Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA attempted to put to the test the adage, declared by National Rifle Association's Wayne LaPierre after the Sandy Hook massacre, that "the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."
"Many Texans choose to arm themselves," the WFAA report began, "but how prepared are the 'good guys' to protect their own families... and even the public? How would they would perform if a 'bad guy' with a gun starts shooting?"
The station retained two experts to create an exercise that would put their readiness to the test: Travis Bond, the managing member of the DFW Shooters Academy in Highland Village, an instructor with 32 years of training and law enforcement experience, and for the "bad guy," Shawn Clary, a SWAT team member and tactical instructor with 22 years experience. Clary was carrying an AR-15 that also shot plastic pellets.
For the good guys, the station chose three men and a woman with concealed handgun licenses and various degrees of training. The participants were armed with helmets, goggles and training pistols with plastic pellets. They were given no details except that they would be encountering an armed assailant in different office space scenarios. They were not told Clary was wearing body armor, which meant in order to kill or wound the bad guy, they would have to score a hit to the head, neck, or pelvis.
There were two scenarios - a busy office space with tall cubicles in which workers could not see each other, and a conference room crowded with coworkers. First Clary played the role of an angry co-worker who fired warning shots and then methodically made his way past cubicles, pretending to kill workers along the way.
The first participant stayed in his cubicle, crouching and using his chair as cover. He struck Clary with what would have been two fatal rounds. “He put rounds right into my upper torso and head area above where the body armor is,” Clary said. “He did very well.”
The next participant, scrambling into a darkened cubicle, took cover and opened fire, scoring a couple of fatal wounds as well. “I received some rounds in the arm and got one in the head,” Clary said. “That would be a kill shot.”
The third participant, the woman, hit Clary's vest, and the fourth intentionally chose to hit the body armor. “I shot him in the vest on purpose. I didn’t want to hit him in the head, because it wasn’t real life to me.”
Next Clary, pretending to be a terrorist, stormed a crowded conference room and ordered everyone to put their hands on their heads. His plan was to shoot workers one at a time until stopped, but one of the participants saw an opportunity and drew his weapon, scoring a "fatal" wound on Clary. “Not only did he engage me at the right time, he made a good hit,” said Clary.
Another participant did the same when it was his turn. “He did a good job,” Clary said. “Plus, his weapon was concealed, so I didn’t know he was a threat.”
One of the participants made a "fatal tactical decision," however, by wearing his weapon on his hip. “If you want to take that as an open carry kind of scenario, that’s exactly what I would have done as a bad guy coming in,” Clary said. “I saw that he was armed — he’s my first target.” Lesson learned for all the participants.
Weapons trainer Travis Bond said the best way to overcome the unknown is to prepare for it. “By going through the training and experiencing different things — and specifically looking for opportunities to engage, and knowing when not to engage — is as important as anything,” he said.