There is an important self defense lesson learned/to be learned from the Mandalay Bay Shooting: under certain conditions self defense, armed or empty hand, is not an option. Instead self preservation is. Some fun was had in comments this morning about social media faux tough guy Dan Bilzerian’s live streaming of his panic stricken response to being caught in the field of fire during the Mandalay Bay Shooting. Bilzerian’s response was all too human, and understandable, given the circumstances and is only the stuff of ridicule because of the persona he created for self promotion. But it is one of the many examples from Sunday’s tragic events that teach us all something important regarding self defense, especially armed self defense. Specifically there are some situations were any form of self defense, let alone armed self defense, is simply not an option. Moving as quickly as possible to cover/safety is the best option.
Even if a significant minority of the concert goers on Sunday were armed, there was no way they could effectively respond to the violent assault. There are several reasons for this. Among them is that Paddock gave himself an asymmetric advantage in his attack. He selected high ground – a room on the 32nd floor; a clear field of fire; a massed group of targets; rifles modified to simulate/approximate fully automatic fire (12 of the 19 recovered in his hotel room had bump fire stocks); and electronic surveillance of the approaches to his room, which allowed him to defeat attempts by hotel security. He shot the guard willing to risk entry to stop him. This kept the police from quickly breach the room to stop him. Instead they waited for SWAT to arrive on scene and conduct the breach. Under these conditions armed self defense is useless.
Even if an armed concert goer or passerby could have quickly ascertained where the shots were coming from, unless armed with a rifle and carrying significant ammunition, there was no way to lay down sustained suppressive fire to stop Paddock from continuing to fire on the crowd. There was almost no place with effective cover to set up to return fire without exposing oneself to Paddock’s assault. And most everyday carriers, concealed or open depending on jurisdiction, carry handguns. While the possible options for everyday carry are large, let’s stipulate that everyone had compact double stack handguns even though this is unlikely the case in reality. These would be auto-loading from a magazine, semi-automatic handguns. With magazine capacities between 13 and 15 rounds depending on the caliber (9mm Parabellum/9X19 usually run 15 rounds, .40 S&W and .357 SIG about 12; and .45 ACP about 10 on average*) Let’s also stipulate that they’re carrying two backup magazines. So that’s 45 rounds, give or take, 46 if carrying with a round chambered (one in the pipe). These guns also have 4 inch barrels in length with a 6 inch site radius on average – depending on the make and model of the gun. Making a 400 yard shot, from ground level to the 32nd floor, at night, in a stress situation with a handgun is effectively impossible. Maybe Jerry Miculek or one of the other professional shooters could pull it off, but that would be about it. And that’s a big maybe as handguns just aren’t designed to accurately shoot that far, especially from ground level on to an elevated target. This is what rifles are for.
While the debate on whether having an armed citizenry actually deters or defeats crime will rage on, as well as the debate over the proper meaning of the 2nd Amendment and how it should be understood and incorporated into 21st Century America, the real lesson learned/to be learned from the Mandalay Bay shooting is that armed self defense is useless as a response to this type of shooting. We can extrapolate that it would also be useless in a similarly designed terrorist attack. And make no mistake terrorist groups and potential terrorists, regardless of their ideology, doctrine, theology, dogma, and/or other motivation or group affiliation, will learn this lesson and potentially try to recreate this type of attack scenario.
What was more useful was self preservation and assisting others with surviving the assault. Getting out of the kill zone as quickly as possible or getting to effective cover was the best option for surviving the Mandalay Bay attack. And those willing to place themselves at risk to help others to do so were also more useful than anyone trying to shoot back. For instance, Jonathon Smith as just one example
* Edited for clarity: I initially entered the magazine capcities for full size not compact handguns and have subsequently corrected this.