As we saw last week in Canada and in New York, a few individuals have apparently been inspired by ISIS to attack soldiers, the police, and government officials. I expect this there will be more lone wolf terrorist attacks by “self radicalized Islamist extremists” not only in Canada and in the U.S, but probably in Europe. There are warnings that ISIS is encouraging their followers to kidnap citzens and are seeking to inspre beheadings.
Before I address what you can do to protect yourself from lone wolf terrorists, it is interesting to take note of what weapons these terrorists used in their attacks: a vehicle, a lever-action rifle (often reported to be a shotgun in early news coverage), and a hatchet.
This is not the most devastating arsenal of weapons, nor are they difficult to find. I would expect that just about every rural home in the U.S. probably has at least one of each.
This leads me to two thoughts:
- The government will probably add this information to their databases, crunch some numbers and send a memo to law enforcement warning then that that everyone with a hatchet and a car is a possible terrorist. (Perhaps this is the wrong time to admit this, but I have a hatchet in my car. Sadly, I do not own a lever action rifle.)
- We should be glad that these guys did not have AK-47s or a team of terrorists, like the Mumbai attack or the Westgate Mall Terrorist attack in Kenya just last year.
Looking at this and other recent terrorist attacks, which those more politically correct than I might choose to call “incidents of workplace violence,” we can conclude a few things:
- As both the Sargent at Arms in Canada and the cops in New York City proved, guns in the right hands can and do save lives. In both cases, the attack ceased when the terrorist was shot. Accurately and repeatedly shooting a terrorist with a weapon of sufficient caliber is the best way to stop a lone wolf terrorist attack once it has commenced.
- Our soldiers need to be armed, and no one should be required to stand guard, ceremonial or otherwise, without a loaded magazine in their weapon. Not only were the ceremonial guards in Canada carrying empty weapons, soldiers at Ft. Hood were unarmed, allowing Nidal Hasan to kill 12 and injure 31 more before he was finally shot. If the powers that be either do not think our soldiers are well enough trained to carry loaded weapons or do not trust them to do so, then I can only conclude that either they need more and better training or better leaders. (Let me add that requiring that soldiers do not wear their uniforms in public due to the increased danger is another reason to conclude it’s leadership at fault. Are you a fighting force, or a hiding force?)
- Cops are going to understandably be a bit nervous. Traditional criminals try to avoid the police; these crazy guys may well seek them out. Keep this in mind if you have any interactions with law enforcement.
How to Protect Yourself
Assuming that you are not a target, how can you stay out of the line of fire and what should you do if you happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time? Here are my suggestions:
Avoidance. The best and easiest way to protect yourself from trouble is to avoid places where trouble lurks. For example, if you avoid bars, chances are excellent that you will avoid being in a bar fight. In this case, we can be a little more specific and suggest that you stay away from governmental buildings, places where the police congregate, and other “targets of opportunity.” (As I wrote this article, Homeland Security announced “heightened security measures” at federal buildings.)
If you can avoid trouble, you may never need the following advice. Unfortunately, most of us have to work outside the home, need to go to town, have to stop in the bank, need to go shopping etc. Even at home, we may face dangers, from home intruders to dangerous animals. That’s why the next steps will be necessary:
Mindset: The second most important thing to do to protect yourself is to adopt the proper mindset. You need to own the fact that no one will protect you and your loved ones but you because no one cares about you and your loved ones but you. Yes, it’s true: You are on your own. Courage, honor and valor are worthy pursuits, but do not expect it in your fellow man; be prepared to defend yourself or to make a strategic retreat.
If you somehow still naively believe life is fair, that someone will take care of you, and that you have nothing to fear, then I respectfully suggest you wake up or grow up! Take the big step towards self-realization and to becoming an adult by acknowledging that no one is responsible for your personal safety and your behavior except YOU. Face the fact that neither life nor fights are fair, and that you could die any minute of any day for any reason from making a dumb mistake to the whim of a stranger to plain ol’ bad luck. Once you acknowledge this, then you can go forth and proactively prepare to avoid death by planning, by building up your skills, and by equipping yourself in a manner that gives you all the advantages possible.
Plan: Have a plan and have a Plan B. Know alternate routes. Know the exits and sit near one. Have a fallback location where you will go to regroup. Be aware of those around you and keep an eye on their hands. Look for suspicious behavior. Listen to your instincts and what your hind brand is telling you. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted, but focus on the task at hand. Be discreet and don’t attract attention to yourself, but do not look like a victim. (Got all that?)
Keep in mind that in a lone-wolf terrorist attack scenario, your primary responsibility is to protect yourself and those you are with. This may your family, friends or colleagues. It is not the random dude who just happened to be there. “Protecting yourself” may mean killing the terrorist. It may mean hiding. It may mean turning the other way and running. (Hint: Incorporate one or more of those options Plan A and B.)
Unless you are law enforcement, you are not obligated to stop an attack. If, however, you feel morally obligated to do so, that’s your call, but think about what the untended consequences may be. I am not saying avoid the hero route; I am simply saying that you should only go down that route with your eyes open and your estate planning documents up to date.
Equipment: It has been said that your mind is your greatest weapon, but until I master the Force, I going to keep carrying a gun! But your equipment goes beyond weaponry to include other safety equipment. To be properly equipped, you should start with the following:
- At least one hand gun of 9mm or greater
- One or two reloads for your weapon
- A knife that can be used for utility and as a defensive weapon, such as a folder with at least a 3” blade
- A tactical flashlight (read our article on what makes a flashlight “tactical”)
- A few tac-med items, such as a Israeli battle dressing and/or a tourniquet
- A cell phone with earphone or blue tooth so you can communicate hands-free
The above can be carried in the pockets of a pair of cargo pants and/or in a jacket or vest. If you carry a backpack, consider carrying some power bars or candy bars, a bottle of water, spare batteries, and a more complete medical kit. Feel free to add a Multi-tool or other items.
Some would advise carrying pepper spray, and it is hard to argue with that as it is a nice non-lethal option when you need to disengage from someone who does not meet the threat level to justify shooting them. I’m not convinced that facing a hatchet-wielding assailant or his AK-47 terrorist brethren with pepper spray is the smart choice, but if you are unable or unwilling to effectively use a handgun, pepper spray is probably the best alternative. At the every least, you may be able to use it to incapacitate a threat long enough for you to clear the area.
In your vehicle, carry:
- A rifle, preferably an urban rifle or battle rifle, depending on your environment
- At least three loaded magazines in an “active shooter” bag or a bandolier you can throw on if you need to grab your rifle from your vehicle and beat feet
- Spare ammunition for your rifle and your handgun
- A larger emergency medicine kit
- Food and water
- A blanket or two
- A spare pair of shoes and possibly a change of clothes
- A three-day supply of any prescription drugs you are depended upon
- Anything else you can see yourself needing to get to safety, to fight back and defend yourself, or to hunker down and wait it out.
For most of us, our car or truck is simply transportation, but it can also provide shelter or even be a weapon. Equip it so that you could easilly survive if it took you three days to get home again.
As I mentioned above, using your weapon(s) should be just one aspect of your plan. You carry a concealed weapon to defend yourself from a lethal force when you have no reasonable alternative. In a Mumbai-style attack involving multiple terrorists in a busy area, you would use your pistol to stop an immediate threat and then trade up to your rifle or get to a rifle a terrorist no longer “needs.” You can then use the rifle to either 1) kill the terrorists who are trying to kill you, 2) kill the terrorists who are killing others and help these others to escape, or 3) provide cover as you escape or shoot your way out of their target zone. Keep in mind that historically, the people who fared best in these attacks were those who got out while it was in the early stages and were never pinned down were never captured and become hostages. If you are not a Marine or a police officer, you don’t have to run towards gunfire. If you choose to do so, be careful that responding law enforcement personnel do not mistake you for a terrorist.
It is also important to remember that in a suicide bombing, guns won’t do you any good. That’s where the medical kit will be useful. Sure, people made tourniquets from belts at the Boston marathon bombing, but wouldn’t it be convenience to have a couple tourniquets available and know how to use them? And that brings us to our next topic…
Training: Having a plan is only sufficient if you have the skills to carry it out. Have equipment is only beneficial if you know how to use it. You need to drill with your weapons so you can consistently and repeatedly put accurate aimed fire on a moving target or targets under adverse conditions. You need to know basics about treating wounds and how to apply a tourniquet. Carrying that Israeli battle dressing isn’t much good if you have to stop and read the directions in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. Training will help you swing into motion and do some good instead of standing there in shock.
And so we come full circle, back to mindset. If you don’t believe it could happen to you, then you will be in denial and unable to respond. If you have played out the scenario in your mind, you will be ready to take decisive action.
So to recap: Avoid terrorist attacks by avoiding places where they might happen. Adopt the proper mindset and plan for the worst. Have the equipment and training you need to help turn the odds in your favor.
And finally, it’s important to remember that the odds of you being caught up in a terrorist attack are extremely low. Plan and prepare, but don’t let it keep you up at night.
Here’s an interesting piece about lone wolf terrorists in which John Lott, Jr., warns that “the last line of defense is having more citizens carry guns.”