In October of 2018, a mass shooter took the lives of 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. Less than two weeks later, another mass shooting inside a California country music bar that left at least twelve dead. In the aftermath of these senseless acts of violence, the debate often turns toward questioning what can be done to alleviate this crisis. The question that is not asked enough, arguably, is what can society do to be ready if and when an active shooter is spotted.
Gun control, to name a hotly debated subject after a mass shooting, did not prevent the recent California bar shooting. Instead, the bar shooting occurred in a gun-free zone in a state with strict gun control regulations. California’s universal background checks, an “assault weapons” ban and laws allowing gun confiscation did nothing to prevent the shooter from using a .45-caliber handgun that had been purchased legally in a heavily regulated state.
The clear takeaway here is that no gun safety measures can eliminate the threat of an active shooter altogether. As such, the focus of this content is on the tactical gear items first responders will need if and when they confront an active shooter.
Most shooters target gun-free zones looking to prey upon vulnerable populations that cannot fight back. With the tactical gear items on this list, first responders will increase the odds that a deranged active shooter meets a prepared citizen who is ready to fight back and prevent the mass harm intended by the assailant.
Choose the Right Bag for Responding to an Active Shooter
In recent years, it is clear that mass shootings can and do happen in many different locations. Schools, movie theaters, crowded concert venues, and bars are just a few of the many soft targets preyed upon by those with the intent to commit mass murder. And, while the weapons system is an essential consideration for tactical gear, the support equipment for such a system is equally important when first responders need to be prepared for any situation.
To this end, an active shooter go-bag is the essential tactical gear item for responding to an active shooter threat. Without a range of tactical gear, an active shooter can and likely will have the upper hand when an unexpected attack takes place. With a go-bag, you can even the odds by carrying all the tactical essentials needed to respond and intervene against one or more active shooters.
For some tactical gear enthusiasts who already own a “bugout”/bailout bag, you may be left asking: “What are the differences between a bugout bag and a go-bag?” To keep things simple, a bailout or bugout bag tends to be a general purpose bag for tactical and survival uses that is designed for multi-day use. By contrast, a go-bag is less general use and more of a specialist bag specifically designed to help law enforcement and tactical responders through a crisis incident response.
When preparing for an active shooter incident, then, a go-bag (or even go-vest) is arguably the superior choice for responding to a mass shooting.
What to Look for in a Go-Bag
Like all tactical gear, not all go-bags are created equally. For a crisis incident, you don’t want a backpack or another gear-storing item that is inconvenient to access in a time of need. The best go-bags should be worn cross-body and slung across the shoulder for both easy carry and access, first and foremost. If you can’t access your gear in a timely and efficient manner, the active shooter has a needless advantage that puts innocent lives at risk. As a tactical responder, you don’t want it on your conscience that you could have planned better and saved more lives with enhanced tactical preparedness.
That said, don’t buy into the notion that you need everything and the kitchen sink, which only creates a bulky and bloated tactical carry. It is certainly better to be over-gunned than not, but the point remains that you should focus on carrying only your tactical essentials that keep you mobile and tactically efficient. Prioritize a go-bag that is large enough to carry your essential gear, while also making sure it is compartmentalized enough to help you find every tactical item you might need quickly.
Due to this criteria, there is quite literally no “one size fits all” go-bag. A 5’10” tactical responder’s go-bag may well look quite different than, say, a 6’6″ responder’s bag, but the point is both bags should have the same basics needed to effectively respond to any active threat.
Here is a closer look at the tactical essentials your go-bag needs to have.
The Most Important Tactical Gear Items for a First Responder’s Go-Bag
Let’s keep the list nice and simple for now and expand on each item in greater detail below. The items that are non-negotiable essentials for your go-bag will include:
- An individual first-aid kit
- Extra ammunition
- A flashlight
- Door Stops
- A “window puncher”
- Black sharpie
Individual First-Aid Kit (IFAK): Any number of injuries can arise when responding to an active shooter. An IFAK enables you to get back to the fight and first response quickly if you suffer injuries from the shooter or environmental dangers like broken glass. Once the active shooter threat is neutralized, you can then use this kit to provide basic but essential care for any victims who were injured.
Extra ammunition: The idea behind this essential is a simple one. Carry as much ammunition as you will need. Generally, carry four to five magazines for your long gun (leaving three to four in the go-bag). Additionally, keep four or so magazines of a pistol ammo, with one magazine in the handgun and three in the go-bag. Keep in mind that leaving excessive magazines behind allows you to shed a great deal of weight and move more quickly.
Flashlight: File this away in the always be prepared for any scenario section. A power outage, a mass shooting at night and similar scenarios warrant the need for a flashlight. Just make sure that the light is lightweight, small and easily accessible for a streamlined tactical response.
Door stops: Searching and securing rooms should not leave you overly exposed during your response. Securing doors with stops that block the door shut behind you allow you to continue a tactical response that keeps doors closed. Needless to say, this simple tactical essential can save lives.
Flexi-cuffs: If there are one or more active shooters, having a few flexi-cuffs can allow you to respond to other threats once when the threat has been neutralized. This is a simple and effective way to continue a tactical response and securing rooms as you go.
Window puncher: A spring-loaded window puncher is a simple, effective way to break a window when needed. Remember, you never know when or where an active shooting threat will emerge. This is a fast, safe and effective way to break windows when needed for a tactical response.
Paracord: High tensile cord has a number of key uses for an active shooter scenario. It can serve as a quick suture, splint or sling for anyone who is severely wounded. It can also serve as an emergency belt in a time of need.
Black sharpie: Communication enhances survival for everyone. Mark rooms or leave notes for responders who come behind you to enhance the tactical efficiency and save valuable time with this essential, simple and often overlooked piece of gear.
Everyone’s go-bag essentials may vary slightly, but we are confident every bag benefits from the aforementioned essentials. With these and any other tactical essentials that are a part of your personalized go-bag, you will be ready to meet an active shooter threat head-on with maximum preparedness.