A vehicle attack in Stockholm, Sweden, bears all the hallmarks of a continuing trend in terrorist attacks in Europe, the use of a vehicle as a weapon on crowded city streets.
A truck has driven into a crowd at a shopping center in central Stockholm, killing at least three people and injuring several on Friday, Swedish police said.
At least one person has been arrested, according to Prime Minister Stefan Lofven.
“Sweden has been attacked,” Lofven said. “This indicates that it is an act of terror.”
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Friday’s attack, but vehicles have been common weapons in recent extremist attacks.
Police said a truck ran over a crowd at Ahlens department stor, injuring a large number of people. They have ordered the evacuation of central train station in Stockholm.
Broadcaster SVT says at least five people have been killed in the attack but police could not immediately confirm that. Other reports said at least two people were killed.
Today’s attack appears to be very similar to the March 22 attack on a bridge outside the British Parliament in London, in which a fifth person injured in the attack has now died.
The rash of attacks has left many Americans uneasy, making them wonder what they might be able to do in the event of a similar attack if a large vehicle starts barreling down a crowded sidewalk.
1. Be aware of what is going on around you
I’m no better than anyone else, and when I’m walking down the sidewalk I get sucked into my smartphone, either checking text messages or my friends social media posts on Facebook and Twitter, or occasionally I’ll put my headphones in to listen to a podcast or some of my favorite songs. Unfortunately, distracting yourself from what is going on around you may take away precious seconds you need to realize that a truck or car is barreling up behind you, sending screaming people and bodies flying. Unplug. Be aware of your surroundings so that you have the critical few seconds you need to realize that an attack is underway so that you can try to “get off the X,” gunfighter terminology for getting off the line of an attack.
2. Know your escape routes
In the London attack, the terrorist chose his target area well. There are few places for you to go on a bridge. On most surface roads, however, there are plenty of areas to to quickly turn and run the few paces you need to get out of a careening vehicle’s path, and it is relatively unlikely that the terrorist is going to choose to try to run down an individual target that could cause him to miss easier targets. This could simply mean running into a field or park or out into the street or road itself if he is targeting people on the sidewalk. The goal is to get out of the typical straight line path of a vehicle-driving terrorist that is hoping to use speed and surprise as his primary method of attack, not aiming at specific individuals.
3. Find cover
In many urban areas there may not be a field or park towards which you can run, In cities, this could mean ducking into alcoves in front of many shops, or around the corners of buildings. You may, however, find yourself near the entrance of a building, many of which have alcoves. Duck into the alcove or through the front door. If you are near the edge of a building, you may be able to duck into an alley or around the corner, out of the terrorist’s path.
4. If all else fails, get low
Terrorists plotting a vehicle attack generally prefer acquiring larger commercial vehicles that are less likely to easily stopped. These larger vehicles, such as box trucks, may have higher ground clearances than passenger vehicles that more closely hug the road. If you have no time to evade or no place to run, your best option is to dive to the ground as close to the center of the vehicle (away from the wheels) as possible, and to flatten out as completely as you can. This is a desperation move when no other options are left on the table, but if you’re lucky and the vehicle has a high ground clearance, there is a possibility that it may pass over you without making contract.
5. A ballistic solution?
Unlike citizens in Europe, Americans have embraced their natural human right to bear arms for their defense. There are presently more than 14.5 million Americans with concealed carry permits. Is it possible for a concealed carrier to stop a vehicle attack? Maybe, but the odds of doing so are very slim.
Shooting at the vehicle itself in hopes of disabling it immediately are far-fetched. Hitting tired or the radiator is very unlikely to cause the vehicle stop stop within a hundred yards. The single best target in a vehicle attack is the driver. Laminated automobile glass is vulnerable to handgun bullets, with modern bonded jacketed hollowpoints consistently performing better than FMJ or non-bonded JHPs, both of which can suffer from core/jacket separation and lead to either shallow and terminally ineffective wounds that may not reach vital organs. The other obvious problem is that even a perfect shot on a rapidly moving target is going to do nothing to stop the vehicle’s forward momentum. A box truck plowing down an urban sidewalk isn’t suddenly going to stop because you managed to put a perfect shot through the windshield and exposed Jihad Johnny’s brains to sunlight.
Now, would I rather be armed and hope that I may have an opportunity to place rounds on target against a fast moving vehicle target than not have that option? Of course. After all, there have been instances (such as London and elsewhere) where the attacker either wrecks by accident, stops for some reason, or intentionally crashes his vehicle. Once that vehicle stops, you would be in a much better position to use your handgun in a more conventional fight.
Your best bet of avoiding being hit by a vehicle terrorist driving down a crowded sidewalk is being aware of what is going on around you, and being aware of possible ways to get out his way. If you cannot escape the vehicle’s path, going low and hoping that a commercial vehicle has enough ground clearance to roll right over top of you may be your only hope. If you carry a handgun, there is a very slight chance you may be able to bring your gun into play and shoot the terrorist in the brief window of time you have on a moving target, but if the vehicle stops for any reason, it could very well be your weapon that can end his attack.