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Monthly Archives: February 2018

DETERRENCE = Unidentified Armed Defenders, In Unknown Locations.

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Concealed carry of firearms by school staff – or church cadres, or businesses, or even just broadening the right to legal concealed carry by civilians – provides the ability to defend innocent lives in the first seconds that they come under attack, when police are minutes away at best. While some in our society have difficulty grasping that simple concept, even more push back against the assertion that this capability actually deters attack, and that the deterrence is far more powerful when it is in fact concealed carry by unidentified persons, whose presence, location, numbers, and response cannot be predicted by a would-be offender.  Some people understand this concept implicitly, while others do not. We are asked, “Where’s your data?” We point to the absence of mass shootings where people are known or likely to be armed, and especially to public schools in districts across 24 states that allow concealed carry by non-law enforcement (under a variety of conditions and requirements, but the skeptics ask, “How can you prove that the absence of shootings there has anything to do with concealed carry by permittees in their schools?” Well, here’s the answer: there’s no definitive data. There’s no proof. This is not something that can be established statistically. It requires critical thinking, common sense, and some experience-based understanding of how humans think, plan, and act in the arena of violence.

In 2015, U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Craig Broyles submitted his Master’s thesis at the Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Titled Military Maneuver Terrorism, it addresses the threat against the U.S. and the West of terrorist attacks involving multiple attackers using small arms, explosives, and other low tech, like those that occurred in Mumbai, India (2008), at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya (2011), and at the Beslan school in the Russian republic of North Ossetia (2004). He cites, among many other sources, a piece that I wrote as a research paper at the Naval War College in 2007 and published in Homeland Security Affairs in 2008: Paramilitary Terrorism – A Neglected Threat, which made several of the same points. We both applied similar concepts that are familiar to people schooled in risk management, threat assessment, intelligence, and the operational and strategic arts.

LTC Broyles recommends several potential remedies to this threat but points out that deterrence is the most important strategy against the threat of a large, organized armed group of terrorists attempting a mass casualty attack. If such an attack is executed, regardless of how well we respond, the consequences will be terrible. Better to keep it from happening at all.

One thing that terrorist organizations have in common with most of the apolitical psychopaths who perpetrate mass shootings is a penchant for planning, and especially a desire for their action to go off according to plan, without a hitch. They study their target, and if they don’t select a target because it is undefended, they have carefully prepared plans on how to circumvent or defeat whatever defensive element is there. Unpredictability is their worst enemy. They have one shot at it, either because it’s an individual who plans to die on site when he is done, or an organization that risks irreplaceable resources by coming out of the shadows to execute an attack.

The presence of an unknown number of unidentified armed defenders, in unknown locations, with response plans and specific training and rehearsals that the attacker cannot find out, is precisely the kind of thing that discourages or deters them from ever acting. “Beginnings are delicate times” as some sage said, and the chance of having your grand one-off final curtain event come apart in its first minutes, because of stout resistance you were unable to predict, is literally a show-stopper.

LTC Broyles points out the obvious – that, because of the unpredictability it creates, concealed carry of firearms by American citizens, everywhere they can (and therefore presumably do) carry, deters terrorists and other bad actors. The jihadist killing spree on the streets of Paris in November, 2015 has not occurred on the streets of any American city, and I can think of one primary reason why. We should be working to extend the distributed security provided by discreetly armed citizens into more locales, rather than fewer. Arm school staff, arm church security teams, arm business associates in the workplace. The police cannot be in these places to protect us – though we welcome and rely on their assistance – but we can.


Bill Tallen is Executive Vice President – Tactical Operations of Distributed Security, Inc. Prior to joining the enterprise he had a 20 year career with the Department of Energy, where he served as a Federal Agent, team leader, unit commander, training instructor, and manager in the agency which provides secure transportation of nuclear weapons and nuclear materials within CONUS. He helped to found DOE’s Special Response Force program, developing and teaching urban and close quarter battle techniques to Federal Agents charged with recovery of lost assets. He has designed and conducted a variety of wargaming efforts in support of vulnerability assessments, security system design, and leadership training, and has taught a variety of crisis decision making models. Bill holds the degree of Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College. 

School Shootings: Are You An Accessory To Murder?


Facts continue to emerge in the aftermath of the mass shooting at a Broward County, Florida high school. But already, they are drowned out by the ill-informed, emotional calls for more restrictions on gun ownership. We won’t enter that endless debate here.  Instead, let’s cook down to the essentials of what we know about this incident. We will not name the shooter, because infamy is what they want.

  • He was identified as a threat.
  • His public social media accounts demonstrated the threats.
  • He was expelled from school because he was threat.
  • The Police visited him because they knew he was a threat.
  • The FBI was aware of him because he was a threat.
  • The students were aware of him.
  • Teachers were aware of him
  • All the so-called warning signs were missed.

Nothing was done, and we have to ask, once the wave of sentiment has passed, what could have been done. There may be some fixes there, but behind all of this is our bedrock principle of the presumption of innocence, and the question: had he committed a crime or provided probable cause to believe that he was about to do so? Reports and suspicions in this case turned out to be justified, but do we want a society where anyone can be “taken off the street” on the basis of another citizen’s “suspicion”? Do we want to return to the days of forcible commitment to mental health facilities without due process of law? Perhaps we do; but be careful what you ask for.

  • He bought the weapon legally, because we allow 18-year olds to buy rifles, and there was nothing in the background check database that flagged him as ineligible.

But do we really believe that he could not have found a gun on the secondary market to buy for cash, if he had been turned away by a licensed dealer?

  • The students had drilled active shooter scenarios.

But even if we believe that “lockdown” would have stymied a rifleman who simply walked onto the school campus, as riflemen will do (see Sandy Hook), one pull on a fire alarm sent targets flooding into his field of fire. “Active shooter scenarios” – and planning – need some work.

  • There were uniformed cops stationed on campus.

This is another palliative measure that contributes some undefinable level of security – or at least the reassuring, uniformed appearance of it – to a school. But from Columbine to Broward County, we have seen uniformed officers on scene unable to engage and reduce the body count.

And 17 died – unnecessarily.

The missing ingredient?  Armed and trained school staff members on-site. We are not talking about more law enforcement officers, or random armed civilians, or – certainly not! – armed high school students. We are talking about volunteer members of school staff – with a direct stake in their own safety, their peers’, and their students – discreetly carrying concealed handguns, and trained to respond immediately in the first seconds of an incident. With an enrollment of 3,000+ this school should have had ten to twenty of them, spread across the campus attending to their everyday duties, their identities and locations unknown and unpredictable to any potential attacker.

Because the only way to deal with a decentralized threat is with distributed security.

Rather than wailing “this has to stop,” accept the fact that it will not stop, and take action to defend your yourself and your community.

You’re never going to confiscate guns in the US. Criminals will not obey your laws or signs. Cops won’t be there when the shooting starts.

The only option is train to defend – decentralized threats require distributed security.

Anything less than that is tantamount to being an accessory to murder.