In Response to the Shooting at the Columbia Mall

By: Jeff Mount

So, most of my blog posts so far, I’ve tried to at least be somewhat helpful in sharing thoughts, insights, or reflections on the connection between Krav Maga training and life in general. But, given last weekend’s shooting at the Columbia Mall, I think the best I can probably do this week is a rant.

It upsets me to see television news anchors ask questions that are clearly designed to sensationalize the violence, giving it the pedestal many predators are looking for, and thus encouraging it as an effective source of infamy. You, television anchor, are part of the problem.

It upsets me to hear people who have clearly never experienced such a trauma, and who have done nothing to prepare an effective response, make grand assertions of “what they would do if they were there.” You weren’t there. You don’t know what you would do. Neither do I, and I spend a good chunk of my professional life preparing myself and others for such tragedies.

It upsets me when people of faith (of which I consider myself one) will pray for the victims and yet not take any helpful action to prepare or prevent for such an occurrence in the future. That is not faith – that is complacency. If one hasn’t attempted to seek understanding on what they’re praying about, then it’s likely not very sincere or helpful.

It upsets me when this type of occurrence is seen from a fatalistic viewpoint that “nothing can really be done” about such violence. To give a shooter that type of power over our future is to grant them the godlike status that led them to seek such a drastic action in the first place.

The issue that I have with all of these responses, common though they are, is that they are passive in nature, and do not indicate real productive change. But the other thing is that they don’t really lessen the anxiety. They contribute to a sense of helplessness because they are, in effect, practicing helplessness.

In December 2012, when I saw the world of social media respond to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, I witnessed hundreds of online acquaintances whose outrage went the extent of a vehement Facebook post.

So, here are a few productive responses to a tragedy:

1) Create a Plan – The Department of Homeland Security, FBI and many local law enforcement agencies have free resources for how a family can create a plan that will include members of the entire family.

2) Practice the Plan – We teach our kids how to escape from a fire. We teach them how to avoid strangers. Why would we not practice how to respond to such a situation? Because we, as a society, haven’t taught ourselves how yet. Avoiding a plan worsens this lack of equipping.

3) Request training from your employer – According to Andre Simons, the FBI’s leading researcher and speaker on Active Shooter situations, the most common location for “targeted violence” is the workplace. Speak with your Human Resources representative about setting up training.

4) Read SOMETHING – Whether it’s The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker, or On Killing by Lt. Col Dave Grossman, or any number of articles on the FBI also have informative articles that can train you to understand warning signs of such an event, which in turn lowers anxiety and gives a greater feeling empowerment. The most comprehensive research about school shootings, completed jointly from the US Secret Service and the US Department of Education, can be found here.

5) Train – You know I had to include this. Krav Maga Maryland, as well as many other KMW Affiliates around the US, offer one-of-a-kind training to thrive in an event of targeted violence.

Periodically, I come across a quote to which I feel a unique claim. My undergraduate degree is in Ancient Studies, and I remember several years ago being intrigued by a Greek warrior poet from the Archaic period who, contrary to the norms of the time, fought to win regardless of inconvenient issues like honor or societal status. His name is Archilochus. He’s famous for positing that if you need to drop your shield and run, you’ll be able to find another, perfectly good shield later. I was upset to find how over-used his other quote was, but it applies here:

We do not rise to the level of our expectations; rather, we fall to the level of our training.

Rachel Parker