Fear and Loathing in the US: Active Shooters & Terrorism.

Craig Gray (me) Teaching an Active Shooter Defense Training Seminar in Grand Rapids, MI - USA

Brussels attacks: Zaventem and Maelbeek bombs kill many

More than 30 people are believed to have been killed and dozens injured in attacks at Brussels international airport and a city metro station.

Twin blasts hit Zaventem airport at about 07:00 GMT, with 11 people reported killed.
Another explosion struck Maelbeek metro station near EU headquarters an hour later, leaving about 20 people dead.

BBC News Report 3/22/2016

A Day After the San Bernardino Shooting

A man and a woman shot and killed 14 people at a social-services center in California on Wednesday, Dec. 2nd 2015.

The shooters have been identified by police as 28-year-old Syed Rizwan Farook and 27-year-old Tashfeen Malik. The married couple who killed 14 people and wounded 21 others at a social-services center in San Bernardino, California, fired up to 75 rounds in the attack, left behind three pipe bombs that had been rigged together, and had thousands of rounds of ammunition on them and at their home, officials said.

Authorities discovered more than 3,000 rounds of ammunition, as well as 12 pipe bombs, and other tools, he said.

“There was obviously a mission here,” David Bowdich, assistant director of the FBI’s Los Angeles office, said at the news briefing. 

~The Atlantic 


Active shooters and terrorist attacks are both hot topics in today's media and our minds. This past Sunday I just taught an Active Shooter/Terrorist Attack defense seminar. We had about 40 people which is about double our usual seminar attendance http://www.roninempowermentgroup.com/seminars-workshops/.  Are people are looking for answers or do they seek something else?

If you pay attention to the news and listen to much of the talk about the violence in the world it's easy to get a bit paranoid and freaked out. Yes, terrorism and active shooting events are horrible and seem to be on the rise, but what does that really mean for you, your loved ones, your business, your life? 

The numbers vary regarding the likelihood of being involved in a terrorist or active shooting attack. Ranging from a 1 in 1.5 million chance to upwards of a 1 in 40 million chance of being involved in one of these terrifying incidents, one thing is clear, the chances are very slim. So why do we focus on it and worry about it so much? Why are we so reactive? Why the panic? Why do we spend so much of our emotional energy on it, when most of us are much more likely to die in a car crash, but we drive multiple times a day and don't vex over the between 1 in 5000 chance to 1 in 40,000 chance of being killed in a car wreck?

Regardless of the exact stats, the chances are more likely that you will be taken out by disease or a car accident, rather than an active shooter or terrorist. 

According to an article written by the Philly News: Psychologist Judy Beck, says that we start out with an unrealistic view of the world - the belief that we're safe all the time.

"Most of us go around with a myth that we're pretty invulnerable - that things like car accidents and crime aren't going to happen to us," says Beck, director of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy.

"When something like this happens, we completely flip to thinking we're completely vulnerable."

In other words, we go from an unrealistic sense of security to an unrealistic sense of danger. We're not grounded in reality from the start.

One reason, says Beck, is that we're brought up to believe that if we play it smart, we'll be OK. "A lot of people have the notion that if they lead good lives, good things should happen to them," says Beck.

We often say that the victim of random violence was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. But the problem, says criminal-justice professor Jack Greene, is that we really don't know where the right place is.

You know you can cut your risk, for example, by not using ATMs at night, he says. But how can you assess the risk of loading groceries into you car in a suburban supermarket parking lot?

"All of a sudden you put this overlay of randomness," on your risk assessment, says Greene, a researcher at Temple University. "We have no way as a society to predict these things. As much as people think they have control over their lives, there's still this random card out there, and it inspires fear in people."

Our sense of the social order, and our belief that we can control it, "dissolves in an instant when something like this happens," says Greene. "It throws us all back together in our primal vulnerability."

~Philly News

Sometimes even stranger things happen and lightening can strike twice! What are the odds of something like this happening?

Woman who survived Toronto shooting only to be killed in 'Dark Knight' rampage mourned

Jessica Ghawi, 24, was among 12 people shot dead early Friday morning when gunfire erupted at a midnight screening of Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colo.

However, fate works both ways:

Talk about lucky! Man wins lottery twice in one day

  USA Today, Dec. 4, 2012

Meadows won $1,000 on the first try, so he decided to play again.

"He bought the last three and the third one that was the $10 million," 


Call it destiny, luck, karma, the will of the universe, an act of God, a miracle, whatever. Sometimes shit just happens. Sometimes it's good and other times not so much. 

When it comes to the bad stuff, overall people want to feel:
  • Safe
  • A Sense of Power
  • A Sense of Control
  • A Sense of Order & Predictability

If we don't feel this way, we tend to become anxious and emotional until we can reestablish some equilibrium regarding our psychological / emotional state.

One of the things that I noticed when spending time in Israel, where terrorist attacks are much more prevalent than here in the U.S. (some sources say that there are times where attempted terrorist attacks can range from dozens to over fifty per day) that people adapt and "get used to it." 

Getting "used to it" doesn't mean liking it, agreeing with it, not doing anything about it, being naive or overly idealistic. Quite the contrary. It is simply not letting it shake you so deeply that you live in fear and become less effective at dealing with the situation. 

Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl had many wise words and among them is this quote about choice:

Have a healthy attitude, prepare, get good training, have a plan, maintain and sustain, be ready to do what you can when you can, but also breathe, relax and have faith. Live a life that is complete everyday because none of us are going to be here forever. Make sure to show those you care about how much you love them. Strive for most good / least harm for everyone in everything that you do as best as you can.  Try to leave this world a little better than you left it. Make decisions that you can live with. Live a life worth living, so, when the time comes where you or someone you care about is taken from this earth you can have some sense of closure and be as good with things as one can be. 

During March's seminar we discussed having the proper attitude, awareness and ability to act:

  • You are a Protector, a Survivor
  • Use Conflict as an Opportunity
  • Protect Life
  • Don't Act Like a Victim
  • Set the Pace
  • Be a Leader
  • Make Decisions that You Can Live With
  • Prepare
  • Train
  • Live an Empowered Life
  • Don't Let Fear Control You


Yourself: Understand your current emotional state, your skills, your strengths, your weaknesses, your tools.

Potential Threats & The Environment: Although we can talk about many things here, the main thing when it comes to violence like this, look for things that just "aren't right." Details that seem out of place or don't fit. And as Gavin Debecker author of The Gift of Fear says, "Listen to your gut, your intuition."

  • Why is that guy wearing a bulky jacket in the middle of the summer? 
  • What are those wires sticking out of that persons pocket?
  • Why is that car is parked in a place it shouldn't be. 
  • That woman looks nervous, she keeps looking around her and checking her pocket.
  • Why would someone leave a backpack there?
  • Why is this guy hanging around this area so much?
  • My coworker told me that I better "watch my back." 
  • I saw on my employees internet history that he was googling how to make bombs.
  • A student hasn't been treating others respectfully. He keeps putting everyone down.


A terrorist or active shooter event is a overwhelming and extreme situation: Do the best you can and be good with your choices.

Appropriate Action could be any one of a million things depending on the totality of the circumstance. Basically, do the right thing at the right time for the right reason. Most good / least harm. Whatever choice you make be good with it (as much as humanly possible). If you choose to round up as many people as you can to escape, or simply flee alone, be good with that. If you have the chance to tackle the gunman because he's right next to you as he opens fire on the unsuspecting crowd, and you decide to do that to save others lives, then commit completely and the rest is in fates hands. If you hear explosions limiting your escape and there's gun fire in the hall adjacent to your room; maybe locking the door, barricading the entrance, and escaping out a window would save you and the others in the room? Maybe that's not an option - the window is on the 5th floor, the window is too small or nonexistent... then locking, barricading and turning out the lights waiting to surprise and jump the threat when he tries to enter the room, may be your best chance to survive. 

Whatever you do, be good with your decision. No matter how it turns out, be confident that you are making the best decision you can at the time under the circumstance. Regrets are hard to live with, so it's best to clarify as much as you can before the situation occurs. Remember, fire drills are only effective when people do them before the emergency happens. As Gary Klugiewicz, Director of the Verbal Defense & Influence says, "We call them fire drills, not fire talks, because we have to train them, not just talk about them." Talking about what you would do is different than physically training.

Two attendee's at the March 20th seminar (Tim & John Walker) noted that we advocated the following strategic choices when it came to being caught in an active shooter or terrorist event: 

Away: Get away if you can and choose to.

Attack: If given the chance by circumstance and proximity (and you choose to), then aggressively take the fight to the threat.

Ambush: If you cannot (or choose not to) get away and cannot immediately attack, then find cover and take a position to prepare to overtake the threat by surprise via barricading and ambushing. 

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

~Benjamin Franklin 

Prevention and early detection is preferable to having to deal with an event that is in progress, but sometimes things happen in life that we didn't want or expect and we just have to deal with it the best we can. Even with training and trying to do all of the right things, we get caught in situations that can be overwhelming and don't always turn out perfect. I often say, "sucks or sucks worse." 
Friend, IDF Major and counter terrorism expert Elliot Chodoff says, "Most people don't have a problem when making a choice that is good vs, bad, they struggle with making the choice between bad vs. worse." 

When I think about situations like these, whatever it may be, the serenity prayer is something that comes to my mind.

No, this is not my tattoo. I like the prayer, but...

I don't know about you, but this is why I train, not just to have a plan, but to not live in fear. I do this so that I have the clarity and strength enough to be more loving, kind, flexible, resilient, happy, optimistic, yet realistic in my life. So, I can see the good in people, even when I have to deal with all of the bad. So, whenever I am in a tight situation where good, hard decisions need to be made in an instant, I have a better chance to make the right choice. The one that saves lives, even if that means taking another. Not out of hate, but because there were no other options left based on the persons behavior. To stand up for and protect people who can't protect themselves. To love my enemy even if I have to remove them from this earth. So that I have less regret and a better life. To LIVE, PROTECT & INSPIRE until my time comes to an end.

Where ever you go everyone is a little safer because you are there.
Where ever you are someone in need has a friend.
When ever you come home everyone is glad that you are there.

It's a better life.

~Robert Humphrey

Keep going,


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