The Problem of Collective Action

Joe Huffman has a great post on redefining the no-win situation:

I can only think of one course of action that would apply in most lone-gunman mass shooting cases: EVERYONE on the scene channel the inner Super Hero, Marine, mama grizzly, Todd Beamer, or whatever amps up their kill instincts to 11, and as a group do a mass “charge the ambush!” with the express intent of taking his screw-cap off, ripping off his arm and beating him to death with the bloody stump, or stopping him in any way possible.

A primary difference, I think, between this scenario, and Flight 93, was that the folks on Flight 93 had time to communicate with their fellow passengers and coordinate a response. In the movie theater shooting, there was no time for that, which I think is the problem with collective action in a situation where there’s no time to communicate and plan. I’m certainly not going to charge an armed man and just hope some people join in. I’d need to know at least a few other people are game.

But overall, I agree with Joe with this point, “This sort of training and mindset MUST start in the schools.” Recently a friend who is a schoolteacher was up visiting, and I was relatively appalled they do regular cower and hide drills in schools these days. I offered her some advice on what to do if someone actually does get into the classroom, but if the schools are going to prepare for the extremely remote possibility of mass shootings, passivity is not what they should be teaching. Passivity will get people killed.

14 thoughts on “The Problem of Collective Action”

  1. Ooo, don’t get me started on school response to active shooter scenarios.

  2. “But overall, I agree with Joe with this point, …”

    That wasn’t Joe — it was a guest post by Rolf.

  3. Note that the run, hide ideal is now official doctrine for Border Patrol agents as a response to an “active shooter” And at Virginia Tech, how if students had assisted their instructor in closing the door (he was killed) fewer might have died. Those who cowered under their desks were also killed. They gave up the greatest gift ever, their heartbeat, with no fight. I guess their lives were worthless to them.

  4. Another difference is that the passengers on flt 93 were facing certain death through inaction. As horrible a tragedy as this was, over 90% of the people in that theater survived. Certain individuals may have improved their odds by fighting, but for most people that probably wasn’t the case. Collective defensive aggression is the best outcome for the collective, but some individuals in that scenario would be increasing their chance of being killed. It is no surprise that people don’t instinctively jump on board with that plan.

    1. I think its a twist on the classic prisoner dilemmaI f people joined together they could stop a shooter, but they decrease their chances of survival. If they ran and separated, they increase their own chances but decrease the chances of everybody else.

      For me? I’d probably try to do something, but every time I enter a place I always run through in my mind what I’d do if someone walked in that moment and started shooting. Guess I’m weird that way.

  5. My kids were taught that THEY were responsible for their safety in a crisis – and if they thought leaving through a window during a school lockdown was possible and safer than staying put, to do so.

    They also knew that I would support them in a school self-defense situation, even if they ended up getting expelled for “fighting” by the school.

  6. People are going to do what their instinct tells them to do, no matter what you teach them in school.

    1. In kill or be killed situations people revert either to their instinctive fight, flight or freeze response- or to their training and/or a general predetermined intent.

      If this were not so then soldiers, police, and even minimally trained civilian gun owners would seldom or never win deadly encounters with their adversaries.

    1. Those who jump out of a plane do so because they enjoy the rush they get by fighting their survival instincts. But they fully expect to survive the jump and take a calculated risk.

      A better analogy to rushing a shooter would be jumping out of a plane with one of two identical packs, only one of which actually has a chute in it. Or playing Russian Roulette.

  7. While I don’t agree with the schools’ chosen course of action in the unlikely event of a murder/shooter scenario (cower and hide), I do believe it’s a step in the right direction to have a chosen course of action. These days it seems like there are more school shootings than there are school fires, but fire drills are mandatory. Around here the district officials are in permanent “It-won’t-happen-here” mode, despite it having had happened not too far. Acknowledging the possibility is the first step.

  8. There was no time to communicate when Jared Laughner started shooting in Arizona. Still the unarmed people took him down and disarmed him.

  9. I think that history shows that any kind of resistance against an active shooter has a good chance of stopping the attack. I wrote about this after another mass shooting incident last year, the Norway shootings:

    While the document I linked to is unfortunately gone, a survey of how the incidents ended indicated that resistance was successful 83% of the time, and that armed resistance was successful 100% of the time. It is a small sample, but I think it is a strong indicator that Joe Huffman is correct.

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