A CHL Instructor Weighs in on the Colorado Shooting and Dispels the Claims of Would-Be Heroes
Since Friday morning, we have been inundated with opinion and speculation about the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado. Yesterday the suspect, James Holmes, was brought before a judge and the nation got its first look at the gunman, with his mop top of dyed orange hair and dazed -- almost carefree -- look infuriating the country. Officials say he is on suicide watch and is in protective solitary custody.
Shooting suspect James Holmes
Ever since the shooting, plenty of people have been weighing in on what they would have done had they been in the shoes of the victims that evening in Aurora. A lot of members of the gun-owning crowd have repeatedly claimed things would have been different had there been a citizen in the theater carrying a legal, concealed handgun.
They say that Holmes would have been stopped, incapacitated or even killed himself during the shooting. Of course, since only the people who survived the attack can know exactly what it was like to be inside that theater, this is all Monday Morning Armchair Quarterbacking.
In early 2011 I took a Concealed Handgun course myself out at the Arms Room in League City, just minutes down Interstate 45 going toward Galveston. The class was taught by Brian Mobley and Justin Franklin, trained CHL instructors. I spent hours inside a classroom at the gun store and on the accompanying range undergoing instruction and training in everything from proper storage, rules of engagement, verbal conflict resolution and gun safety. There is also a firing component to the training with a live handgun.
One thing that stuck with me after the course was the section on rules of engagement and how a person would deal with a situation like the one in Aurora. I reached out to Mobley to get his take on last Friday's tragedy and to dispel some of the fanatical talk of the last few days.
A lot of gun owners immediately said that they would have saved the day and stopped the gunman. Mobley says that is false.
"The first problem at hand is that you have an active shooter. It's easy to say you are going to run down there like Clint Eastwood," he says. Instincts come into play before attempting to engage an active shooter.
"The first thing that would happen is that you would be scared to death. Your first obligation is to yourself and your family."
With all the conversations I overheard these past few days, there was this strong undercurrent of omnipotence, the idea that just because someone would be carrying a weapon in that theater, he would have won the day and stopped Holmes in his tracks.
"For some the gun gives them a sense of empowerment, with a guaranteed, positive result. A Hollywood image that we formed as kids, where the good guys won. The good guys don't always win," Mobley says.
Even if a CHL holder was in the theater and packing a handgun, he would be in not only mortal but also legal danger, according to Mobley.
"As CHL holders, we are still responsible for the third party. The law says that I am responsible for that as the gun owner. You would never forgive yourself if you would have added to the death toll."
Mobley adds that a crusading shooter would more than likely do more harm than good, his abilities impaired by the event itself.