Will we run, hide or fight in wake of gun violence?

timestamp icon
category icon Editorials, Opinion

The horror of last weekend’s mass shootings in Texas and Ohio was still fresh when more than 400 Clark County school administrators gathered inside Camas’ Discovery High School Monday morning for an all-day emergency training summit.
In Room 267A, Clark County Sheriff’s Office deputies showed videos and played 911 calls from active threat situations in everyday places: a Subway sandwich shop, a high school courtyard, a veteran’s affairs office.
People have three phases of response to active threat situations, the deputies said: observe, orient and decide/act. It’s what is known as an OODA Loop. People will observe (people running away, a person holding a gun), orient where they are in the building or space relative to the incident and decide/act if they will run, hide or fight.
The lesson was about active school threats, but the OODA Loop is a good reminder of how we, as a nation, are reacting to what has been described by the American Medical Association as an epidemic of gun violence.
In the 21 years since Oregon experienced its own pre-Columbine school shooting at Thurston High School in Springfield, we have seen this OODA Loop take place hundreds of times.
People observe what’s happening — a young man just massacred 26 people at an elementary school; a man just brought 20 suitcases filled with guns into a Las Vegas hotel suite then shot hundreds of people attending a nearby outdoor concert, killing 59 and injuring 422; a man just posted an anti-immigrant rant online mimicking language heard by our own president and opened fire inside a Walmart, targeting Hispanic shoppers and killing 22 people, including a young mother and father trying to shield their newborn from the bullets.
Collectively, we try to orient ourselves to what’s happening. Is it in our hometown? Does it affect our families? Did we know anyone at that concert? What are our own politicians doing to stop this carnage?
And then we decide: Will we run, hide or fight?
Many will run or hide. They will try to ignore the creeping realization that these shootings could happen anywhere, to anyone, at any time, and that the myth that “all it takes to keep ourselves safe is more ‘good guys’ buying more guns” is a sickening lie that has pushed us deeper into a culture of violence.
Some people will fight. They’ll join groups like Moms Demand Action and show up at legislative town halls to grill people like our own state representative, Republican Brandon Vick, who was asked by a Moms Demand member at a 2018 Camas town hall about his thoughts on citizens having easy access to the types of military grade weapons used in most mass shootings.
His answer? “The next discussion usually goes to, ‘What’s an AR-15? Yada, yada, yada.’” Vick said. “For me, that’s the best technology 1956 has to offer, so, I mean, I don’t think banning (AR-15s) is the answer, either.”
He’s wrong, of course. Banning semi-automatic weapons is a valid solution to the types of insane mass shootings that have claimed the lives of 35 people in Texas, Ohio and California in just the past two weeks. This country used to have a federal assault weapons ban. Congress passed it in 1994 and President Bill Clinton signed it into law that same day. Ten years later, in 2004, President George W. Bush — a man who appointed 32 people with arms industry ties to his administration and took so much money from the gun manufacturers’ lobby that National Rifle Association leaders once quipped they were working out of the president’s office — let the ban lapse.
According to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the 10-year assault weapons ban “resulted in a marked decrease in the use of assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines in crime.” The number of mass shootings during the ban’s 10-year implementation fell by nearly 40 percent and the number of people killed in a mass shooting dropped by 43 percent.
“The fact is that the assault weapons ban worked,” U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein said in June. “Firearms like the AR-15 have become the mass shooter’s weapon of choice … Simply put, there is no reason why civilians need weapons like these. They’re not for protection and they’re not for hunting. They are weapons of war designed to take lives, and that’s why we need to reinstate the Assault Weapons Ban.”
We can observe what is happening. Americans own almost half of the 857 million civilian-owned guns in the world, but owning all these guns hasn’t made us safer. The only thing it’s done is help the gun manufacturers make record profits. We can observe our president calling immigrants “invaders” at his rallies. We can see and hear him laughing when someone at his rally suggests we deal with these “invaders” by shooting them. We can observe a young man who took those words to heart massacre Latino shoppers inside a Walmart.
Yes, we can observe. We can orient. But how will we as a society decide to act? As the deputies taught Clark County educators this week, sometimes running and hiding are not the best choices. In that case, we must fight.