousands of square feet of that Las Vegas Wal-Mart was 99.999% reactionary, and that reaction was confusion or “Oh, shit.”. Fight or flight.
Enter bystander Joseph Robert Wilcox, 31. He told his friend he was going to confront Jerad Miller, and drew his concealed handgun, which he had a legal permit for. Reportedly, his intentions were to stop the man with the gun so nobody got hurt. I don’t know if he took cover, I don’t know what he was armed with, or how the confrontation went down. I do know that well-meaning Joseph was gunned down by Amanda Miller, from a shot in the ribs he never knew was coming. Amanda, posing as a customer, had circled around and shot Joseph in the back. He died on the scene. The Millers then got in a gunfight with one of the two five-man police teams who entered the building, where they both were wounded. They retreated into the interior of the Wal-Mart, made a makeshift fort out of various materials, and Amanda shot her husband repeatedly, then herself, putting an end to the whole terrible mess. (Evidence has come to light that the police may have shot and killed Jared Miller)
The reason this hits home for me is because I carry a firearm legally concealed, as do many others I know. We do so to protect ourselves, family, and others from harm…but this is a real wake-up call personally, as I’m sure it is for the hundreds of thousands other people who lawfully carry concealed. It forces us to ask ourselves: how far will we go with this pistol by my side? Where do we draw the line that we want to defend? What can we learn from all of this? I know this is a SHTF site, and you may be expecting to be reading about Bug-out-Bags or water collection, but the fact is that the possibility of being involved or near an incident like this one is much more likely these days than a total societal collapse, and as such, qualifies as a SHTF event in my book. I’m sure for a lot of people in Las Vegas that day, the S did indeed HTF.
I’ve never been in a gunfight. I truly hope to never be in one…especially one so horribly one-sided as this. But I have trained under people who have, and conversed with many people more who have. I’ve read books and researched the subject…and while I wasn’t there, I would say that Mr. Wilcox may not have thought things through, and been reactionary without giving consideration to strengths and weaknesses. I’m not critiquing at all; I certainly have no right to. What are the thoughts on the matter? What lessons did I take home that this instance reinforces?
–If you find yourself in a fair fight, you did something wrong. – Joseph Wilcox, from what I can gather, drew his pistol and confronted Jared Miller, who also had a drawn pistol. At a glance,this seems to be pretty fair odds to me, skills and training notwithstanding. I’m sure Wilcox thought that if things went down, maybe if he caught Miller unaware, he would have the upper hand. But there are many other things to consider: What if Miller had been using illegal substances (reports are the Millers were active users of Methamphetamine.), and therefore could not be reasoned with, and if had to be shot, didn’t react to even a well-placed bullet? This is fairly commonplace with many drugs, I understand. What if Miller had a plan, accomplices, and body armor on? (seems to me that he possibly had all three) These are all things that tip the balance of a fight in one way or the other, things that Wilcox could not have known. So that begs the question: why get yourself into what APPEARS TO BE a fair fight? The balance should be decisively in your favor before you decide to engage.
-If you must confront/engage, do so from a position of strength and cover, with no blind spots if possible. – Think things through. Everyone has been in a Wal-Mart. Assuming this happened while you were in the checkout lane, and you had to react with your weapon, how could you do so from a position of cover AND concealment? Ducking behind a register, rolling your body and gun out so minimal body exposure is allowed comes to mind. Behind a customer service desk, back to a wall, is even better. You never know how many bad guys are there – especially in a high-traffic area like a Wal-Mart. This lack of knowledge killed our good Samaritan. Know the difference between concealment and cover: concealment hides you, cover protects you. Always be aware of your surroundings (part of your OPSEC) and think about what could stop a bullet if it came to that. Keeping in that mindset can never hurt.
-Keep your gun concealed. If you must reveal it, it’s time to start shooting. – In my book, if I have to pull my gun, it’s because I perceive enough of a threat to my or others’ lives to reveal my firearm and end the threat. Period. If you pull the gun and don’t use it or don’t intend to pull the trigger (possibly hoping the show of force will scare off bad guys? I don’t know.), then why bother having the gun at all? Drawing your concealed firearm gives away a prime tactical advantage: if a bad guy sees you with a gun, you are a target. If he doesn’t know you have it, you may be able to get yourself in a better position (i.e. behind cover, civilians out of the line of fire, etc.) without drawing attention to yourself. And if you DO draw that gun, you are in unavoidable danger and should start engaging without hesitation. If that gun is out, it’s no time to be wishy-washy. However, as a counterpoint:
-If you can retreat, do so. If you can get out of there, get the hell out of there! Provide relevant information to the police, ask if you can render assistance. Go home to your family. Miller stated that anyone not wanting to get hurt had better leave; in my book that means that he PROBABLY wasn’t going to be gunning down kids in the vitamin aisle. Be smart; leave if you can. You don’t have backup; cops do. You (probably) don’t have training in active shooter situations. Cops do. Cops have long guns, body armor, and if necessary, armored vehicles. You have what you brought in the store/area. Let discretion be the better part of valor: protect yourself and your loved ones with conviction if you are in imminent danger; however, if you can retreat safely, retreat. Don’t be a hero: this hero died. As an extra caveat, in my home state of Maine, you are only authorized to use lethal force if you have explored all other options and cannot retreat. Granted, this is an extraordinary specific case, Mr. Wilcox’s actions were 100% justified, and had things gone the other way, he would have been in the clear. Which brings up the next point…
-IN AN ACTIVE SHOOTER SITUATION, EVERYONE WHO IS NOT A POLICE OFFICER AND HAS A GUN IS A BAD GUY. When the police get there – and they will get there quickly – they don’t know what went down. All they probably know at the outset is that they have an active shooter inside a heavily-populated area and to stop him/her. Police officers these days are no longer trained to sit and wait for backup in active shooter situations; first one on the scene gets in there and engages to draw potential fire away from civilians. Therefore, if you use your firearm in a 100% justified self-defense situation, and you are covering a downed bad guy, the police will rush in and react to a person with a drawn gun over a prone body, possibly with a somewhat predictable, though mistaken outcome. BE SMART. If someone is with you (as Mr. Wilcox had a friend) tell them to phone the police immediately and tell them that there is someone with your description (what you are wearing, skin/hair color) engaging the bad guy(s). If nobody can do that for you, it might be smarter to retreat to a position of cover and make the phone call yourself rather than having you and the police flying blind. It could very well save your life.
As of this final update before I post this article (June 18th, 2014, 8 days later) the Las Vegas Wal-Mart shooting has completely fallen off the media radar. However, it’s an interesting case that re-affirms strong points to think about for the men and women who carry concealed. As always, we don’t have 100% of the information on what truly happened. We’ll never know what went through Joseph Wilcox’s mind when he was confronting Jared Miller. I can’t find any security camera videos of what happened to him, or how the showdown went. All we know is that, despite the very, very best of intentions, things went badly. And we have to prepare ourselves for that: no matter how much we prep, no matter how much we read, no matter how much we debate people online in forums, there’s always the possibility of just plain shit luck. Knowing that can happen, we need to learn to be smart, think things through, and tilt the balances in our favor, whether it’s bring extra batteries for the GPS AND learning map and compass skills for when you go hiking, or engaging an active shooter from behind cover in a super store. It may not be very macho, but at the end of the day, getting home is still the most important thing; and if we learn from others and what happened to them, we up the chances that we will get home by that much more.
Thoughts on this situation? I’d love to hear them…is my head up my ass? Or did this get you to think a bit about how you conduct yourself?
Stay safe and get home.
– Road Warrior