Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested yesterday that having concealed handguns inside Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, might have saved lives when the club was attacked by an Islamic terrorist.*
Donald Trump on Monday said the Orlando nightclub attack wouldn’t have been as bad if the clubgoers had been armed.
“If you had some guns in that club the night that this took place, if you had guns on the other side, you wouldn’t have had the tragedy that you had,” the presumptive GOP presidential nominee said Monday on CNN.
“If people in that room had guns, with the bullets flying in the opposite direction right at him, right at his head, you wouldn’t have had the same tragedy that you ended up having.”
Trump said people don’t even yet know how bad the tragedy is, because the number of casualties will likely grow.
“I hear the injured are so greatly injured,” he said.
“But if you had guns in that room, even if you had a number of people having it strapped to your ankle or strapped to their waste, where bullets could have flown in the other direction right at him, you wouldn’t have had the same kind of a tragedy.”
50 people were murdered in the most deadly terrorist attack in the United States since 9/11. Another 53 were injured.
Predictably, the reliably anti-gun mainstream media was outraged at Trump’s suggestion. But what do actual defensive firearms experts think?
Bearing Arms wanted to know, and contacted four defensive firearms trainers to discuss the terrorist attack as we currently understand it.
Our experts are Dave Starin, Training Director of world-famous Gunsite Academy in Paulden, AZ; Reid Henrichs, President of Valor Ridge in Harrogate, TN; Steve “Yeti” Fisher of Sentinel Concepts, and Melody Lauer of Citizens’ Defense Research and Central Iowa Defensive Training, who is also an EMT.
Overview of The Attack
As we currently understand it, the terrorist opened fire outside the club and caused casualties before he was engaged by an law enforcement officer providing security for the club. Media accounts state that at least two other responding law enforcement officers engaged the terrorist as well. None of them hit him.
The terrorist then shot his way inside the club and methodically shot down club goers, estimated to be at approximately 320 in number when the attack began. He shot “for the length of a whole song” according to one survivor, or approximately 3-4 minutes once he made entry.
The shooting inside Pulse appears to have begun at 2:06 AM. within a minute, numerous club goers had fled the building while others hid behind one of two bars, or hid in bathrooms. One of those trapped in a bathroom was Eddie Justice. He took cover in a bathroom and began texting his mother.
Justice’s anguished, last desperate pleas were for his mother to send police, 33 minutes after the terrorist attack began. His final, prophetic words were, “I’m gonna die.”
Based on these currently known parameters, we spoke with our experts to see if they thought the presence of concealed carriers might have saved lives.
The Initial Attack Outside The Pulse
Henrich, a Marine and police officer before becoming a full-time firearms instructor, initially keyed in on the fact that poor marksmanship from the law enforcement officer providing security at Pulse allowed the attack to get going.
“It could have been over with one round, in the first couple of seconds,” said Henrichs. He noted that several officers appear to have engaged the terrorist—who was not wearing body armor—ineffectively. Unlike the pistol-armed officer who took on two rifle-armed terrorists in Garland, Texas last year, before a responding SWAT officers finished them off, the officers here were ineffective at stopping the attack as it began. “Poor marksmanship allowed this to take place.”
Lauer agrees, and points out that this is a fault of training, not a lack of courage on the part of the officers.
“Your average beat cop doesn’t get training they need for these kind of situations.” She went on to note that citizens who are serious about defensive firearms training often spend a great deal of time and money becoming much more proficient than most police officers, and that “someone with active shooter training might have made a difference” at any point during the attack.
She made very clear to point out that better shooting from the law enforcement officers outside of the club or even hypothetical concealed carriers were not a perfect solution, but would have likely great reduced the number of dead and wounded.
“It won’t solve every problem or keep all casualties from occurring, but 50 dead might have been three.”
On The Dance Floor
Law enforcement officers outside Pulse during the start of the attack weren’t able to successfully engage the terrorist, with panic, lighting conditions, innocent bystanders, and distance clearly being limiting factors.
Would one or more concealed carriers in the closer confines of a darkened club have been able to stop the attack once the rifle-armed terrorist made it inside Pulse and started shooting?
Henrichs thinks so. “A concealed carrier is more effective than someone with bare hands.” He noted that even an untrained or poorly trained concealed carrier is better than none at all. Mindset matters.
Dave Starin, Director of Training at Gunsite Academy, agrees. “A concealed carrier with proper training and mindset most certainly could have saved numerous lives.”
“Is a rifle superior to a pistol? In many ways yes, but that does not mean in anyway that a person with a pistol cannot engage and defeat someone with a rifle. Proper training, mindset and tactics would make it perfectly feasible that someone with a pistol could successfully put a stop to an active killer armed with a rifle.”
Henrichs and Starin both noted that there are no rules in a gunfight, and that in a 360-degree environment with targets moving in every direction, a concealed carrier might be able to get very close in the confusion and take a shot at point blank range while the terrorist was targeting someone else.
As Henrichs put it, “You walk up to them when they are turned away and a make a contact shot to the head.”
Starin also noted that a concealed carrier could have waiting until the terrorist was facing away from engaging.”When someone comes in and starts murdering innocent people there are no rules and no obligation to engage them in a ‘fair’ fight. In this instance you may have the opportunity to engage from a superior position, including from behind the killer.”
In The Bathroom
The haunting texts of Eddie Justice, trapped in a bathroom 33 minutes or more into the attack before he was murdered, gives us a slightly different scenario than the terrorist opening fire on a open dance floor. Doorways allow defenders to set up ambushes and give them a distinct advantage, as all of our instructors agreed.
Henrichs: “A person in the bathroom, aimed in at the bad guy coming through the door, would have made a difference.”
Fisher concurred. “If you’ve taken a shoothouse class or home defense class and understood geometry, there was a potential they [a concealed carrier in the club bathroom] could have set themselves up at a point of domination to control and immediately engage” the terrorist in an ambush as he came through the door.
“A good guy with a gun, locked down in a bathroom, could have changed the outcome,” continued Fisher. Even ineffective fire could have changed the attacker’s mindset and his ability to carry out his attack by disrupting his actions, giving those inside the bathroom a better chance at survival.
Do “Gun Free Zones” Save Live, or Create Easy Targets For Killers?
Lauer notes that so many laws “seems designed to protect us from ourselves.” They’re written by politicians and activists who don’t seem to think that people are capable of acting intelligently and in their own best interests. According to Lauer, “These laws take away ability to be secure in one’s self.”
Sadly, security in such environments have proven to be less than adequate, time and time again. 96.2% of all mass attacks occur in gun free zones.
Fisher leaves us with some hard truths, which echo the sentiments of the counter-terrorism experts we mentioned earlier today.
“Obviously this was a tragedy. But no matter how bad you want this to go away, it’s only going to get worse. It will only cease when people stand up and return fire and end the effectiveness of these attacks.”
Prepare to defend your life. It’s no one else’s responsibility, and there is no guarantee that anyone will arrive in time to save you.
* Bearing Arms does not publish the names of mass or spree killers.