The Terrorist Risk – Reacting to a Terrorist Situation


We live in a dangerous world. Actually, it’s always been dangerous. There has been no point in history where we could say that people could live comfortably, safe and secure, without concern for their safety. We can’t even say that they would have been safe from danger from their fellow man. There have always been people who would use violence for personal gain, not caring about what harm they did to others.

Today’s biggest danger is that of radicalized Islamic terrorism. But terrorists are not the only two-legged predators out there. There has always been a criminal element in society, and our modern society is no different. If anything, it’s worse. Defending ourselves against terrorists and these more common criminals has a lot in common.

From a strictly legal sense, terrorists are often treated like common criminals, with the courts refusing to acknowledge that their actions were politically motivated. This is an insult, in their eyes, as they see themselves as revolutionaries, not as criminals. But to those on the receiving end, they are the same.

There are three things that both terrorists and criminals use, in order to get people to cooperate with them and allow them to accomplish their goals. They are: surprise, superior strength of arms, and the willingness to use violence on their victims. Terrorists are much more likely to use violence than common criminals are, as assaulting or killing their victims increases the downside cost for the criminal when they are caught. Nevertheless, the criminals must give the appearance of willingness to use violence when dealing with their intended victims.

I talked about situational awareness in another article, which deals with the problem of surprise. When we are aware of what’s going on around us, we are less likely to be caught by surprise. In this article, I want to deal with the other two, or rather, our response to the other two.

Terrorists and criminals alike will always choose their weapons with an eye towards outgunning their intended victim. They want the advantage on their side so that they can get in and get out with the least amount of trouble. In the case of terrorists, trouble would mean someone shooting back at them.

For this reason, terrorists mostly use rifles and explosives. Rifles give them greater range and more accuracy than pistols have. Explosives are kind of like the trump card, which can’t be beaten. They lose their lives in the process, but that’s a price they’re willing to pay; otherwise, they wouldn’t be terrorists in the first place. Besides, they believe that they have 72 virgins waiting to serve their pleasure.

What this means is that you will most likely be outgunned in any confrontation with a terrorist, taking on a rifle-armed terrorist with nothing more than a handgun. That’s why I push training so much. Your only chance to overcome the firepower advantage that they have is through superior training.

Before the Attack Comes

You’ve got to make a decision now before you even find yourself in an armed confrontation with a terrorist. Actually, you need to make this decision if you are going to carry concealed or even own guns for self-defense. That is, you need to make the decision that you’re willing to take a life if that’s what’s necessary to save your own life or that of your family. If you can’t say “yes” to that, you probably shouldn’t be carrying.

You can’t wait to make this decision. The last thing you want to find happening is to be in a terrorist situation and not sure if you can pull the trigger. You don’t want to be making that decision in that moment of time. You should know before you get there.

Your First Reaction

Hopefully, your situational awareness will eliminate the problem of the bad guys having the element of surprise, giving you that precious moment to switch your mind from peacetime status to active status. If you do have that moment, it will increase your chances of survival enormously.

The first few seconds of any shooting incident are critical and the terrorists are counting on you and everyone else to be confused, giving them the advantage. That’s their prime killing time. But if you’re situational awareness was working right, you’ll spot them and what they’re going to do, moments before they start. That will give you the advantage of being ready.

So, what are you going to do? Draw your gun and return fire? I certainly hope not; at least not yet. Your first action should be to get yourself and your family under cover. Surviving yourself is more important than taking out the bad guys; and while the latter may very well end up being an important part of the former, you’re not going to take them out if they take you out first. So get under cover and shoot from there.

But Wait!

Take a moment to think it through. Remember, you’re probably going to be outgunned. They’ll probably have rifles, either AK-47s or AR-15s and you’ll have a pistol. So you need to make sure you use the right strategy, or you’re not going to hit them.

More than anything, the right strategy is to ensure that they are within a reasonable range, before popping up and starting to shoot. For most of us, the maximum effective range of a pistol is 20 to 30 feet, less if you’ve got a snub-nose. So don’t go trying to shoot at them when they’re 50 feet away.

This means you either need to wait for them to move closer to you or you need to find a way to move closer to them. But if you move, you want to make sure that you do so under cover. Getting shot while you’re moving to a more advantageous position isn’t going to take out the bad guys. If the position you’re in offers good cover, you’re much better off staying there, and waiting to see how they move.

Whatever you do, don’t try to be a hero and charge them. That would play right into their hands and get you a new job playing a harp on a cloud. Yes, you want to take them out if you can. Other people’s lives are at risk too. But trading your life for theirs is a poor bargain.

Don’t Forget Discretion

Shakespeare gave some sound advice in King Henry the Fourth. He said, “Discretion is the better part of valor.” Putting that a bit more directly, I’d say, “There are times when your best tactic is to run away.” Taking on an armed terrorist with nothing more than a pistol is risky on the best of days. While it’s a whole lot better than being one of the unarmed sheeple, you will be fighting at a disadvantage.

I fully understand the desire to be a hero and take out the bad guys, but that’s not as easy as it looks on TV. So don’t be a hero, if it means being a dead one. Your family needs you, not a memory of how you charged the guns of the terrorists, trying to shut them down.

Having said that, leaving the scene gives you a chance to get your family to safety, which is also an important goal in any terrorist attack. Once you do that, you can go back in, prepared, if you want to. Better yet, if you have an AR-15 and a ballistic vest in the trunk of your car, grab them and go in ready. Your job is to take them out, not to die trying.

We have a strong gun culture where I live and a lot of people with concealed carry licenses. Due to that, the deputies in our county’s sheriff’s department say that in the case of a terrorist attack in our area, none of them will have to draw a gun; the armed citizens will take care of it before they can get there. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the way things should be. But it has to be done intelligently, that’s the other part of discretion. Thinking your actions through and using tactics that will give you the advantage.

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