Preparation to Stop a Mass Shooter
An Interview with Marty Hayes
Interview by Gila Hayes
These days, armed citizens have a lot of options for training, and one question arising frequently asks, with so many choices, where should we focus our time and money. Some say, develop close quarter fighting skills to fend off an up close and personal assault; others, like John Farnam in last month’s lead interview, note that with terrorism now occurring on U.S. soil, we need greater accuracy for smaller targets at longer distances. Armed citizens aren’t sure how to prioritize. In this month’s interview, we ask this and related questions of a man who wears two hats: Marty Hayes, president of the Network and director of his long-established training operation, The Firearms Academy of Seattle, Inc. We switch now to our interview Q & A format.
eJournal: Just last year, at your training business, you introduced a class to hone skills that may be needed if one is caught up in a mass shooting event. Arguably, a mass shooting event is much less likely than being targeted for a home invasion, car jacking, robbery or sexual assault, to name only a few. Why this focus?
Hayes: At the Academy, we have a saying: We don’t train for the average, we train for the anomaly. The average self-defense incident is typically a pretty basic situation: The display of a gun or the use of a gun in a close range, interpersonal situation solves most problems pretty quickly and easily, and then we only have to deal with the legal and perhaps psychological and medical aftermath. Frankly, most self-defense shootings are pretty simple affairs.
eJournal: By simple, do you mean the skills required?
Hayes: Yes, the shooting aspect is pretty simple. I live in Washington State where the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission has a very good police training program. I tell people that we Washington cops don’t lose gunfights. I can’t remember an incident where the police lost the battle after exchanging shots with a bad guy or two or three. In WA, and I think probably many other states, we lose the battle when our police officers are ambushed or they put themselves in the wrong position or it is a tactical failure, but the actual shooting is a pretty simple affair.
Because I come from that Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission instructional doctrine, I’ve patterned our curriculum at the Academy to basically follow the police training model.
Having said that, I also know there are times when a shooting situation can be extremely difficult. For example, in our Active Shooter Interdiction Course, we are fortunate to have the instruction of Staff Sergeant Andy Brown, USAF, Ret., the Fairchild Air Force Base Security patrolman who back in 1994 interdicted and killed the mentally deranged shooter at Fairchild Air Force Base. This individual, a former airman himself, had been discharged, then came back and took out his hatred on the psychological and medical staff at the hospital.
Well, Andy had to interdict that individual with his Beretta M9 and the investigation shows that he shot that individual from 70 yards away. Well, that is the anomaly, but that is what we train for here at The Firearms Academy of Seattle. We want our students to be able to handle just about anything that life gives them–whether it is an easy five-yard affair where they have to shoot someone a couple of times and the person falls down or whether it’s an active killer 79 yards away.
eJournal: That spotlights one of the difficult aspects in a mass killing spree, and that is the distances generally involved. Look back to some of the mall shootings, for example, where long shots to stop a mass shooter could be made from balconies or mezzanine levels, as well as down long corridors. When training armed citizens for extraordinary situations, what distances do you consider reasonable?
Hayes: Any competent self-defense practitioner should be able to engage and hit human-sized targets at 50 yards. When I grew up in police work, it was standard procedure to take your 4-inch .38 or .357 revolver and shoot a passing qualification score on the PPC course with 24 of the 60 rounds being fired at 50 yards. That has been lost to the current generation of shooting instructors, but that is unfortunate because now we are seeing many, many, many instances where shots need to be taken at 10, 20 or 25 yards and even more, as was true in Brown’s case.
eJournal: A four-inch barreled service revolver is no miniaturized pocket gun and is of a size that many today would consider too bulky for daily carry concealed. The sub-two-inch barreled ultra-compact pistol in deep concealment may not be up to the task of 50-yard shots.
Hayes: Our training exposes the student to a myriad of shooting problems: multiple shots, shots in the dark, or in our active shooter interdiction course, 50-yard shots. If their gear isn’t up to it, they quickly find that out. I do not have to advise them to get XYZ gun or XYZ ammo. They figure it out themselves when their gear isn’t cutting it.
eJournal: You mentioned multiple shots; you mentioned shooting in the dark; and in real life people move–the citizen defender may need to move and the attacker will nearly certainly be moving. Doesn’t that raise other challenges?
Hayes: Let’s take a look at the Aurora, Colorado movie shooting. Holmes was up on stage shooting people. If someone in the audience was armed with a service-sized weapon–I’m talking about a Glock 19 or a Combat Commander with a 4 ¼-inch barrel–that would have been a perfect situation to take that guy out, right now. In a movie theater, you have distances of 20 yards or so–you have to be close enough to see the movie screen–and yes, it is in the dark, but Holmes was lit up. I am sure there was some light there, you could get a sight picture and take the guy out, or as many people do now, you could have a laser on your gun, and you could have used a laser to aim and take the shot.
Another attack in darkness was the nightclub shooting a year ago in Florida. It has been a while since I was in a nightclub, but they are dim with flashing lights. If some guy starts walking around shooting people, everyone is going to dive for cover except for the guy shooting, which means you have a clear shot at the guy. Get to cover yourself, roll over and shoot the guy multiple times until he quits killing other people.
eJournal: Are you a proponent of shooting while moving or getting into cover then shooting?
Hayes: Be skilled in all methods of engaging targets, whether that is a moving target and you are stationary, whether the target is stationary and you are moving, or when both are moving. In a few days, I’m putting on an IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Assn.) stage where you have to engage a target that is moving one direction while you are moving in an opposite direction. That is what we train to do here–we train to do anything that is demanded of you within the limits of the weapon, meaning a service-sized weapon that is still concealable.
eJournal: It has been said that most guns are capable of greater accuracy than most shooters can accomplish. Is that true?
Hayes: [long pause] Well, I hesitate to answer because it sounds so arrogant, but I think I am capable of wringing out the most accuracy my guns can offer. I also know the average person doesn’t have the ability to make 50-yard shots with their pistols, not because the guns are not capable, but because they have not trained themselves to do that. Frankly, 50 yards is not that far away. We routinely shoot targets at 100 yards with pistols, just to show people that you can do it.
eJournal: There’s truth in Dirty Harry’s line, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” How does the average armed citizen judge his or her individual limitations to make a realistic assessment of whether to take a long shot on a small or moving target?
Hayes: The armed citizen should take a very sincere look at their skills and at the problems they are likely to face and make an honest assessment about whether their skills and equipment are going to be able to solve those problems. Can you solve an Aurora, CO movie theater shooting? Can you solve a San Bernardino Christmas party active killer attack where one of your coworkers decides to come in and kill people? Unless you’ve trained to meet that challenge then you have got to say, “No, I am going to run away or I am going to cower in fear, and maybe if they come around the corner, I will have to shoot them.”
I am just not built that way. I would not want to live the rest of my life thinking that I had the ability to train myself to meet these threats out in our world where there’s all these active shooting incidents going on, if I was not carrying the type of weaponry or I didn’t have the skills to solve it. I am not going to want to meet my Maker knowing that somebody died that I could have stepped in without risking a whole lot of my personal safety–every time you do something like that, there is risk involved, and I am not certainly looking at throwing my life away to save other people–but if I can interdict that individual and still go home that night then that is what I am going to do. That is what we need to be able to train ourselves to accomplish.
eJournal: On the flip side, we don’t want to be called upon to explain that we killed or injured innocents by recklessly attempting to shoot outside our abilities.
Hayes: It is a lot like police officers in the initial training they get, followed by additional in-service training. Police typically get 40 to 80 hours of firearms training when they first become officers. Then they will train three or four times a year at their department and for the most part, they are pretty well able to handle threats on the street, but cops also have SWAT teams that they can call when an incident becomes more than what an average patrol officer can handle.
Well, armed citizens don’t have SWAT teams. We have to call the police, and you know that the police aren’t going to get there in time, so while I am not talking about running around with body armor on–although maybe that is not a bad idea under certain circumstances–we have to be our own SWAT team. Have the skills and abilities to be able to take out a bank robber who has already shot two other people and is now holding somebody hostage. Have the skills and abilities to make that moving shot in the dark when someone is trying to drag off your child into a parked car.
eJournal: Beyond simple physical skills with weapons, the willingness to engage and fight is required. Just this year, there have been several books (Surviving a Mass Killer Rampage, by author Chris Bird) or chapters in books (Ron Borsch’s chapter in Straight Talk on Armed Defense, edited by Massad Ayoob) discussing citizen defenders stopping mass killings. In those works, overwhelmingly the majority of interdictions was simply physical counter-attack without firearms. Most of these situations arise where law-abiding people are prohibited from being armed, but even so, you have to be impressed with the courage these men and women showed going up against a gun with just physical force. Do you address the mental preparation to face mass killers?
Hayes: Probably not as much as I should! I can recall being faced with this decision when I got into police work back in the mid-70s: could I kill another human being to save myself or someone else? I had to come to the conclusion that yes, I could do that. Then, we practiced doing that, so that if you had to use deadly force, you wouldn’t have to make the decision, “could I do this?” You had made the decision, so the question was, “how do I do this?” because you’ve pre-planned it, you’ve already decided, “I am going to go into harm’s way if necessary to stop this individual. I can take a human life.”
Has the armed citizen really thought that through and decided, “Yes, I can take a human life, if that’s done to save mine or someone else’s?” That is really the mental preparation that needs to be done. Everything else is really just practicing how to do it best.
eJournal: In order to practice that, we probably ought to get off the standard shooting range and engage in force-on-force or role-play based training. How much emphasis do you put on scenario-based training?
Hayes: That is a big part of it. Back in the 70s and early 80s when I was training to be a police officer we did a block of instruction called mock scenes. You were put into felony car stops, random car stops, searching for burglars, and these sorts of things and you practiced the tactical lessons you’d been taught in the classroom. You made your mistakes and you got “killed” with the blank rounds. At the time, we didn’t have anything with projectiles like Simunition® or airsoft so we just used blanks and the sergeant said, “You’re dead” and you said, “OK, I was caught unaware” and did better the next time.
That is the type of training you need to do, but you have to be very careful selecting where you go and with whom you train. I am not aware of a lot of really good trainers who have their act together. Craig Douglas, aka South Narc, does a very good class titled Managing Unknown Contacts, and Karl Rehn from KR Training in Texas, one of our first Network Affiliated Instructors, puts on a very good program using airsoft to teach these lessons for armed citizens. The Firearms Academy does, too, of course.
eJournal: Do you worry about incompetent force-on-force giving students the idea they should act in a wrong way? Why do you say there are good instructors and not-so-good instructors?
Hayes: Let’s take, for instance, your typical building search. A police or SWAT officer faced with a mock scenes building search, has to go in and interdict and either kill or arrest the guy in the building. That is their job. If your civilian use of force is similar, that is really bad training for you. It might be fun, it might give a look into the mind of a police or military operator, but the fact of the matter is if you are a private citizen doing a building search, the first thing you should do is leave if you find any evidence that someone who doesn’t belong is in the building.
That is what we train here at the Academy. We do building searches not to find and kill the burglar, but to make sure that if we do find someone, we get out of there alive. We call the police, we set up a perimeter, and we let the police send their dog and SWAT team in to root the guy out. We don’t do it ourselves. That is what I am saying about the trainers. Frankly, not that many people are doing high-level training. It takes a well-established training organization to do that.
For example, the National Rifle Association has a huge array of courses for the armed citizen, but as far as I know, they don’t do force-on-force and they have been in the business since the1800s! There are very few institutions out there that do force-on-force training.
eJournal: Applying force-on-force lessons to preparation to stop a mass shooter, what choices might an armed citizen make that would be incorrect from a legal issues viewpoint?
Hayes: I am not too worried about going to jail as a result of the interdiction of a mass killer, as long as we interdict him after he has already started killing people. You’re pretty much going to have a very sympathetic criminal justice system if you take your lawfully owned pistol and shoot and kill a mass killer. If you damage somebody else, even that is probably going to be forgiven. If you don’t assess the situation properly, that is when you find yourself in a lot of legal hassle.
eJournal: Can you give an example?
Hayes: An example could be based on the Stockton schoolyard shooting back in 1989. What if you’d seen a guy come walking down the street in camouflage BDUs with an AK-47 strapped across his shoulders? You might pull your pistol out and demand he drop the gun. If you did that, you might instigate a shooting and end up killing a kid. Then, you might end up having some legal problems, because no one could be 100% sure yet that the guy was actually a mass murderer.
A decision I have made in my own mind is that I am not going to get involved in a public incident, say one of these typical mass shooting incidents, unless I already know first hand that innocent life has been lost. If I see him killing people, I am free to take him out.
eJournal: So someone yelling, “The guy in the red plaid shirt killed them,” is not enough?
Hayes: Exactly! If you don’t see it, you don’t even go in and interact with them. You sit back and you call police if you are concerned, and you say, “Listen, I am here in Stockton next to the elementary school, and a guy wearing cammies is here carrying an AK-47. I think he might mean to harm the children on the playground. Come now and bring SWAT!”
eJournal: That brings up concerns about police or others coming into the scene after you’re already engaging the active killer with gunfire. It’s not the classic blue-on-blue shooting, but there is great potential for the legally armed citizen to be misidentified, either by police or by another armed citizens. How can one mitigate that peril?
Hayes: After I shot the guy, I would be yelling at the top of my lungs, “Somebody call the police! Everybody, stay back! Call the police!” so I am identifying myself as the good guy by calling for the police. I know that if I come across someone with a gun who is yelling, “Call the police! Call the police!” and someone else is down, I’m going to figure the guy yelling is the good guy. I’m still going to be wary of him, but I don’t know too many criminals that call the police. I guess I’m not too worried about being shot. How many instances have we seen where armed citizens have killed or stopped a mass shooting?
eJournal: From what I can find, most take downs by private citizens are accomplished purely through physical force, but having said that, we must acknowledge Jeanne Assam’s New Life Church shooting, or, better yet, there’s a great example Chris Bird wrote about in Surviving a Mass Killer Rampage. That was Vic Stacy’s 57-yard revolver shot when a neighborhood dispute flared up and another man shot his neighbors and their dogs with a pistol, then leveled a .30-30 Marlin at Mr. Stacy when he tried to stop the killings.
It would have been terribly easy for police dispatched to a shooting in the trailer park to think Mr. Stacy was the murderer, and in fact, he was ordered to drop the gun and go prone on the hot gravel, according to Chris Bird’s account. When you prepare students to live through the aftermath, is your focus on verbalization? What else?
Hayes: Assuming that the killer has been stopped, then we also need to be calling the police, not just waiting for the other people at the scene to call. You need to call the police and say, “Listen, I just had to shoot a guy that was shooting up a trailer park. This is who I am, this is my description, and I am standing by the red Ford truck. I do not have a gun in my hand. Don’t shoot me!”
eJournal: I need to pass along a common question that members have been asking: what if, through auditory exclusion, a very noisy scene, or other issues, we fail to hear police arrive on the scene or fail to hear orders to drop the gun, or are still shooting. You’d be surprised how many have expressed that fear in the wake of notorious situations like the Florida airport shooting, for example. What’s your response?
Hayes: We tell students that the most dangerous part of this armed encounter is when you have to engage the bad guy and shoot him. The second most dangerous part is when police show up. If you have your gun in your hand, you are about two pounds on a four-pound trigger away from being shot by the responding officers.
You must make sure that your gun is put away, whether that is back in its holster, whether that is on top of the truck roof, and that your arms are straight up and fingers spread and you must make sure the officer knows you are the one who called.
eJournal: In your class exercises, do you continue the role-play after the shooting, to give practice doing all that? If we don’t practice carefully looking around and scanning, moving to better cover, watching for the first responders, we really should not think we’re going to remember in real life to do anything except stand there in shock gripping a gun. What strategies can we practice to increase our safety in the immediate aftermath?
Hayes: Yes, in one of our courses, we do a role-play in which the student pretends to call 9-1-1 and a cop shows up immediately. The student typically still has a gun in hand, and the cop tells him to drop the gun and the student better be dropping the gun. We’ve shot the student with airsoft sometimes, because they don’t comply with police. You must not have that gun in your hand and look like a threat to police when they arrive on the scene. The good news is that police usually announce themselves real well with loud sirens and flashing blue lights, so it is unlikely you are not going to know they are coming.
eJournal: To what degree, if any, are you concerned about one armed citizen shooting another?
Hayes: That is a huge part of our role-play training! Typically, we’ll set up a situation where the student is an armed citizen good guy and decides to pull a gun. Well, guess what? When he pulls out a gun, everybody else in that scenario that brought a gun wants to pull out theirs, too. It can get pretty confusing when you pull out a gun in public. We are not saying, don’t do it, but we are saying be ready for the confusion and have a plan about how to handle it.
Don’t pull a gun out when you don’t need to. Don’t pull a gun out just to stop something that you THINK might occur–like a potential robbery. Unless blood has already been shed, I don’t get involved in unknown situations. I walk away. A store clerk who is about to be robbed had the right to carry a gun. They didn’t have to work as a gas station attendant without being armed.
When I was a very, very young man, in my early 20s, I took a nighttime gas station job. I was making five bucks an hour, midnight to 8 a.m. Guess what? I had a gun with me. Nobody knew it. The manager didn’t know. It came into the store in my lunch box and it left in my lunch box. When I was there all alone, it was accessible to me. No one ever knew that I had a gun, but I did because I knew that I was working in a dangerous situation and I wanted to make sure that I was armed.
If the manager had found out would I have been fired? Sure! But it was a five buck an hour job! Give me a break!
eJournal: How bad you think you need the job probably depends on how hungry you or your children are, but getting back to your original comment, should we not be held accountable for protecting strangers?
Hayes: No, you don’t have to do that. I need to take care of myself and the people I’ve promised to take care of and that is all. Over and above that, I may feel a compulsion to get involved when people are actively being killed, but there is a whole lot of grey area between that and jumping in where you really do not have any business jumping in. If I am in a bank and somebody comes in and starts demanding, “Get out, this is a stick-up,” I’m just running. I am just going to get out of there. First of all, I don’t usually go into banks but when I do, I look around and figure out what is going on before I go in so I know how to get out. I know what I am going to do if someone yells, “This is a stick-up.”
eJournal: The important thing there is that you have thought and planned so that what you are going to do can be done with an almost absolute lack of hesitation. Yet, what we know about people coping with truly foreign situations is that most do freeze. Let’s say we went to the State Fair, and terrorists decided to attack the crowd–it would be fairly normal for people to freeze and hesitate because there is nothing in their databanks to direct their actions. Have you seen that reaction–even in role-play?
Hayes: It happens, and when it does, we debrief and talk about it. One of the things that we like to do is the “line in the sand” drill. We put students in a situation where they need to draw a line beyond which they will not let things go any further. They have got to fight it out, whether they are facing one bad guy or three! They need to come up with almost a Klingon mentality and be a warrior.
I tell you, if you allow yourself to be put down on your knees by armed people, you are probably going to be executed. You will never hear about me being put on my knees and shot in the back of the head. I’d rather people say, “That guy was crazy to try to take on three guys with AK-47s!” I’d rather go out fighting, but there is a pretty good chance I won’t be killed if I disarm the first one and use him as a shield and shoot the other two guys. But then I train that; I practice that.
eJournal: It is important to have non-negotiable lines, but students may need some help thinking it through.
Hayes: I don’t do the thinking for them, but I do put them into experiences where they can think through what they need to do. I can yap at them all I want, but until they feel the mistake they made or the success of making a good choice, it really doesn’t drive the matter home. By doing it, they can make it part of their preprogrammed response.
I know that I have a couple of default responses that if somebody sticks a gun in my face, I’m going to take about a quarter of a second to make sure I’m not endangering other people and if not, I’m going to deflect the gun and disarm the guy right now without giving him much of a chance to push me around, or deflect the gun and draw my own and shoot him–one of the two. I know that action beats reaction. Somebody can stick a gun in your face, but if they’re close enough, you can deflect it, before they can think, “I need to pull the trigger now because he is doing something.” By the time he sees you moving, his gun has already been deflected off target and you should be taking the next step either to disarm him or draw your own.
eJournal: What do armed citizens–ordinary people, not tactical supermen–need to know in case they run into an armed mass killer?
Hayes: People need to know that being an armed citizen is very serious business. It is not just taking your local eight-hour concealed weapon license course so you can get your permit, then walking around with your gun thinking that you are going to save the world. Now, the fact is that you might be able to get yourself out of trouble or to save somebody, but in the anomaly, in that gun fight from hell, it is not going to be enough to have passed the CCW class where you draw and fire ten times and hit the target at seven yards.
Think of it this way: Society–through their state legislatures who fund the police academies–demands that before the government sends a police officer out on the street to interdict criminals, that officers have a high degree of training, typically 40 to 80 hours of firearms and situational awareness training, along with other ancillary training blocks. Without that training, you don’t get to put on a blue uniform and a badge and go out and enforce the law.
Here’s the deal: The police are running into the very exact criminals the armed citizen is facing, but the armed citizen does not typically have backup; they don’t typically wear bullet proof vests; they actually have a harder tactical situation if one of these criminals decides the citizen is going to be the one they victimize. The armed citizen really needs to have his act together if he is going to be able to solve any situation that comes along. This is our goal at the Academy: if our students go through the whole curriculum, they can pretty much solve anything they want to solve.
It is interesting doing this interview. For the last nine years, I’ve been focused on the legal aspect of the Network and now you’ve got me talking purely just as a firearms and tactics trainer. It is fun to go back to the hat I’ve worn for so long. I continue to train people. It is my first love. Thanks for letting me speak from that perspective.
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