Brian May 7, 2007 3:53 PM

How about:
“Carry a concealed weapon, and use it to defend yourself.”

Or is that too against what’s politically possible in CA?

Nicholas Weaver May 7, 2007 4:01 PM

Having been a UC student and knowing a lot of them, the “Heinlein solution” (An armed society is a polite society) is BS and wouldn’t work.

Chase Venters May 7, 2007 4:07 PM


Probably not politically possible in CA. Personally, I’m a proud Texan and strong proponent of the second amendment.


I am encouraged by the fact that they suggest attacking the attacker as a possibility. I really don’t want to dance around in the blood of innocent victims, but I’ve often observed from the comfort of my computer chair that the most logical solution to a gunman that has opened fire in general is for as many people as possible to attack the guy at once.

Of course, I still believe concealed carry is by far the best option…

Michael Ash May 7, 2007 4:14 PM

I’m shocked that this document suggests the possibility of attacking the shooter should he start shooting people. This level of rational risk analysis is beyond what I expect to see from officials. Good for them.

Teddy K May 7, 2007 4:16 PM

This is UC. So the BEST thing those students can do is try to absorb as much of that nasty carbon (from the gunpowder blast) as possible.

Also, a few more martyrs for gun control is just what the professors would want.

Pat Cahalan May 7, 2007 4:16 PM

@ Chase, Brian

Arming a collegiate population probably isn’t the best solution. Shooting straight in a stressful situation is something that you really can’t do without lots of training and practice. Lots of cops and soldiers have trouble pulling the trigger in their first shooting conflict, and they’re trained for it.

sean bonner May 7, 2007 4:18 PM

California actually does issue CCW licenses, quite frequently in some counties in fact – which are valid state wide. However I’m pretty sure the campuses themselves are off limits even if you have a state issued license.

Chase Venters May 7, 2007 4:26 PM


On October 16, 1991, a man in Killeen, TX drove his truck into Luby’s and started randomly murdering patrons. Among the dead were a father who tried to rush the gunman and his wife who stayed with him after he was shot. 23 were killed, 20 were wounded.

One of the patrons not harmed in the incident was a woman who was the daughter of the aforementioned father and wife. She had a gun, but because of state law at the time she could not legally carry it into the restaurant. So instead she had to watch as her parents and many others got murdered.

This woman (Suzanna Hupp) went on to become a Texas state legislator, and a vocal advocate of gun rights. The incident led to the creation of the concealed carry permit in Texas and several other states.

The reason I bring this up is to put one of her quotes into context that I’m about to refer to. When she advocates concealed carry, the same argument has been raised: “What if she misses? What if her actions cause herself to be shot when she otherwise would not?”

Her answer: “Yeah, but having the gun would certainly change the odds.”

In situations like the VT Tech shooting or the 9/11 hijkackings, victims are left with few options:

  1. Try to escape
  2. Sit still and accept what is happening
  3. Fight back

#1 is often not an option. #2 is nothing more than lining up for slaughter. While #3 is a “scary” option, you don’t have many options when you are cornered…

Craig May 7, 2007 4:29 PM

The question here, is not whether carrying concealed weapons could prevent or stop such a madman, but that an AVERAGE person, who has never been in the chaos of a real gun fight, would be able to quickly find and neutralize a gunman without endangering himself and others.

It would be interesting to create (using any First Person Shooter [FPS] engine) a simulation that would test the ability of a person or persons to respond to and neutralize a campus/building shooter. My suggestion would be to create a building or campus map, populate it with people and then have a random character start shooting and everyone else start panicking.

There should be two scenarios. First, in one player mode, that player would have to find and neutralize the shooter as fast as he/she could while taking minimal damage and without killing or hurting other bystanders.

Second, in multi-player mode, the players would have to do the same thing without killing or hurting each other or other bystanders and without being able to work together (a la Halo). The key challenge in the second scenario is the fact that each player would have to make quick decisions as to who is the shooter and who are other defenders.

In both of the scenarios, the players would have to contend with arriving police forces and convincing the cops that they are not the enemy.

I don’t know if this has been done before, but it could provide some interesting data regarding a: how much faster a shooter could be neutralized b: the difficulty for a non-combat trained individual(s) to neutralize a mass shooter.

Micah May 7, 2007 4:38 PM

I would strike parked cars from the list of things to hide behind. Cars are not bullet proof!

Peon May 7, 2007 4:43 PM

@Brian: Drunken college students who play “who can pee over their own head” would likely get in worse situations while armed.

@Craig: Hmm, that brings to mind two things: First the pictures of the cops on the scene in VA Tech having all the students clearing the scene with their hands on their heads–How easy would it be for things to go wrong with cops trying to clear a building of armed amateurs? And second: I read some story about a kid getting suspended for designing a FPS level matching his own school.

Jay May 7, 2007 4:46 PM


Concealment isn’t as good as cover, but it’s still better than being out in the open.

A regular reader May 7, 2007 4:54 PM

Data from such a game would not be too useful because it would become more of a trainer – the more you play it, the more you become “combat trained” – at least in the combat of the game, not necessarily real life.

Although, for those who believe FPS’s are “murder simulators” it might make sense to market “defensive simulators” so that should a player ever find themselves in such a situation in real-life, they might have a better chance of reacting effectively.

Cars are not bullet-proof, but they are opaque, which helps, especially if the shooter never saw you before you hid.

Stefan Wagner May 7, 2007 4:58 PM

@micah: bullet-proof vehicles:
Doesn’t that depend on ammunition, weapon, distance and whether you know where the motorblock is?

And: If the armed individual doesn’t observe you, covering behind the car, he might not know, you did.

Ben May 7, 2007 5:09 PM

Curious – why not hide in bathrooms? Am I missing something totally obvious?

chris rattis May 7, 2007 5:12 PM

Co-worker and I were talking about this, he had a great idea. Play dead.

Pasha May 7, 2007 5:15 PM

The point of having the CCW to kill an armed attacker isn’t “go and hunt the guy down” so much as “you see a guy pull a gun and start shooting, you can apply as much force to him as he can to you.” I have had a CCW, and I recognize the lack of training that I have in dealing with it, aside from a) not being in a uniform, and b) not having backup. But, if someone started unloading in front of me, or in easy earshot of me, I could do something about it.

Anonymous May 7, 2007 5:16 PM

“the last thing that the shooter will expect is to be attacked by an unarmed person.”


DR May 7, 2007 5:44 PM

Distinguishing between the shooter and the defenders is usually easy — the shooter is actively moving about and targeting people, the defenders are behind cover. If an armed civilian can force the shooter to take cover and limit his ability to move and actively targeting new victims, you save lives. This is one lesson learned from the Texas clock tower shootings (Whitman 1966), among others.

I recommend that “reducing the body count” should be the primary scoring mechanism in Craig’s “defensive simulator” FPS.

I’ve only ever been shot at once in twenty years of living in Chicago, and “take cover” was my first and only reaction. But of course in Chicago there is no CCW for anybody but the police and politicians.

Lollardfish May 7, 2007 5:46 PM

@Teddy K – The idea that “what professors want” has any particular influence over academic policy is laughable. Take this professor’s word for it. Influence, especially at big place like U Cal, is inconsequential.

@Chris Rattle – From the interviews with Va Tech students who survived, playing dead was a key factor in the survival for some, especially those with non-fatal head wounds.

Nameless May 7, 2007 5:50 PM

Overall, the advice seemed quite sensible.

Regarding the decision whether or not to fight back, this reminds me of some advice handed out to UK Ministry of Defence staff about being attacked by terrorists. The gist of it was make a choice and make it fast: fight or flee. Easier said than done.


FPS is fun but doing it on screen and doing it when you risk splintered bones and traumatised flesh just doesn’t sound the same to me. Even trained soldiers have problems shooting straight under fire.


“Curious – why not hide in bathrooms? Am I missing something totally obvious?

In the movies, don’t the bad guys get you in the bathroom? C’mon guys, this is the Schneier blog. We know better than to hide in a bathroom right? 🙂

Jannia May 7, 2007 5:58 PM

I’m fine with concealed carry with a caveat.

If you’re a “defender” and shoot anyone other than the shooter, you’ve committed assault. If you kill them, it’s first degree murder. Automatic charge, no interference from the DA allowed.

And if the cops see your gun and shoot you, you and your next of kin have no right to sue them for anything.

Stephen Dann May 7, 2007 6:05 PM

@Arming the students I

I’m a colleague professor. Unarmed students are preferable when it comes to high stress periods such as exams, them receiving fail grades or the usual end of semester crisis modes. Perhaps if the highly stressed student was armed with a baseball bat rather than a gun, we’d have a different story.

@Arming II
I’m quite content for people to be equipped with concealed weapons once we establish a good Identify Friend/Foe system that is moderately difficult to spoof (everything that can be displayed can be copied, and therefore spoofed).

Once I can have a little WoW style pop up over the head of my target to know if they’re friend, foe or civillian points penalty, I’m happy for us to turn the world into a big game of Counterstrike. Until then, continue the research, and put the damn toys back in the cupboard.

Mike May 7, 2007 6:14 PM

“Curious – why not hide in bathrooms? Am I missing something totally obvious?

I don’t know, but my guess would be because there is usually no or small windows, only one entrance, not really any place to hide (a stall isn’t really going to be any good if shooter comes in looking) and not really anything that can be used to block the door. Of course, there are many bathrooms that are exceptions to this, but maybe as just a rule of thumb.

Aaron Luchko May 7, 2007 6:14 PM

I have to agree with the gun proponents that yes, in the case of a rampage shooter if some of the civilians are armed and trained then the total bodycount will probably be lower.

However, note that rampage victims make up only a tiny minority of violent deaths. Thus any laws or measures intended to curb rampage deaths should only affect rampages (ie different protocols for when a rampage is occurring). If you do something like changing the levels of gun ownership to curb rampage deaths then you’re affecting a lot of other crimes as well. Say you increase/decrease gun ownership and as a result there are an average of 5 few rampage deaths anually, however because of that law change there are more 50 violent deaths from other crimes.

That’s why I believe the gun control debate has no place in these discussions. We’re measuring the value of a massive change by one of its most irrelevant metrics.

Stephen Smoogen May 7, 2007 6:24 PM

Actually what usually happens in a multiple shooters segment is that people will panic and either not shoot the right person or just not shoot. Usually people training in the military/police going onto a ‘friend-or-foe’ pop-up range take quite a bit of training before they quit shooting ‘innocents’… I really would prefer that people with concealed licenses had to go through mandatory live-fire range training. I would prefer to know that my fellow armed citizens can fire correctly..

Having to discern an armed good-guy and bad-guy makes it more likely that police-officers will shoot the wrong person.. but as long as that person doesnt get to sue for ‘reckless endangerment’ etc.

In the end, I am not against concealed/armed people. I am just wanting America to not to end up like Baghdad.

Joe Buck May 7, 2007 6:45 PM


What you seem to be missing is that most of the shooters in recent years have been suicidal. They will not be deterred if you just draw a gun on them. But if you, an ordinary student, shoot the shooter, then as far as everyone else can tell in a very confused, stressful situation, you are the shooter. You are the threat that the SWAT teams will then need to mobilize against. If you just draw your gun, everyone will see two shooters.

And what if the guy you confront is another NRA member trying to keep the campus safe, and he saw your gun and is trying to protect everyone from you?

Jon Sowden May 7, 2007 7:02 PM

@ Nameless:
“The gist of it was make a choice and make it fast: fight or flee. Easier said than done.”

Indeed. However, thinking about it now helps make that decision should you ever need to (many of the defensive driving principles work on the same basis).

The takeaway from the DOD tips is “you need to make a decision, and you need to do it quickly”. Everything else is situational, but at least you are forearmed with the intent to make that decision.


Gary May 7, 2007 7:03 PM

Not so good advice; in one section it says don’t shelter in car parks, then later it suggests using a car as cover.

It is a movie myth that bullets don’t go through cars. Only small calibre, lead only rounds are stopped by something as flimsy as a car. Anything larger, faster or with a full metal jacket will go clean through the car and then YOU.

Better cover is provided by something structural, like a brick wall (double thick), an earth bank etc.

Also Forget being armed; remember a very significant proportion of police officer shootings are done with the officers own gun. Arm yourself and you also arm anyone willing to take the gun off you.

I think a potentially good psychological way of gaining an advantage on a gunman is to make them feel uncomfortable, unsafe or confused to an extent that they go somewhere else e.g. Set of the sprinklers, create smoke (safely using a metal bin), set any PA system into total feedback, Turn on radios & TV’s full blast etc. But, only do this if you are not immediate danger and have a place of safety to retreat to.

Fog Dude May 7, 2007 7:06 PM

A friend of mine has a CCW. We live in a high crime area, so it gives me some peace of mind when we go out. Except when he gets drunk and mad.

Anonymous May 7, 2007 7:27 PM

@ Aaron Luchko

Indeed. To put those figures into perspective: 32 people were killed at VT. In 1997 in the US, 32,436 people were killed with guns (homicide, accident, and suicide all included). (

I don’t know the rate of deaths specifically by rampage mass murder, but let’s say it’s 50/year.

So, if your measures led to a 90% decrease in rampage deaths, and a mere 1% increase in other forms of gun death, you’d have achieved a change of about +324 -45 = +279 gun deaths a year.

(From the NRA peanut gallery “Ah, but think how much more polite all the survivors would be!”)

Kyhwana May 7, 2007 7:30 PM

@Gary: Hell, 9mm pistol rounds will go through (at least) one car door..

I guess two car doors would stop a .22, but not much else..

MikeA May 7, 2007 7:37 PM

Folks here are assuming “facts” not in evidence about U.C. Unless U.C. Berkeley has changed a lot in the last 30 years, there are indeed some students with concealed weapons, some of them guns. A friend was winged by his roomate who had come in from a night of drinking and decided it was a good time to clean (i.e. screw around with) his weapon. “Just a flesh wound”, but unless students are a lot different elsewhere, this might be a data-point worth considering

Andrew May 7, 2007 7:39 PM

I am reluctant to dig too much into the Identification: Friend or Foe problem because it is a life-and-death question for undercover police officers. CCW holders are taught just a little bit of this, but the rule for CCW and off-duty police is the same. Orders from uniformed peace officers are absolute.

Sean says: California actually does issue CCW licenses, quite frequently in some counties in fact – which are valid state wide. However I’m pretty sure the campuses themselves are off limits even if you have a state issued license.

CA is a “may issue” state; see for details. The local police chief or county sheriff is the issuing agency; odds are improved by being rich, politically connected, and strategic donating to re-election campaigns.

The University of California is a special district, which allows the UC to maintain its own fully fledged police force. State law specifies that permission to carry a firearm on UC property is chancellor or designate, who is typically the campus police chief. However, section (l) exempts “a person holding a valid license to carry the firearm pursuant to Article 3 (commencing with Section 12050) of Chapter 1 of Title 2 of Part 4” (PC 626.9)

So by a narrow read of the law, CCW is OK on a California college campus, provided that other permit restrictions if any (only valid while transporting jewelry, etc.) are honored. In practice I would call the campus police and check, because of how California is.

Disclaimer: I am no longer affiliated with the University of Kalifornia.

Roy May 7, 2007 8:35 PM

Better advice: Get the hell out of Dodge immediately, and especially before the police arrive and force a ‘lockdown’, wherein they will trap the victims for the shooter, preventing people from escaping.

While lockdowns are appropriate for prisons, the police try to treat campuses as prisons, and neighborhoods as well (except for rich neighborhoods such as Beverly Hills and San Marino {Los Angeles County} where important people will not tolerate authorities threatening them or their children with violence).

It’s also worth keeping in mind that DHS trains everyone to follow the policy of, when you are not certain what the problem is, assume the worst, and the worst is defined as a biological attack, where it is imperative, from the government’s perspective, to keep infected people from spreading the vector. This means the default strategy is to prevent people from escaping, using deadly force as necessary.

Given that a biological attack is the least likely to be tried by terrorists (or criminals) and, if tried, the least likely to succeed, then the default DHS strategy is the exact opposite of what is needed, which is to speed the escape of everybody.

Note that the tipsheet is issued by the UC Police. Reading between the lines, it is generally accepted that the police, on arrival, will first get ‘control’ of the situation, using weapons to threaten people so they can order them around. The default assumption is that everyone who is not in uniform is a suspect — again, the exact opposite of what is needed.

The wrongness of the strategies and tactics do not seem mistaken to me: they look deliberate. The police agencies are wresting ever more power for themselves, and using themselves as threats to frighten the citizenry. If I’m right, they’re doing a very good job of it.

By the way, if you find yourself with the shooter, the best move is for everybody to race for him, mobbing him, beating him half to death, then mutilating his broken body. Not only will this minimize his successful shootings, but it will deter some latent shooters from acting out.

Matt from CT May 7, 2007 8:48 PM

Usually people training in the
military/police going onto a ‘friend-or-
foe’ pop-up range take quite a bit of
training before they quit
shooting ‘innocents’…

How much is that
a) Offensive training — entering a hot area
b) Oh shit, someone just burst into the classroom looking deranged and threatening or actually shooting people sitting in class next to me.

Call me silly, but it’s not going take long to figure out who the bad guy is in the 2nd situation.

If I had a CCW and heard gun shots in a class building, I’m not running towards the shots gun drawn — that’s not an activity I’d be comfortable with, not having been trained to do so. But I can get in a good defensive position — and await orders of a uniformed LEO (who hopefully is not the gunman dressed as a LEO!)

What you seem to be missing is that
most of the shooters in recent years
have been suicidal. They will not be
deterred if you just draw a gun on

And what you’re missing is two key things:

These mass shooters aren’t going into a Police Station or engaging officers in pursuit in order to have a suicide-by-cop.

They want to die on their own terms, and have been choosing known, self-proclaimed soft targets (“Gun Free Zone!”). The VT shooter distracted the cops by staging another shooting and then locking them out of the building he conducted most of the killing in — those aren’t the actions of someone who wants to be killed by a cop or someone else; those are the deliberate actions of someone who wants to die on his own terms.

The second point is you don’t draw a gun to deter someone. You draw a gun to kill someone. Even in my defensive scenario above in this post, if I’ve taken a defensive position in a room it’s with the full intention that if someone breaks through the door or otherwise comes in against my verbal warnings (which gives a cop time to identify himself)…I’ve drawn that gun with the full intention of firing as many rounds as I can center of mass as fast as I can with the intent to kill the person threatening my life.

You deter people by having them wonder whether or not you’ll fight back — in a case like VT whether he’s going to slaughter sheep, or if there is any sheepdogs in the flock that will prevent him from dying on his own terms.

Prohias May 7, 2007 9:00 PM

How many shooting incidents have their been in universities over the last 5 years?
I am surprised the UC police have felt the need to issue a note.

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics should release a statement comparing the probability of a student falling victim to a college shooting incident, even if the number of such shootings were to suddenly double due to other mentally ill copy cats, and, the probability of a university student dying due to an alcohol related incident. That will help put this ‘threat’ in perspective.

BOB!! May 7, 2007 9:35 PM

“If you’re a “defender” and shoot anyone other than the shooter, you’ve committed assault. If you kill them, it’s first degree murder. Automatic charge, no interference from the DA allowed.”

Actually, it depends on the laws of the state you’re in. And just because it’s charged doesn’t mean you’re guilty of it – self-defense is a valid defense against both assault and murder charges. Something else you’ve neglected is the concept of felony murder – which originates in common law – which holds that the original shooter, not the ‘defender’, is responsible for the deaths that happen as a result of his rampage, even if those deaths happen due to police (or security guard’s, or homeowner’s, or ‘defender’s’) bullets going astray and hitting an innocent party.

“And if the cops see your gun and shoot you, you and your next of kin have no right to sue them for anything.”

You and your next of kin most certainly DO have a right to sue. Whether or not there’s much chance of winning depends on a whole lot of things, although I certainly wouldn’t expect you to win.

Max May 7, 2007 9:40 PM

Most of you who are opposed to self defense are pretty obviously just making up shit. You won’t be missed.

As to “colleague professor”, what the hell is that?

Just Some Guy May 7, 2007 9:59 PM

@Matt from CT: “If I had a CCW and heard gun shots in a class building, I’m not running towards the shots gun drawn” “I’ve taken a defensive position in a room it’s with the full intention that if someone breaks through the door or otherwise comes in against my verbal warnings”

Replay that scenario, but this time you are the SECOND CCW.

You hear gunshots, I cannot imagine that you don’t pull your weapon as you rush into your “defensive position” probably the nearest classroom. The first CCW in their defensive position sees someone rushing in with a gun. How does this end well?

Let’s say you were fast or already in a good defensive position. Other people are going to try and join you. They will also be CCW people, now no longer concealed. What are the odds that both of you will be calm enough to see each other, realize that the other is a friend, recognize a warning not to enter, etc, etc?

Best CCW scenario has the evil shooter drawing a gun, and being gunned down before he can hurt anyone. Yeah! Guns work!

Except that they really don’t. Keep playing the scenario forward. Shots were just fired. Screams will ensue. Everyone not in the immediate vicinity (and even some of those) are thinking VT 2.0 just broke out. In a mass CCW (say 30% are packing heat) scenario, even if only 1/4 of the CCW’s panic or make a wrong judgement call, a lot more bullets are about to be flying.

That situation actually assumes there was a bad guy in the first place. College kids screw around. They get bored. They come to class drunk. They fiddle.

Same scenario as above, average college, large percentage (30%) of students are CCW, only this time no bad guy. Ever hear of the phrase “Accidental Discharge”?

Instant chaos.

Allow concealed weapons, and the ‘bad guy’ won’t need to bring a gun to kill 32 people.

A firecracker will do just as well.

Jon Sowden May 7, 2007 10:05 PM

“Most of you who are opposed to self defense are pretty obviously just making up shit.”

Heh. Which orifice did you pull those strawmen out of? Oh, wait … notices last word

Mike May 7, 2007 10:22 PM

If you’re going to arm everybody, why not do it with non-lethal weaponry like tasers. It gets the job done because people will be less reluctant to use it. AND instead of being killed, I just have a mildly embarrassing moment because my girlfriend decides I’m a total jerk.

Stephen Dann May 7, 2007 10:59 PM

“As to “colleague professor”, what the hell
is that?”

Proof of not enough coffee when I first posted. College professor (or since I’m australian, university lecturer)

bill May 7, 2007 11:30 PM

@just some guy
“A firecracker will do just as well.”

Except that in states with “shall issue” concealed carry laws, the crime rates dropped faster than the national average. Some links:

There are more articles and studies in this vein as well.

DR May 8, 2007 12:38 AM


Also Forget being armed;
remember a very significant proportion of police officer shootings are done with the officers own gun. Arm yourself and you also arm anyone willing to take the gun off you.

Yes, a significant proportion of UNIFORMED police officer shootings are done with his own gun. A gun which he keeps in a holster out in the open, and which many officers draw even when in close proximity to suspects.

A civilian doesn’t even have the option of “open carry” except in a handful of states, among other major differences between a “regular joe” and LEO.

Statistics in states which issue carry permits at all (currently every state in the USA has may issue or shall issue permits, except for a handful of midwestern holdouts, including Illinois, where CCW is a felony), don’t show that the fates which befall uniformed officers are anything similar for civilian CHL holders.

Cops have a very different role in dealing with a crime-in-progress than you or I.

university prof May 8, 2007 12:45 AM

@Brian and others,

I won’t allow guns in my classroom, period.

My beef with concealed weapons on campus isn’t about whether or not they would come in useful when there’s a shooter on campus — of this I have no doubt. It’s that most college students are already in a terribly messy social environment with all sorts of stresses and often-misplaced aggression, not to mention experimentations with drug and alcohol use.

So what do you get when you add guns to this mix? A mass shooter (like at VA Tech) who gets killed before killing quite so many people — fine. But you also get dead professors, peers, ex-girlfriends, ex-boyfriends, etc. — just killed one at a time because we’ve given loaded guns to thousands of immature kids in an emotionally volatile environment.

That’s not a good trade. Actually, it’s a pretty awful trade, and shame on anybody who thinks it’s worthwhile.

There’s a rather large variety of ways to attack an attacker, or to otherwise engage in self-defense, without adding more firearms to campus.

this_is_my_rifle__this_is_my_gun May 8, 2007 1:28 AM

come on people – get it right. guns are in your pants or on the deck of a destroyer.

rifle. pistol.

troybo May 8, 2007 5:29 AM

Surely, the answer is not more guns?
Perhaps it would be better to spend the effort in removing the guns out of society to start with? From an “uneducated” perspective, it seems the only useful thing to do with a gun is to kill somebody.. I am not entirely sure why everyone needs the “right” to do this.

Neil May 8, 2007 5:30 AM

Regarding hiding behind cars:

I think the idea here is not that the car would provide a shield against bullets, but rather that it would provide concealment; to shoot people hiding behind cars in a car park is much harder than to shoot people who are in plain sight.

This is similar to hiding in a barricaded room; most internal walls consist only of timber and sheetrock, neither of which will stop a bullet, but which serve very well to prevent human entry and to prevent the shooter from hitting people inside, other than by chance from unaimed shots through the wall.

Neil May 8, 2007 5:38 AM

If concealed carry (which provides access to guns only to a subset of people, but all the time) is not an option, what about the idea of putting guns in boxes scattered around the campus, marked “in the event of a shooting emergency, break glass to release gun”, which would, when accessed, not only provide access to a weapon suitable for untrained users (a shotgun, perhaps?) but also set off a campus-wide “gun released” alarm and signal its location to police?

kaukomieli May 8, 2007 5:42 AM

my magic 8 ball tells me this will be the outcome:

Jeff starts shooting random people. George pulls his gun and shoots at Jeff. Chuck comes along, sees George shooting, pulls out his gun and shoots him as well as the two people behind him (damn those triple-shot-reflexes). John pulls out his gun and tries to circlestrafe Jeff while Tom tries to remember where the quad-powerup was located on this map. Jeff is disappointed about the lack of attention, grabs the flag and runs home.

Finally the police turns up, shoots everyone just in case they might be terrorists, blows up the school because there might be a bomb somewhere.

Jeff gets elected for president.

end of story.

Pavel May 8, 2007 8:05 AM

@Neal & others re: cars for cover:

Having engaged in gunfire Into and Through vehicles, it’d take armor-piercing rounds not to be affected by vehicles. Most handgun rounds will not maintain their initial path upon first impact – I’ve had .45ACP rounds bounce off in random directions off mouldings of a 1983 Nissan Maxima. Additionally, sloped glass of vehicles will divert bullets from their paths – bullets spin due to rifling, creating an uneven contact area between the glass and the bullet, causing a deflection. There are special glass-penetrator bullets for that out there, but not commonly available to civilians. Best place of cover behind a vehicle: front axle – you got the engine that’ll stop/soak up a lot, and the axle/wheels/tires will help eat up groundskip.

@kaukomieli: your observation is quite accurate – it is non-trivial to figure out, in the melee of an active shooter scenario, who the “good” guy is, and who is not. PD uniforms help, but with the visual/audio occlusion which can happen during times of extreme stress, even those may not be enough.

Attacking the attacker, sans firearms, must be understood as a suicide mission. What is more difficult is that the person who makes the choice to attack the attacker must FINISH what they have started. There are VERY few targets on a human’s body which, when hit, will cause instantenous incapacitation. Even heart shots yield up to 15 seconds of useful existance. The issue is that it takes an extraordinary set of circumstances and, more importantly, internal personal character traits, in order to continue to function upon having been shot. Hell, it is a lot less than pleasant being shot WITH body armor on.

Having been both a) trained in a variety of combat disciplines courtesy of the U.S. Military and b) been in some rather nasty situations, both my brothers-in-arms and I still could not guarantee that on any given day we could, having been fatally wounded, carry on. We, too, have our bad days. At best, our training and experience would pre-dispose us to realize both the inevitability of our deaths and, faced with that, give us the adrenaline to incapacitate the m*#%&#$(ker. Most of the impulse would actually come from being pissed off at the guy. “Hey, he SHOT me! Da hell? This ain’t gonna fly!”

Outside of training, it takes drugs, heavy-duty ones, to stay calm during something as inherently chaotic and, ultimately, corrosive and poisonous as a combat situation. Of the most famous examples in recent memory is the North Hollywood shootout where two bank robbers were Very calm as they engaged the PD. One of the reasons for their calm was Phenobarbital. In low doses, it works as a mild sedative and counteracts the natural tendency to freak out during high-stress situations.

There is, unfortunatly, no clean-n-neat solution to a nutcase problem. They are, by definition, an aberation. The closest thing I’ve seen is a change in tactics. Pre-Columbine (and as was seen in PD’s response to the incident), the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for an active shooter was: Contain, get hostages out, negotiate, force is the last resort. Post-Columbine: first responding units from campus police (who should carry AR-15 or similar medium-to-long urban range weapons) go hunting.

By the very nature of the beast, once the shooting occured, the mission become to minimize the loss of life, since clearly, it cannot be prevented.

piyo May 8, 2007 8:14 AM

“This is very dangerous, but certainly no more then [sic] doing nothing and dying in place.”

Despite the shocking idea of trying to take down an armed person while unarmed when there is no other choice, this “then” is distracting.

Mike Sherwood May 8, 2007 8:58 AM

There is no one size fits all approach that will work in all situations. The VT massacre is an anomaly. It’s not a problem that can or should be solved. There are always consequences to overreacting to an extremely rare threat. The guidelines given are information for those who want it. It is reassuring that they are basically telling people that some situations only give you the choice between dying on your feet or on your knees. Most people will freeze under the pressure if they haven’t already thought about that choice. That leaves the choice in someone else’s hands.

Those who have a concealed weapon permit should take a Force on Force training class. It’s a good way to evaluate your ability to respond to and with deadly force. Everyone I know who has taken one (myself included) has walked away with a better understanding of how horribly they suck. This is in contrast with most people who are as bad or worse, but have no realistic gauge of their performance and lack insight into what works and what needs work. Getting shot with wax+metal bullets that leave bruises for weeks helps reinforce the value of recognizing a bad situation early and getting out of it as quickly as possible. Switching between problem recognition, avoidance and decisive resolution is hard to do under stress. Bad things happen quickly, and there’s a lot to do in as little as 5 seconds if you want to survive.

In any situation where deadly force is used, the person using that force can expect to be prosecuted. That is the same for civilians or police. I don’t know where anyone would get the idea that someone in a self defense situation gets any special treatment legally. An attacker’s actions can be used to justify the victim’s use of force, up to and including deadly force. Any harm to third parties or other property is not justified by a self defense situation. I don’t know where people get the idea that this is a special case, because the laws are pretty clear on where the line is for responsibility.

John May 8, 2007 9:17 AM

It’s astounding the number of head-in-the-sand “guns are bad” people posting here, I would have thought the crowd here would be more sensible. No gun law is even going to stop criminals from getting guns. Nazi Germany couldn’t do it, Soviet Russia couldn’t do it, so no country with even vague pretensions of openness has a chance. If you’re living where criminals can have guns if they want them (we are) then taking guns away from law abiding people (which is all guns laws can ever do) just throws away the fact that good people outnumber the bad people.

And if you don’t believe that good people with guns is a good thing, then clearly we should disarm the police, right? If you actually believe your rhetoric then disarming police would have to be the right thing to do, after all they sometimes shoot the wrong people. And their jobs are very stressful, they might get angry sometimes, and shoot someone. Clearly taking away all police weapons would prevent them from ever shooting the wrong people. So there could be no possible downside to that, right?

Ian Mason May 8, 2007 9:21 AM

Why not hide in bathrooms?

Think about most of the bathrooms you know. They have been purposely designed to be easy to break into – privacy locks that open from the outside with a coin, etc. etc. If you’ve worked in a public building, hospital or bar you’ll know how often you get called to “person collapsed in bathroom”. People who feel ill often seek out a bathroom and hence wise architects (and in some places building codes) make them easy to ‘break’ into.

Up the ante May 8, 2007 9:40 AM

Every student gets 1 grenade at registration. Grenade training is a mandatory freshman class. Improper use of grenade is grounds for expulsion and/or incarceration by law enforcement.

Grenades must be turned in at graduation.

Ok…let’s get real here.

C’mon people. Remember the lesson of Flight 93. If at all possible, rush the shooter en’ masse…and those of you who live beat the livin’ snot out of the guy…pull his eyes out and feed them to him. Those who don’t live are hero’s of the realm.

I am not trying to trivialize human life here…it’s just that if the first ten people rush the shooter in this manner the body count will never get to 23. If only 1 person rushes the shooter that body count is gonna just keep rising. So if you’re ever in this situation and there are more than ten people in the room…yell “Lets get him” and get going. Don’t be a victim of your fear…make the shooter a victim of your anger.

C Gomez May 8, 2007 10:00 AM

Armed attackers are only put down with arms… either their own or someone else’s. End of story.

It’s pointless to pretend that another firearm couldn’t have made a difference in the situation. That is drivel and pointless thought experiments. It may have made no difference. It could have made all the difference. None of the outcomes in between are unacceptable.

It’s important to remember basic human freedoms. One of them is the right to defend yourself.

ruidh May 8, 2007 10:33 AM

“And if you don’t believe that good people with guns is a good thing, then clearly we should disarm the police, right?”

What a huge logical leap. The principal difference between police with guns and your random citizen with guns is training. The second is communication. Police can talk to one another and coordinate and minimize collateral damage.

Pavel above makes the most sense with his responses.

Realist May 8, 2007 10:56 AM

“Curious – why not hide in bathrooms? Am I missing something totally obvious?”

Yes, you are completely missing the obvious…
1) no means of barracding the doors (assuming there are doors and it isn’t of a modern design that uses a “light trap” entrance)
2) no alternate escape route
3) no real place to hide except in stalls, standing on the toilets so your feet don’t show, and even then they’ll find you
4) stall doors offer no protection from even a small handgun

alistair May 8, 2007 10:59 AM

“And if you don’t believe that good people with guns is a good thing, then clearly we should disarm the police, right?”

Strangely enough, many of us over here in the UK think that that is a good idea. The idea that the police are armed as a amtter of course amazes us.

SquidSally May 8, 2007 11:08 AM

So, how about “the only good defense is a good offense”? For the sane people with good judgement, get a concealed weapons permit and fight back 🙂 Undercover campus security might be an option as well…

jms May 8, 2007 11:26 AM

@Mike Sherwood
Good advice. The first thing my wife and I did after making the decision to CC, and after getting our permits, was to get as much training as we could, given our budget. A week at Thunder Ranch was not only a wonderful vacation, but also gave us invaluable training in “situational awareness”, how to prevent a confrontation from escalating into a fight, how to increase and maintain the distance between yourself and an assailant, recognizing when you need to draw your firearm, how to cover an assailant from a “ready position” with a firearm while ordering compliance, knowing when you need to bring the gun up from ready and shoot, how to think in a fight, how to use cover effectively, and what to fight with.

For instance, I’m in my car and a shooter is killing people while standing/walking on a street or sidewalk. I’m not going to exit the car, and engage him with my pistol if I have a good chance of stopping him by running him over. I’ve already worked out how to engage him should that fail, including how I’m going to use my pistol to fight to the rifle that I’ve got in my trunk. If that tactic isn’t feasible at all, and he hasn’t seen me, I’d probably just get the rifle and engage him with it, although that may weaken a self-defense argument, if I end up sniping him.

Implicit in the above paragraph is the central decision that must be made before getting a permit and carrying a CW: “If there is no way to end a confrontation without discharging my firearm, am I truly willing to take another person’s life in defense of my own, my loved ones, or complete strangers. Am I willing to live with the legal, financial, mental, and emotional consequences that follow.” I’m quite happy that it hasn’t come to that, I really hope that it never will, but I’m also prepared, if it does.

Part of the responsibility of CC is to get and maintain training, whether your state requires it or not. The responsibility is yours, not only to know the laws about CC such as when you must leave your firearm in the car (e.g., in my state: sporting events that serve alcohol, courts, any public school, etc.) but also how to be effective in high stress situations. This only comes through training.

A Responsible gun owner who is willing to shoulder the burden of CCW and its possible consequences will do the following things:

  1. Get basic firearms training from a certified instructor, so they are always handing firearms in a safe manner.
  2. Get advanced training on the effective use of a CCW, which always includes when not to use it.
  3. Practice, Practice, Practice.

This requires quite a bit of money above and beyond the $$ you just spent on your snazzy new pistol, holster, extra magazines and mag holders. But then again, how much is your life worth?

Pavel May 8, 2007 11:53 AM

@ruidh: You’re absoluterly right. The difference is even greater – those who are professional “trigger-pullers” also undergo periodic compulsory psychiatriac evaluations. The standards for failing those evals is also fairly high, in recognition of the difficulty of the job and the consequences of a VT-shooter-esque breakdown.

In case anyone is wondering, I am very much in favor of CCWs and private weapon ownership, with one caveat: For a CCW permit, Force on Force training with Simunitions should be mandatory. If someone claims they’d like to carry a weapon to defend life (theirs or someone else’s), I’d like for them to be not just an accurate shot against a static target that does not shoot back, but have experience with the stress, mayhem, and the dynamic nature of a shooting incident in an urban environment. Then the CCW applicant is closer to being “ready”.

Bruce Schneier May 8, 2007 12:22 PM

“I would strike parked cars from the list of things to hide behind. Cars are not bullet proof!”

It’s less about stopping a bullet, and more about not being seen. The goal is to make the shooter go elsewhere for an easier-to-shoot target. Even if the shooter knows you’re behind the car, it’s way harder for him to aim.

Rich May 8, 2007 12:43 PM

“Armed attackers are only put down with arms… either their own or someone else’s. End of story.”

“Attacking the attacker, sans firearms, must be understood as a suicide mission. The issue is that it takes an extraordinary set of circumstances and, more importantly, internal personal character traits, in order to continue to function upon having been shot.”

I think the hero would be more likely to be a parent. Saving my child is realistically the only thing that would surely send me on a suicide mission.

derf May 8, 2007 12:56 PM

One of the accounts from one of the VA students hit me like a ton of bricks. She survived when nearly every other member of her class was killed by playing dead under the bodies of her dead classmates.

The guide seems to have left out this possibility – hide under the bodies of your dead friends.

The “gun free” zone idea obviously flopped – the only one with a gun was the shooter. The only lawful gun carriers on campus, the police, were nowhere to be found. Gun prohibition just doesn’t work.

If I was the girl hiding under the bodies, (and I actually had a choice) I’d have much rather taken my chance with the possibility of shooting the killer instead of praying he didn’t find and slaughter me.

Max May 8, 2007 2:04 PM

There is a reason Cho attacked a classroom and not the building housing the campus police.

Bob May 8, 2007 2:58 PM

This is major butt covering by UC. If you get shot, it is now your fault since you’ve been told how to avoid it. This will be the first item introduced as evidence in rebuttal to any lawsuit brought against UC for a school shooting.

Ian Mason May 8, 2007 3:14 PM


I have to confess that like the British political interviewer Jeremy Paxman my first thought on hearing words from public figures is to ask myself “Why is this bastard lying to me?”.

However, let us be charitable and consider the possibility that someone at UC said “Some people are understandably, if unreasonably, frightened after the VT shootings. Can we give them some advice that would be genuinely useful in the very unlikely event something happens here and harmless otherwise? Perhaps it might offer some reassurance to the frightened?”.

OK, it’s probably a flight of fantasy, but I can hope…

anonymous May 8, 2007 6:05 PM


Of course. But it has nothing to do with who was more likely to be armed.

Anonymous May 8, 2007 6:31 PM

I’ve yet to see a public restroom that had a window large enough to climb through, low enough to get to without a ladder, or any window at all.

Someone could get a good killrate during breaks simply by firebombing the restrooms. There will be a lot of people in them, and only one way in/out that’ll be blocked by fire.

And no noise from gunfire to give warning either. :p

Mitch May 8, 2007 8:08 PM

@university prof

@Brian and others,

I won’t allow guns in my classroom, period.

How cute. A categorical verbal statement instantly renders an entire classroom provably “safe”.

How do you know there aren’t any guns in your classroom already? That would be the whole point of concealed carry — It’s concealed.

You have no idea what’s on your classroom at any given moment. It’s naively simplistic (bordering on criminally stupid) to think statements like yours mean anything at all in terms of actually preventing someone (good or bad) from carrying in your classroom.

RichJ May 8, 2007 9:45 PM

Disclaimer: I’m a former infantry US Marine who served in combat in Somalia.

I’m not sure that allowing students to carry concealed weapons is the answer. I think very few people would actually seek out and engage the shooter if they had a choice to flee. Trust me, having rounds snap past your face and ricochet off nearby objects is not a comforting feeling, and most people that do not have an emotional attachment to those in danger are going to haul tail to safety.

Those under direct fire from the shooter will have the most benefit from a concealed handgun, but mace or pepper spray could be effective too. Probably not as effective as a double tap to the chest, but it could be effective.

I’m not trying to advocate banning firearms, I own several myself. I think in the hands of a competent, properly trained person, a firearm is a safe tool that can be used in self-defense. The problem as I see it, is when people start carrying concealed weapons is that many of the people carrying are not going to be trained, nor will they care one iota about firearm safety. Imagine if that “road-rager” that you accidentally cut off on the highway is packing a Glock. Imagine Paris Hilton drunk driving with a Derringer under the seat!

You might save a few people in cases such as the VA Tech shooter, but there would be many more deaths from accidental shootings, drunk idiots, and maniacs shooting motorists on the roads.

I’m probably going to draw flames from people saying that they’ve been trained, how the weapons should only go to those who have training/no criminal records, etc. In a perfect world that would be the case, in reality these conceal permits are going to be a political device like everything else. The wrong people are going to get them, and in the long run we’re going have more (albeit less dramatic and newsworthy) killings.

Bob Meade May 9, 2007 12:26 AM

It seems to me that the original advice from the UCPD (at UCLA) seems good given the target audience; and I thank Bruce for bringing it to my attention. However I wonder just how effectively the information is reaching its target.

I just tried an experiment. I tried to find the information from the homepages of the UC system, and the UCLA. It’s very difficult to find until you make your way to the homepage of the UCPD(of UCLA).

Of course, I don’t want to discount other effective means of getting the incident reaction message accross to people who attend the campus such as posters, meetings, lectures, and anyway, who has time to check the University’s website when the bullets start flying?

anti-idiot May 9, 2007 4:39 AM

Regarding the 2nd Amendment, most people don’t even know what it is:

This site states the facts:

  • In the entire history of the U.S., the U.S. Supreme Court has NEVER found a gun control law unconstitutional based on the 2nd Amendments.


Because it’s for a WELL-REGULATED MILITIA and says so in the SINGLE SENTENCE that is the 2nd amendment.

Not only that, the U.S. Supreme Court EXPLAINED what the 2nd Amendment is in great detail in “U.S. v Miller.”

By the way, more and more people are concluding that Texas is the beast.

The U.S. would be much better without it, since it breads liars and fools faster than Mordor.

Proof of Texas’s beast status:

  • Besides producing Bush and Delay, Texas has a state legislative leader who not only believes the sun goes around the earth but promotes this while also denying the U.S. landed on the moon. AND TEXAS VOTEERS KEEP ELECTED THIS FOOL.
  • A Dallas D.A. ordered all rape evidence kits destroyed to prevent further DNA testing after a convicted rapist who’d served many years was found to be innocent when the DNA test FINALLY happened. Only DEVILS and Nazi-unAmerican traitor-criminal officials would then destroy evidence after that so no other convicts who were FALSELY convicted could go free.
  • The Texas Youth Authority officials are almost all pedafiles (spelling?) and regularly rape imprisoned under-18 boys and often extend sentences and if the teenagers complain. Gonzales of the Bush administration wrote in a recently published that he approved of this when he was high up in Texas state gov’t.
  • Texans love a lie more than the truth.

If there’s ever a civil war, you can bet the people who love truth will have plenty of inspiration when faced with Texas.

Steve May 9, 2007 1:55 PM

Having an armed populace simply changes the mode of attack. Read Dr Schneier’s Beyond Fear, for heaven’s sake. Instead of going “full Cho” with blazing gun, the attacker just changes to a “suicide vest” or a truck bomb or. . .

If the full might of the US military can’t protect the “Green Zone” in Baghdad from a determined attacker, how in Ramen’s is it possible to “defend” a college campus, no matter how many upholders of the Second Amendment there are scuttling around with their bulges under their coat?

A “Heinlein society” wouldn’t be polite. It would be fearful.

Tom May 10, 2007 10:21 AM

I think this is a very handy document. One thing I think they did not cover adequately is the difference between “Cover” and “Concealment”. They mention cover several times and point out a few useful objects you can use but many individuals will confuse the two. A general rule of thumb is:

Cover will stop the bullet and physically protect you. Concealment will hide you from the shooter but will not stop the round. Both are useful but cover is better

James September 23, 2007 12:04 AM

Only if the cops have to live by the same rules. Looking at the stats, you are MUCH more likely, as an innocent bystander, to be shot by a cop than by a CCW holder.

@Guns in college
I don’t know about other states, but Utah limits CCW to 21+. That should prevent quite a few of the problems that have been suggested.

EVERY society who has tried this (eliminate guns) has FAILED miserably. All you end up doing is disarming the good guys which makes them easier prey for the bad guys. Remember, bad guys, by definition, don’t follow the rules. We can’t keep weapons out of the hands of inmates at high security prisons, it is insane to think you can do it in any free society.

@Pavel & kaukomieli
In the case of Trolley Square in Salt Lake City, an off-duty officer (also not in uniform) was in the mall when the shooting started. He drew his weapon and upon seeing a uniformed officer began repeatedly yelling “OPD, OPD, OPD” (meaning Ogden Police Department). He was NOT shot at by the arriving uniformed officers. I see no reason to expect any different outcome from a civilian CCW holder.

@John & C Gomez
Good job! Absolutely correct!

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