Self-defense in non-permissive environments

For some reason, there is an element of American society that believes people intent on murder will follow other laws.  Laws such as those that prohibit the carrying of firearms in specific areas, for example.


Think about the logic of a “gun free” zone.  Free citizens are specifically disbarred from carrying a firearm and other weapons based on an arbitrary geographic location.  This makes sense to some people for reasons I can only guess at.  Maybe they think a criminal will start toward a school to kill children and then stop, kick the dirt and say “Aw, shucks!” at seeing a “no guns sign?”  Or maybe, they think that a teacher, who they’ve entrusted their child to for five days a week, will suddenly become a crazed killer once they step onto campus?

Regardless, gun free zones are partly responsible for the deaths of too many people.  Unfortunately, spineless politicians are not likely to repeal these designated killing zones.

Spree killers, also known less-accurately as “active shooters,” tend to be cowards, and as such they will gravitate toward areas they believe less likely to be able to stop them.  Areas like gun free zones.

So, what can you do if you are in a so-called gun free zone and encounter a spree killer?  Here are a few ideas.

Run Away

If you can get away, do so.  When dealing with a spree killer, your best defense is not being where he is.  A murderer picks the time, the place and what weapons he has with him.  Essentially, he holds most of the cards.

Unfortunately, many schools and businesses teach their employees only to lock the door and hide from the shooter, even if there is an easy avenue of escape.  Chances are the shooter knows people are hiding behind locked doors and won’t merely shrug his shoulders and walk off.  Chances are good he’s coming in.  At that point, you are trapped.


Even if you are armed, you are more likely to be safe by getting away from the shooter.  Consider the fate of Mark Alan Wilson who was killed outside the Smith County Courthouse in Tyler, Texas.  A spree killer showed up at the courthouse to kill his ex-wife and engaged in a shootout with law enforcement officers.

Wilson, seeing an opportunity to put the murderer down, approached the shooter and put a .45 caliber round into the man’s back.  Unfortunately for Wilson, the dirtbag was wearing body armor.  Wilson’s shot may have saved another person, but it cost him his own life as the murderer eventually shot and killed Wilson.

I’m not saying you should never engage the killer if you can escape, but you better understand the risks before you do.


If you cannot escape, bunker in place.  That means putting as many obstacles between you and the shooter so that you are a difficult target to reach.  If you are in an interior  office, for example, close the door and lock it.  Then drag everything in the office and jam it against the door:  the desk, chairs, filing cabinet, and everything else in there.

The idea is to slow the shooter’s entry into your space.  Additionally, if they make entry into your space, the obstacles will hinder their ability to quickly shoot you.  That’s important because it is now time to…


Never think that a spree killer will let you live if you offer no resistance.  They are there to kill you and no amount of pleading, begging or compliance will change that.  Fighting is your only sane choice.


If possible, approach the shooter from the side or back to catch them off guard.  Attack the head and throat first if possible.  Kicking a guy in the testicles might work on many people because of the intense pain, but what if he doesn’t feel any pain due to drugs or mental illness?

On the other hand, gouging out his eyes will prevent him from seeing you.  Crushing his windpipe will take away the body’s ability to breathe.  A blow to the head can kill or incapacitate even the largest man.

Sound too gruesome?  Make no mistake – you are in a fight for your life.  Give everything you have and then some.  Your family wants you to come home and the only way there may be through some sick SOB who is killing your friends.

Improvised Weapons

If you have to fight, it is good to have a weapon.  Because of your location, you aren’t likely to have a gun or substantial knife, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have any weapons.  For example, a solid cane is permissible everywhere and makes for a great club.

If you are a teacher, how about a softball bat behind your desk?  That should blend in nicely with whatever physical education requirements your school might have.

In a corporate environment, you might want to think about having a tennis racquet at hand.  You can always say it is for that after-work match you never seem to get around to.

Other things that might be close at hand:  fire extinguishers, heavy books, a lunch tray, pens, pencils, letter openers, forks, knives, rocks, box cutter and a vase.


The probability of a spree murderer coming to your location is pretty remote.  Yet, it is a possibility.  Thinking about it ahead of time can help you act quickly should anything ever happen.

Special note:  If you are an educator looking for training on how to respond to a school attack, contact Paul Carlson of the Safety Solutions Academy.  ( )  Carlson is offering free classes on this topic, and in addition to being an excellent personal defense trainer, he is also a former school teacher.  He knows first hand the specific nature of your job.

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