Wargaming VA Tech:

We've talked about the importance of training in being ready to respond to violence. If you are going to do a citizen's duty to uphold the common peace and lawful order, you must prepare for that duty.

Sovay suggests a wargaming exercise, which strikes me as a good idea. She asks this of the readership:

If you were at Virginia Tech that day and had a gun a) Please tell me what you would have done. b) Tell me how certain you are that you would have done it. The more detail you can give, such as location and situation of those around you, the better.
Tactics depend heavily on the actual situation and surroundings. The main shootings seem to have happened at Norris Hall, which you can see here. I gather this is the building to which the main exits were chained. It is two stories, and we know that the second story classrooms could be exited by the windows.

There is a map of the surrounding campus here. Police call boxes are not marked, but presumably -- if VTech is like any other campus I've been on -- there are some.

These photos are from inside Norris Hall. Internal walls appear to be solid cinderblock, easily capable of serving as hard cover against 9mm or .22 rounds. Presumably that would be the same for the classrooms. I can't think why they would have a different basic internal structure from the rest of the building, but if anyone knows better, shout out.

Let's consider two basic scenarios:

1) You are in class in Norris Hall, with a (lawfully carried, we'll presume for the purpose of this example -- let us say the law changes as a result of this episode) defensive handgun of your choice. You hear gunfire in the building. You may be either on the first or second floor, near or far from the stairwells, as you prefer.

2) You are in classs in Norris Hall, on the first floor near the main entrance. A student you know only barely walks into the room and opens fire.

Obviously the tactical situation in #2 is much worse, but consider it all the same.

I would say in scenario 1, the best option is to adopt a position that will allow you to use the cinderblock walls as cover, while controlling the entrance to the classroom. Once this is done, you can determine if any other fellow students are likewise lawfully armed, and what degree of training they may have had. If there is backup within the classroom, you have increased options; but if not, the best thing to do is to determine the best route of escape (probably through the windows) and see that noncombatants are evacuated safely, with instructions to contact the police at once.

At that point, depending on the sound of gunfire, you can either advance to set a counterambush on a likely point for the enemy to cross; or attempt to reconnoiter the enemy position in order to provide intelligence to the police. If it appeared to be a solitary killer, and you were able to approach his position without being spotted, you could kill him. If it appeared to be something more than that, you would be better informed to advise responding policemen.

An alternative prospect arises if you know that most students are in a given section of the building, which can be isolated. You might well set up a defensive posture there, to cover their escape.

Scenario 2 is rather more dangerous. In that case, the thing to do is to follow the advice taught me by Ken Caton: "Evade, control, retaliate." The first thing to do is to take any decent cover that presents itself. Then, prepare your weapon. Then, attempt to respond, either by killing the enemy, or by pinning him down so that he could not harm others before police arrived.

Sovay asks how certain I would be that I would do this, rather than panic or something else. Having been in life-threatening circumstances just occasionally, and having dealt with violent criminals twice, I feel almost certain that I would respond in this fashion. My reaction to serious danger has usually been what Doc Russia describes as "the Machine" -- the shutoff of emotional content, and a very cold and ruthless rationality. It doesn't always save the day, but it does allow for a direct response to danger.

I'll post a link to this at BlackFive and MilBlogs, to invite a further response. Anyone with military, police or other relevant experience is invited to respond. The idea is to build a notion of what the basic elements are in a successful response to an attack of this sort, so that we may be better prepared.

UPDATE: At the point of 38 responses here and 35 at BlackFive, I composed a summary post on the broad areas of agreement emerging. Scroll up past this post to read it.

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