Police officers across the U.S. are teaching a lesson more people are eager to learn. It's how to defend yourself against an active shooter and how to take them down if your life is on the line.
There's nothing pretty about this. But you got to remember why this person is here. This person is here specifically to take your life from you.
Police in Georgia trained more than 4,000 civilians to protect themselves in 2015. Circa went through the training to experience first-hand how it works.
Active shooters have become an alarming reality of American life. FBI stats show there have been over 200 active shooter incidents since 2000. That's an average of 13 incidents a year. And more than 600 people across the U.S. have been killed over that span.
Training programs have popped up across the country to empower citizens to fight back. Lieutenant Brian Marshall with Marietta Police conducts a civilian training course called C.R.A.S.E. through A.L.E.R.R.T.; a program at Texas State University. Their programs are run with the help of federal funds, but there are other similar programs across the country. A.L.E.R.R.T. is considered THE training standard by the F.B.I. The goal of all of the training programs: survival.
Their plan is I'm going to walk into this room. Everyone's going to hold still and I'm going to shoot them. That's what they practiced.
Lt. Marshall says resistance isn't what comes to mind for most people when faced with an active shooter. Instead, he says people tend to text, pray and hide. "It's not a tornado drill. We just can't hide under a desk and wait," said Marshall.
Classes like the one Lt. Marshall and his team teach are focused on shifting mindsets. They want civilians to go on the offensive and think like Todd Beamer and the guys from Flight 93. They knew their plane was going down, but they fought back and gave their lives to save countless others on 9/11.
That's the kind of reaction exhibited by John Meis. Video recently released shows the Seattle Pacific University student coming out of nowhere in 2014 to tackle an active shooter who was attempting to reload his weapon to take out additional victims.
Meis is the poster child for an approach you might as well call Disruption 101. The trainers call it something else - Avoid, Deny, Defend. It's been said that action causes reaction. Instructors want citizens to react - not panic.
There are several active shooter defense programs across the country. They're available to government workers, school teachers, etc. They use different acronyms but use similar approaches with slight variations. The feds have even put out their own training video called Run, Hide, Fight.
The reality is you may get hurt. You may even die. But I guarantee if you do nothing, you're going to get hurt and you're going to die.
Critics worry active shooter training is slightly off base. Mike Dorn runs Safe Havens International. The former cop now evaluates how schools respond to crisis situations.
Since the Sandy Hook shooting, SHI has tested more than 1,000 schools. Its research has found some schools actually scored worse now than before active shooter training became a thing. "They become acclimated to the idea that anyone with a gun is an active shooter," Dorn said.
Dorn said it's important for the training programs to emphasize that not every crisis requires a DEFCON response. He found that situations that are much more common, like suicides and violent kids or parents, are still being treated like a gunman with an assault rifle.
We're seeing a wide range of bizarre behaviors that are unintended consequences.
Lawsuits are another potential problem with this kind of training. People can get hurt, both emotionally and physically. Headlines show people from Ohio to Oregon filing suits after experiencing training injuries and other forms of trauma. And an Iowa insurance group says it's paid nearly $300,000 in training injury medical claims.
On the flip side, the failure to warn and train employees about active shooters is part of the debate. One training company warns about the danger of lawsuits from employees who claim they weren't trained how to respond, citing OSHA requirements.
The officers who run Avoid, Deny, Defend say they're committed to spreading their knowledge, hoping it will save lives. "It's never your turn to get shot," said Lt. Marshall. "I'm not going to wait in that line. You're not going to wait in that line."
Watch: Fighting back against an active shooter
Originally published August 29, 2016