How to Respond to An Active Shooter Situation

You’re in the mall with your family and are walking down the main hallway on the way to the food court. You’re with your wife and she is happy because she was able to purchase a pair of shoes she wanted. Your son has a smile on his face and he has the play area in sight. You’re holding your sons hand when you hear what sounds like firecrackers. You pause for a minute when you hear gun shots and see people running towards you in fear. You have logged numerous hours at the gun range, practiced dry firing in your home and mentally prepared yourself to use deadly force. You lift up your shirt to retrieve your weapon system (firearm) and are prepared to be the hero when you look down and see the fear in your 6 year old son’s eyes.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) defines an active shooter as an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area typically through the use of firearms. Victims are selected at random; the event is unpredictable and evolves quickly. In this current age active shooter situations are on the rise. Cities San Bernardino, Colorado Springs, Roseburg, Chattanooga, Charleston, Newtown and Orlando have had active shooter situations in the past. In Orlando Florida an active shooter killed 49 people and injured over 50 by a deranged mad man hell bent on killing as many people as possible in the name of a ISIS.

Situational awareness is one of the first terms I instruct my students and is a term you should learn. If you are in public you should be in condition yellow and should always be observant of your surroundings especially when you’re with your family. You should be aware of all exits if you need to evacuate a building for an emergency (fire, earthquakes, active shooters, etc). When sitting inside a restaurant I recommend you look for the exits, where the bathrooms are located and sit where you can see the front door. You should choose a seat close to an exit when in a restaurant so you can observe the front door. Knowing where your exits are is very important in order to make a quick escape out of an occupied building during an emergency. The following quick suggestions should be followed and is my advice for concealed weapon carriers if you find yourself in an active shooting situation.


Escape from an active shooter

There are so many variables when mentally preparing for what you should do if you find yourself in an active shooter situation. Your decision would be based on the current situation, the environment you are located and if you had your family with you. The first thing you should do if you find yourself in an active shooter situation is to depart the immediate area as fast as you can. If you can get away from an active shooter than this should be your first choice especially if you have your family with you. Engaging in a gun fight with an active shooter when you have your family with you would put them in unnecessary danger and this should be avoided if possible. Escaping from the immediate area and getting as far away from the shooter should be your first choice. Once you have departed the immediate area you should immediately call 911 to report what is occurring and give as much detail to the 911 dispatcher.


hide from an active shooter

If you cannot escape from the immediate area and you find yourself in a building, office, bathroom, etc. then you need to hide. The first thing you should do is try to barricade yourself inside the room. If there is a door you should lock it and place as many objects in front of the door so that the active shooter cannot enter the room. Use anything you can find, for example; furniture, refrigerators, boxes or at the least yourself and barricade the door. Once you have barricaded the door you should get as far away from the door as possible. Do not stay directly behind the door because the active shooter could fire through it if he cannot gain entry. DHS advises that you should attempt to hide in an area out of the shooter’s view, block the entry to your hiding place, lock the doors and silence your cell phones. This is a bad place to be but it may be your only option if you are unarmed. If you are carrying a concealed weapon being barricaded may be your safety net due to the fact the active shooter will not know you have a firearm. At this point you should set up a barricaded position either behind cover or at the least behind concealment (cover will stop or slow bullets where as concealment is hiding behind something so the shooter cannot see you). You will have to wait with your weapon in a ready position and if the shooter enters the room you will be able to engage your active shooter from cover.


Fight - Active Shooter

If you do find yourself engaging an armed suspect you can guarantee law enforcement officers are on the way and there is a very high likelihood you could be mistaken for the active shooter. It is imperative that you or someone else call 911 to give them a detailed description of what you are wearing with as many details as possible so that responding law enforcement officers do not mistake you as the active shooter. May I add that it’s a good idea to carry extra ammunition if you are carrying a concealed firearm. It’s always a good idea to prepare for the worst. “Prepare the battlefield for success.”

At this point you have mentally made the decision to fight and you now have to decide if you should get behind cover and wait until the active shooter is in sight or should you get into the ‘warrior mindset’ and take the fight to the active shooter. If you have no choice but to fight I recommend aggressively engaging the active shooter. The Air Marshal Service teaches the art of immediate aggression towards an armed individual by closing the distance when actively firing. Surprise, aggression, speed and a ‘warrior mind’ set can win you a gun fight. An aggressive movement towards the active shooter will surprise him and he will be caught off guard when he is met with an armed private citizen who is shooting and aggressively closing the distance.

While in the gun fight you more than likely will hit some road blocks. This can be anything from firearm malfunctions, being wounded, running out of ammunition or the active shooter has a long gun. Not everyone is a Navy SEAL but if you are in a gun fight you need to overcome these road blocks and keep in the fight. Stay in the fight and engage your threat aggressively until the threat no longer presents itself. Remember that you are in a fight for your life and there are no time outs during an armed engagement or second chances with an active shooter.

In closing if you decide to carry a concealed firearm it’s a great responsibility. As Ben Parker stated in the movie Spiderman; “With great power comes great responsibility.” Carrying a concealed firearm is a choice and also a right under most states. Your chosen weapon system (handgun) should be an extension of your hand and should only be used when you are in imminent threat of serious bodily harm or imminent death.

*Images courtesy of the Department of Homeland Security

About Jay Lacson

Jay Lacson is an NRA instructor since 2008 living in Florida. He served honorably 3 years in the US Navy and 6 years with the US Army as an MP, held the rank of Sergeant and served as a handgun instructor while assigned with the Army. Jay also served 6 years as a correctional officer and 9 years as a federal law enforcement officer with DHS. Jay has over 20 years of professional firearms experience and training to include USPSA Limited division competitive shooter, an ammunition reloader (he loves the Dillion) and a Glock armorer. "Prepare the battlefield for success."


  1. big dave on June 27, 2016 at 7:09 pm

    What if you don’t have time to call the local police department or you don’t have a cell phone should you still continue to shoot the threat

    • Jay on June 27, 2016 at 11:41 pm

      That’s a great question. The following is just my opinion.

      If you can’t call law enforcement and your in immediate treat of serious bodily harm or imminent death because the active shooter is close to you than I would suggest engaging the suspect (bad guy). But you or someone close by, and this is for your safety, needs to call 911 to inform responding law enforcement of what your wearing so that your are not shot by responding police officers. It would be a bad day if you accomplished your mission, took out the active shooter and than you were killed by law enforcement.

      So to recap, just do your best to call 911 as soon as you can.

      ( The above reply was done by using a smart phone, please disregard any grammar, punctuation, or mistakes )

  2. Doug on June 28, 2016 at 9:03 am

    Jason, Orlando, San Bernadino and Chattanooga were terrorist attacks by islamic extremists. Saying they were deranged is offensive to deranged people. Their religion supports their actions and they were just following what their leaders and the Koran say. Nothing mental about it.

  3. Doug on June 28, 2016 at 9:05 am

    Jay, not Jason. Sorry.

  4. Jan on June 29, 2016 at 9:04 am

    I lived in Orlalndo, Florida when Jimmy Carter was President. He was on the road to the one world Government. He opened up the borders all Cubans and I imagine others too but the cubans were a huge problem. They were breaking into homes, robbing people at gun point, etc. The house next door was owned by a building contractor who worked out of his house. He had 5 telephone lines. His son was trying to call him and all the lines were busy but the only one in town was the dad. So he went to the house, thru the garage and opened the door going into the house. The dogs were under the bed growling. So he closed the door and got his brothers. When they went back to the house and opened the door the dogs had been bludgened to death. Another house, same subdivision, didn’t see the neighbors out for a few days and they were used to visiting with them almost daily. So he peeked thru the window and they were being held hostage. So they got the neighbors together and they stormed the house and rescued them and held the bad guys until the police got there. The police said that they were thankful that our subdivison was watching out for each other. They said that the problems were so bad that they didn’t have the manpower to watch out for everyone. So, be prepared, be watchful and stand up when necessary and keep your guns. You do not know when you will need them. Otherwise, the bad guys will take over if they think you are a willing victim.

    Carter felt bad about what he did so he closed the borders. So this time whomever is behind this one world government got someone who couldn’t prove his birth records and not loyal to the USA. You can guess who that is. He wants a one world government and he will do anything to be successful about getting that job done.

    My personal opiion I wonder how much Buffet is paying him.

  5. Bill Baker on June 4, 2019 at 3:19 pm

    I happened to look this up as a question wondering if anyone had ever posted anything.

    I will tell you what I would do. IF I am engaging the shooter, in addition to calling the police or having someone call and describe me, once the police are onsite, they are going to announce themselves. They are not going to bust in and start shooting. They are interested in getting the shooter alive.

    When the police get on scene and announce themselves, make sure you are in a safe place, put the weapon down on the floor, step away and put hands in the air. Let the police know who you are, and give any information you may have about the shooter.

    Chances are the police will take your weapon, cuff you and escort you out. You shouldn’t be upset about this as they are doing it for their safety. Once your identity has been confirmed and they realize you are NOT the shooter, they will free you. You may need to put in a request to get your weapon back and make a trip to the police station because they are not likely to give it back at the time.

    This is what I would do and what I would suggest to do for anyone in the situation.

Leave a Comment