Photo of costumed person holding a gun at Oak View Mall, Omaha Halloween event prompts swift social media reaction

I posted this image with the "WHAT WOULD YOU DO?" caption on Facebook as well as on my forum.  The responses are - well - somewhat amazing. 

There are arguments that "anyone would be able to tell that is a fake weapon" and that some of us are too quick to shoot.  So here is the point of this discussion - to get the readers to think. I have seen this thought process before and we can divide it into two sides.  One side takes what they see at face value, makes decisions based on that and then takes action.  The other side doesn't really want to take action and will look for any "out" to justify them not taking action. 

So lets look from the first perspective - Context - this image is what you see. 

Can you at first glance tell whether that is a fake weapon?  I can't.  Sure if we get closer and examine it it becomes more clear that it may not be a real weapon...but at first glance?  Nope. 

Can you at first glance tell the age or disposition of the subject?  I can't.  And please don't let age be a disqualifier.  Disposition, or what his apparent intent may be, is still yet to be determined based on what we see here.

I will remind the reader that it is 2017 America.  Can anyone list with accuracy how many shooting we have seen in shopping malls in the last ten years?   There have been plenty.  In fact, at the Westroads Mall in 2007 (another Omaha Mall) Robert Hawkins shot and killed eight people.  Look at the image again...just the image without rationalizing that it may be a poorly raised youngster at a Halloween party at a mall.  Is this a replay of that?  Have you managed to spot him early on before the shooting? 

The argument that the weapon is fake and that anyone can tell that is an empty argument.  Foolish people are shot regularly by police for brandishing apparently real weapons.  Moreover, armed robberies and other armed coersions take place routinely with fake weapons.  So if they were so easy to determine, all the robbery and kidnap victims would have known as would have the police right?

Unless I have had a chance to peruse the weapon up close, or it is obvious by its appearance, I will take its appearance at face value and so should you.  So, on first glance...there is your image.  That is what you see.  The picture is static so we cannot use body language, demeanor, or actual physical actions.  Based on that and nothing else, in my opinion, in 2017 America, you would be justified in shooting him and two homicide investigators I have discussed this with agree with me.  But life is not so clinical and we are able to use context to decide further.  And to use context you need analytical and tactical thinking, not emotion, not fear based actions, and certainly not rationalizing everything away as harmless because of an aversion to action.


Alright...many asked what would Gabe do? 

The caveat of course is first who are you with?  If you are with family or other loved ones and if escape is possible (notice I said if it was possible as it is plainly not always possible), I would say get out of there.  Your family's lives are far more important than an entire mall's worth of kids.  Yes it sounds cold but I have spoken with men who have put their families in harm's way out of some sense of duty and lost them to enemy gunfire.  I would not want to live with that mistake.

But now, excluding that caveat, let's continue.  And I will add that while escape may be possible for you alone, and that I will not fault you for simply leaving, escape is not mandatory and may not be morally possible.  Certainly we have a higher calling on this earth than only "self preservation" do we not?  If your daughter was there alone when an active shooter was about to commence his killing spree, what would you ask me to do?  Would you condone my flight for self-preservation, or would you plead with me to risk myself to kill the bad guy?  And is it moral for you to ask me to do something you would not?


Here is a picture of Robert Hawkins at the Westroads Mall in 2007.  Is he just a kid with a bag? 


Here is another image of Hawkins.  Can you tell if that is a real weapon?  Can you tell his age?  What can you tell at this point other than what you see.  Will you accept what you see at face value or rationalize it as nothing of importance.  You have two seconds to decide.

The solution to this problem begins with how you see yourself in the universe. 

A man who sees himself as a victim would be frightened, and react under the power of the emotion of fright (maybe correctly, maybe not).  A man who identifies with the Sheepdog Culture and has put the life of every sheep above his own, will act out of a sense of duty...and he will force himself to act in order to live up to his self-image.  And then we have the predator mindset that we have discussed here before. 

The predator mindset is not fearful, nor does it feel duty bound toward self sacrifice.  The predator mind set sees the subject in the image as potential prey.  And like the relationship between the tiger and the antelope he neither shrinks from the event, nor does he jump in recklessly.  The predator watches and waits as he moves into a position of advantage.  The predator has already mentally killed the man in the picture - meaning the decision has already been made, the actions already decided upon - and now the only thing missing is the "GO" signal that he will give himself when he has in his own mind justified his action.

The man in the picture is not doing anything...just standing there.  The predator sees and notes this, as well as the reality and totality of the situation of the event he is attending.  But he assumes nothing, including the possibility the weapon is not real.  He may approach from the subject's blind side, evaluating him as he closes. 

He might he ask himself as he works for the final firing position.  "What have I got?  "What is this?" as well as "What are my angles?"  "Where will I fire from?"

If he wishes, he could make the 911 call, but not at the expense of attracting the subject's attention or giving up his advantage.  

At some point action will either be taken or not.  But the predator is not precipitous in his actions.  To the contrary he is deliberate and only the subjects aggressive actions toward him or someone else will cause him to move at a time not of his choosing.

The subject's actions from this point on will dictate whether he is killed or not.  Those actions that would cause his death would include.

1).  He fires a shot 

2). He threatens to fire a shot, or acts as if he is going to fire a shot (pointing the rifle).

3). He announces he is about to fire (Allahu Akbar, etc.) .

Things that would maintain the status quo...but not outright dismissal of the threat.

1).  It becomes evident upon closer visual inspection that it is in fact a toy weapon carried by a stupid kid.  The weapon being real would not necessarily cause him to be shot, but the scales would definitely be moving in that direction.  But that verification of that may rquires far more than a glance before deciding.  Always assume it is real.  And I am not using the age as a disqualifier.  A teen with a firearm bent on active shooting is just as dangerous as a grown man.

2).  The arrival of security/police to contact the subject.

The most important point is this - it is 2017 and we are still living n a time of war.  The folks in Las Vegas last month would attest to that I think, as would the victims of Lanza, Mateen, Farooq, and the Columbine Kids, not to mention the victims of Hawkins in that very same city ten years earlier.  Just as Americans would deal harshly with a man that stands up in an airplane mid-flight and announces "Allahu Akbar", taking his position at face value, so should you take every potential threat at face value, and only deescalate from there if the event calls for that.

Feel free to make assumptions to the contrary, but such assumptions, in our modern new world, are foolish.



"You can be wrong in your assessment of the event, and still be totally and legally justified in your actions."