This article was originally written for PoliceOne.com in February 2015.
Terrorist threats and attacks around the globe are increasing in scope and impact. The land of the free has not gone unscathed and is sure to face more attacks in the days to come.
Where will they strike next? How should we prepare? What can we do to help? These are questions that we should all consider as we take responsibility for the security of our families and our communities.
With a well-established supporting population and networks in the Middle East and Africa, Islamic fundamentalist extremists are taking over broad swaths of territory and changing the entire geopolitical landscape. Using bribes, force, threats, intimidation and fear they are kidnapping children, indiscriminately slaughtering people, setting fundamentalist religious mandates, targeting police and political leaders and taking control. Local authorities are either lacking in sufficient strength, will, or resources to fight this threat effectively.
Can that happen here in the US? Are terrorists coming across our borders or being grown right here at home? Are sleeper cells, suicide bombers, and widespread terror attacks a new reality to deal with?
I believe that these threats are here. The FBI reports that there are terrorist cells in almost every state. Surely people cannot be naïve enough to think that they mean us no harm. They are here to study, learn, and adapt to America and try to figure out how to hurt us the most.
There is also a shift in the thinking of these terror groups. The more militant ones have evolved in their methods of terror. Suicide bombs and bombers are giving way to firearms and targeted mayhem. They create panic, fear, and paralysis way out of proportion to the actual size of their organization.
What sort of targeted mayhem you may ask? Many theorize that schools, churches, and other centers of massed population will be their targets. Two to four people who do not care about whether they live or die can find their way into a tightly packed or crowded place and kill many people in minutes. Far more than a car bomb can.
They will strike at symbols of American might or things that strike fear in our hearts and will look for specific targets and the strength of police security or response. No school is prepared for well-armed terrorists coming in and slaughtering children. Right now most schools are highly resistant to the idea of training teachers or staff to use violence to stop any violence.
They will send well trained people. They will not want to waste them without gaining far more than they are giving up in terms of lives and money. They will adjust to blend in as well. More and more, we see a disturbing trend of American citizens traveling to terrorist countries, being indoctrinated, and then returning to America.
Keep in mind the call for terrorist violence against the Mall of America in MN. A “no guns” policy in a mall plays right into the hands of terrorists.
They will strike where police or security is lacking, weak, or ineffective. They may well attack in states or establishments where concealed carry is severely restricted so that they have one less variable to worry about. I am not thinking Montana or Texas is a likely destination spot to do this kind of destruction.
They will probably strike in large population centers. They will plan, train and rehearse for months before they strike. This is not some mentally troubled person who grabs some guns and ammo and decides to “kill some people before they check out”. They may do coordinated attacks with multiple groups at the same time to overwhelm the system. Above all, they are not concerned about negotiating. They are all about destruction- utter, absolute and final. No mercy, no quarter and no turning back once it is started. They are in it for the final resolution.
But, even if we know, being able to stop this type of threat would be very challenging. Many in law enforcement still focus on training for the traditional “random active shooter” who usually kill themselves when police arrive. They are unprepared for a “total war mindset” with an organized terrorist group that doesn’t care that the school is in “lockdown” or that a lone school resource officer is in the building or that the cops are coming on scene. They are planning for the cops to come. They are also planning how to deal with them.
A small group of terrorists can secure the outside of a school, mall, church or government building and hold off almost all armed response for enough time to kill most of the inhabitants of a given internal area. Most law enforcement are not of a counter assault mindset and tend to “contain the perimeter” until more help comes or possible negotiations are tried.
Terrorists are not going to shoot themselves after they have killed a large quantity of people and law enforcement shows up. They will fight, ambush, target and kill law enforcement and first responders; this type of attack represents a huge shift in thinking that people must deal with.
What is required is a 180 degree shift in mindset. The public, law enforcement, and CCW holders need to prepare for when, not if, it happens and what they need to do to stop it. It requires a total effort by society to root out this evil and not allow it to move forward. Law enforcement and individuals need to start preparing for these things and doing active shooter training with a terrorist attack in mind. That means adequate force and a proactive mindset.
You may find yourself facing someone armed with a long gun and plenty of ammo who is not afraid of you. For the fighters who are willing and able to protect society; both on and off duty, vigilance and readiness are words to live by. You will need more advanced training and preparation to take the fight to trained fighters and win. Pay for it out of your own pocket if necessary.
I see the need for armed Americans to prepare. And this is where America, more than any other country on earth, has a huge advantage in terms of response. We believe in and exercise our Second Amendment rights. CCW carriers can play an important part in this total response package. Many in law enforcement and elsewhere might disagree and want to cite all the potential problems with friendly fire and identification and improper training or mindset; however, this is where we can have many more armed citizens taking part in defense and it is an important resource that should not be ignored or discounted.
The problem is, most CCW carriers are woefully unprepared both as to the type of gun and gear they carry and the training they have received to get their carry permit. For the CCW carriers that are willing to take the fight to the enemy, it means getting training with this mission in mind. Your one-day CCW certification programs are not much more than “feel good, rubber stamp” programs and will not cut it.
However, having someone there may just save the day. Law enforcement alone cannot successfully be everywhere a threat emerges on time to stop it with minimum loss of life.
The bottom line is, prepare now and be ready. Don’t get ready after the fact. It will take the utmost diligence, sacrifice, and vigilance to prevent or stop the coming terrorist attacks.
-Ron Avery, Co-Founder