Some time ago, I wrote a column proposing a solution to the mass shooter problem. I suggested we form a national militia made up of men who pledged that, if they encountered an active shooter, they would attack him. I noted that some of the attackers would probably die. But they would almost certainly reduce the overall death toll, and they would reverse the moral calculus. The focus, instead of being on the shooter, would be on those who acted to stop him. That, in turn, over time might well reduce the appeal of becoming a shooter and begin to put an end to the mass shooter epidemic.
Well, it works. We’ve seen it work in two recent situations. A shooter opened fire in a classroom of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte on April 30. The May 7 New York Times reported that:
He kept charging. A bullet to the torso did not stop Riley Howell. A second bullet to the body did not prevent him from reaching his goal and hurling himself into the gunman, who fired at point blank range into his head. . .
He tackled the gunman so forcefully that the suspect complained to first responders of internal injuries. . .
That final shot marked the end of what could have been a far worse massacre, the police told his parents.
“The chief said no one was shot after Riley body slammed him,” said his mother, Natalie Henry-Howell.
On Tuesday, May 7, at the STEM High School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, a similar story played out. When a shooter walked into a classroom, three male students went for him. The May 10 New York Times wrote that:
(Brendan) Bialy, the STEM School student, described the takedown of the gunman as an effort among (Kendrick) Castillo, himself and a third boy he declined to name, citing the boy’s wishes. Mr. Castillo was closest to the shooter suspect, about a foot away, when the suspect walked into their English class.
Once Mr. Castillo got up, so did Mr. Bialy and the other boy. They slammed the gunman against the wall. He fired his pistol once or twice in the skirmish, hitting Mr. Castillo. Students tried to tend to him, but he was unresponsive, Mr. Bialy said.
“Kendrick refused to be a victim,” Mr. Bialy said.
Again, the death toll was kept down because unarmed men attacked the shooter. Interestingly, the Times added:
Even younger children were prepared to take action. Nate Holley, a sixth-grader at the school, recounted to CNN how his teacher moved the class into a closet during the shooting. Standing in the corner, Nate got ready.
“I had my hand on a metal baseball bat, just in case,” said Nate, 12. “Cause I was going to go down fighting if I was going to go down.”
In both incidents, the shooters have received virtually no publicity. The focus of attention has been entirely on the guys who stopped them, especially the two who died doing so. Again, at the mental and moral levels, this is of central importance to de-motivating potential shooters.
As I said in my earlier column, the attempts to professionalize response to active shooters by leaving the problem to the police have usually failed, for a reason the police can do nothing about. By the time they get there, even responding as fast as they can, it’s too late. We have another mass casualty event. Only men immediately present can act in time to limit the casualties. In both of these cases, the fact that they were not armed did not prevent them from stopping the shooter.
It would fit President Trump’s approach to problems well if he took the lead to do what needs to be done. The militia we require has no uniforms or weapons and costs no money. It is simply a register of men and boys who have taken a pledge to attack any active shooter they encounter. We need women and girls to do the opposite, to run and hide. Why? Because otherwise the men will drop the mission to protect the women. It’s simply human nature.
The President could also direct the armed forces to provide military funerals for anyone who dies stopping a shooter–deservedly, Riley Howell was given one–and awarding a military medal would also be appropriate. Casualties in 4GW here at home deserve no less honor than casualties in overseas wars.
A republic requires courageous citizens, not an administered people. The two young men who died in these incidents were exactly that. They set an example of how to stop a phenomenon that, by undermining the public’s sense of safety, undermines the legitimacy of the state. The rest of us now need to build on the foundation they have laid.
Interested in what Fourth Generation war in America might look like? Read Thomas Hobbes’ new future history, Victoria.