On August 5, 2015, we were damn lucky.

A homeless man with a history of mental health problems came to the Hickory 8 movie theater in Antioch seeking his fifteen minutes of fame. Armed with an ax, pepper spray and what turned out to be a realistic looking fake gun, he attacked patrons inside one of the small theaters, wounding one with the ax and two with pepper spray.

Everyone inside managed to get out of theater quickly and two of them ran to police officers working a traffic accident on Bell Road, according to an official release. The officers called for backup and ran to the theater. Metro Nashville Police spokesperson Don Aaron said by email that their response time was within three minutes.

One of the first on scene entered the theater from a side door and was immediately confronted by the man firing what sounded like a small caliber pistol. He got lucky—the bullets that hit his face were of the airsoft kind. Contained to the theater by the first responders until SWAT arrived, and in possession of a lighter, an accelerant, chemical sprays and a propane canister, he met his maker when he ran out the back door after engaging the SWAT with the fake gun and sprays inside.

He reportedly had dozens of bullet wounds from his encounter, the majority of them when he ran out of the theater with the ax and what looked like knapsack that was suspected to be an improvised bomb. They weren't going to take a chance that it might explode amongst them or the ice skating rink full of kids next door, and they cut him down as a result.

That last information comes from a source I trust. The source also told me that the responders had never been more scared in their lives. All the training in the world doesn't prepare you for the realities of an active shooter scenario. Next time you get pulled over for a minor traffic violation, thank your ticket writer for helping to keep you safe. I don't want their job.

Antioch could easily have been Orlando. All that was missing were more patrons (especially children who go to the daytime movies in summer after ice skating), a real firearm, and a less timely response from the police. The release states that the Antioch attacker waited in the theater with two other patrons for a few minutes and only began attacking when more came in. He probably was very mentally ill and in need of treatment, but he was also potentially ready to kill.

Now don't get me wrong. Our Metro police are fantastic when responding to shooting calls but under three minutes is probably not the norm. Nashville and most major cities with large LGBTQ communities are just too big for that quick of a response. We need to ask an important question, especially in the wake of the Orlando killings:

Should LGBTQ-nation begin carrying legally-permitted concealed weapons?

MNPD spokesperson Kristen Mumford was asked by email how the department felt about civilians carrying concealed weapons in public, and the rush among some to get a permit to begin carrying.  "We do not advocate for or against. This is a personal choice, a personal decision,” was her reply. MNPD tends to stay out of these kinds of politics anyway (good for them!), but I wouldn't want to step in that hornet’s nest either.

My father, the former Green Beret and life-long gun nut, sat me down once when I was a teenager and gave me some practical advice about carrying a firearm. Simply put, don't carry one.

“Why carry a gun when you can easily run away from most trouble,” my dad said. “G-d gave you legs for a reason. Use them and get the hell out of there! The weight of a firearm just slows you down.” Unlike Rambo, real Green Berets do not engage in a stand-up fight unless the odds are clearly in their favor. They will avoid any unnecessary combat if the situation is not right. You get in shape to penetrate deep into the heart of the enemy—or to run far, far away if the situation ever hits the fan.

I guarantee you that in the overwhelming number of active shooter scenarios you can imagine yourself being involved in as a civilian with a firearm, almost none will have the odds in your favor if a shooter has the jump on you. Only the truly paranoid person keeps an active watch for the next potential killer 24/7. We're not paid to do that, the police are. Consequently, the odds will never be in your favor.

Ok, I hear some of you: Just ban or restrict access to guns. I share your passion, but respectfully posit that any real attempt to completely ban or restrict firearms will meet the same fate as the Hindenburg. The gun nuts won this battle back in 1776 and any serious effort to repeal the Second Amendment will quickly come to naught. Besides the obviously scary precedent of opening up one of the original Bill of Rights amendments for adjustment (why not that free speech one?), we are a nation chock-full of gun nuts and that's never going to change appreciably, at least in this part of the country. The United States and modern Israel are the two nations on the planet that were primarily founded by a religiously-motivated armed citizenry. It is a proud, sad and scary heritage. We can attempt to restrict as best we can, but there will always be more firearms than people in our culture. America loves its guns...consequences be damned.

You can find the type of firearm the Orlando killer possessed at your local gun show or on the Dark Internet. You can convert most modern firearms to fire at high rates of discharge quite quickly with easily obtainable conversion kits. I know how - it's not hard (I trained as a gunsmith in military school).

The handgun you will probably carry if you choose to go that route will be no match for someone with the jump on you and in possession of a lead-spitting garden hose. Nor is it hard to slap together an improvised device to take out as many people in an enclosed area as possible. A propane canister, lighter and someone who doesn't care about his own life very much fits the bill. Carrying a weapon does not protect you from a bomb. It is sadly not too hard for someone to hurt any of us if they really wanted to. This is the price we pay for living in a free society. It can sometimes be a steep price indeed.

Let us suppose you are fully trained and familiar with firearms and gun safety. Should you carry? Think about what the police had to deal with in Antioch last August.

These folks were trained professionals, but had a devil of a time dealing with one potential killer inside a darkened room reeking of chemical spray. They fired dozens and dozens of rounds inside the room before the dude was finally taken down outside. I would not want that job, neither should you.

The best approach in my opinion for an Orlando situation is to always keep the exits in mind. Just look for the fire exit signs. Anyone who has ever gone through a formal “what to do if terror strikes” class instinctively looks for all the doors in any room they walk into from then on. I was taught this as a young kid while stationed overseas; I still do this today. If you can't flee, hit the ground or find a place to hide. If your life is at stake, rush the dude. All this is what real soldiers are taught. The key is to not panic. I was asked in my brief training how would an off-duty Navy Seal handle an encounter with terror? Panic or find a way out? I know how Seals work. The one thing they don't do is panic. Easier said than done, I know. But if you begin to mentally factor all this into your daily routine, you stand a better than average chance of surviving an encounter with evil without ever having to carry a firearm.

How would I react in an Orlando situation? I can honestly say I would fight. I was raped once and I will never willingly submit to violence again, at the cost of my life if necessary. But I would never place anyone else in jeopardy because of how I feel. My position is driven by emotion, not common sense. But when you carry a weapon, you have the potential to put innocent life in jeopardy too. Think about it. You could miss and hit an innocent. SWAT teams are specifically trained to wait until the moment is right before taking that shot, and usually after a thorough reconnaissance and long negotiations to get someone to surrender or put themselves in a clear shooting position. My undesired one-on-one only fight would involve a chair, never a firearm. A chair bashes in a skull quite nicely, thank you. Without collateral damage to another human.

If you must carry something, pepper spray works just fine and is legal to carry under most circumstances. Tasers are another option, but they can kill too. Just ask the police.

If you must carry a firearm, please get real training, please get licensed if you wish to conceal, please think before you ever act. And please reconsider the whole idea. I do not feel safer when you carry, and I am not the only one. I feel much safer when we pay for more trained police officers who know what they are doing and have quick response times.

The folks in blue came out to Nashville's vigil for Orlando and promised to protect us.

I believe them. I hope you will too.

 

Julie Chase is the pen name for a local 40-something trans woman. A graduate of The University of the South at Sewanee, she loves butterflies, strong women and the Austrian School of Economics.


 

 

 

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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