How to keep from shooting each other

Inspired by a lame article from CNN, I ask this question: if there are multiple, responsibly armed citizens at an active shooter event, how do we tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guy?

The head of our church security team and I had a discussion about this recently. His biggest fear is just this - if there is a bad guy with a weapon who charges into our auditorium with seating for 3,000, that the good guys will open up, and some won’t know just who the bad guy is - and we end up shooting each other and others who aren’t even armed.

The kid in Indianapolis, apparently, was the only responsibly armed citizen in the crowd. What if there had been more? And what if they had mistaken the hero for the perp?

So the big question: In a room with other responsibly-armed citizens, how do we keep from shooting at each other?


A good question and as I teach my students, you HAVE to look at a DCI in it’s totality.
Also, don’t look like a shooter, at the moment you’ve stopped the threat, bring your firearm back to a High Compressed Ready. This stance looks authoritarian and not “gangsta”. Issue commands, “Call 911”, “Check people for injuries”,etc.

In the HOW (How of Worship) training I do, I tell them to send out a questionnaire, usually revolving around fire alarms, fire drills, etc, but include the one key question for the entire survey, “who in here carries a firearm or has a LTC”. These congregants are either recruited to be on the security team or part of it, or instructed what NOT to do during a DCI.


The bad guy always shoot first.
So we have to follow the simple rule - shoot the guy who started the shootout.
Communication is very important. Once we talk between each other we know who’s the good and who’s the bad one.


I’m sure as a church security “team” there’s some form of coordination. It’s the main reasons gangsters prefer colors, so they don’t shoot each other. Law enforcement uses color of the day at briefings, military it’s uniforms.
Every 1st Sunday you wear blue
2nd Sunday green
Or what ever method is viable!

In the very public settings @Jerzy has a point, the guy shooting towards you is usually the bad guy. I can only hope that when the first shots ring out and three people jump up with handguns, they are all pointed in the direction of the first shot.
I’ve seriously run this question after the Colorado theater shooting, except there the bad guy presented himself center stage. But how does the guy next to me know I’m NOT with the bad guy, when I draw my weapon?

Are you suggesting that we may need to think about some type of identification?

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GAWD I hope not. CCW badges are one of the more stupid products targeting our community. Wanna nominate yourself for a charge of impersonating a police officer? Wander around an incident scene with a CCW badge on your jacket or belt.


“Verbal ID” only. Just learn communication skills, what to say to other people during confrontation with the bad guy.
If you start giving command to get people to safety, they will know you are the good one.


A very good question, @Scott361, and I have wrestled with it but not come to any satisfactory conclusion.

In any violent situation everyone present is making split-second decisions, armed or unarmed, perp or (potential) victim, brave or cowardly—everyone is acting faster than the speed of rational thought. Run? Hide? Drop and cover? Make a deal with God? Scream for help? Engage the shooter? I this chaotic soup of terror and adrenaline, how is anyone supposed to differentiate between a bad guy with a gun and a good guy with a gun?

As a legally/responsibly armed civilian, the moment my weapon comes out is the moment I become another shooter in the mix, and only I know what my intentions are. To anyone else, I’m just another guy with a gun in a place where nobody is expecting gunfire. What can I do to set myself apart from the bad actor(s)?

My halo isn’t visible to ordinary folks, so that’s no good.

I don’t usually go out wearing clothing emblazoned with words like “SECURITY” or “ARMED DEFENDER of INNOCENTS” or “GOOD GUY - DON’T SHOOT”, so nothing there.

Since I’m not a policeman it’s illegal for me to identify myself as such, though perhaps under the circumstances that might be forgiven, especially if the outcome is good. If I screw up and hit civilians, they’ll crucify me for it. Maybe shouting something like “Security!” or “Undercover!” and letting everyone interpret it for themselves would work. Of course, doing so might also make the shooter target you specifically. A grey area at best.

Maybe shouting “Help” over and over, as a statement rather than a plea? At least it’s something that wouldn’t be expected from the bad guy.

Shouting “2A” or “2nd Amendment” might work, at least as a code between responsibly armed civilians, but probably wouldn’t do much good with law enforcement.

Shouting anything might not be much good anyway. First, as previously stated, it may just make you a target for the shooter. Second, the danger zone is likely to be very loud and screamy, so you might not be heard no matter what words you use. And under the conditions, who’s listening anyway?

I can hope to be the only responsibly armed civilian in the vicinity, at least for the time it takes to neutralize the threat and re-holster. At least that way I’m not showing a weapon when more armed defenders arrive, law enforcement or otherwise. Hope is a fine thing, but hope is not a plan.

I don’t have the answer. I suppose I can just commit myself to doing the right thing and depend upon my righteousness to protect me. You know, a moral victory at minimum. But that sounds a lot like hope.


Of course I’m not suggesting anything of a sort.
Verbal communication and commands, I’m sure other CCW holders will understand and visual acuity will decipher bad guy from good guy!
Or we could just scream out MAGA or Let’s Go Brandon! Or “Let’s Roll”


Very important, to be sure. But with shots flying and people screaming, who’s listening. Communication takes at least one to speak and another to listen.


You are right… you never predict others’ behavior… :expressionless:

I can recall these two guys who lost their lives because of chaos, miscommunication or just mistake.

  • Johnny Hurley
  • K’aun Green

I was thinking of White Hats. :slightly_smiling_face:


“How to keep from shooting each other?”
Get the criminals off the street! Ban gangs, ban crime don’t reward it with celebrity!
This is a 90’s phenomenon. There was no such thing as an active shooting during 60’s, 70’s or 80’s and everyone had a gun, I’ll never forget, every single pickup truck I ever saw had a rifle in the back window! They’ve totally disappeared and suddenly there are mass shootings?
More officers on the street and training so I don’t have to be the first responder!
They are totally responsible for all spilt blood, defund was and still is moronic!


AH, yes, I forgot to mention - leader of our church security team was referring specifically to people who carry and are NOT part of the security team. Grandma Smith with her .357mag in her purse opens up (OK, Granny is not likely to be a perp), but what do we do about all licensed carriers who decide to unload on a perp.

As CCW/defensive carriers, I have to hope they are moving toward an exit, while armed security team members are moving toward the threat.

But how to stop the non-team armed CCW holders from shooting the good guys, that’s just troubling.


It seems we’ve entered the Wild West! Guess we’ll never know the answer to this question, we could sit around and let them shoot up the bar or we can hope for the best without too much collateral damage!
The liberals seem to have the answer, only bad guys get to keep their firearms!
Welcome to Brandons unified world!
How did they know?


In church, it’s been disclosed at our annual meeting that the pastor and an elder both carry and will use a code word known only to them to alert a deacon of a potential active shooter situation.

They don’t know I carry. So, I’ll follow their lead. If I’m in immediate danger, I’ll be very vocal about my next moves to let them know I’m on their side.

Communication is key.


Is it Allahu Akbar? :sunglasses:. Oh, wait, that’s two words…


Salaam Alaikum


There was a story last year about two men, acting independently, stopped a bad guy with a gun. Neither shot the other. As others have stated, body language and verbal cues are helpful. Might not prevent all accidents, but that should mitigate it.

As to in your church, I would hope members would recognize each other and not shoot each other. Presumably the perp would not be part of the congregation, would make it easier to know who the “bad guy with a gun” is.


There is a group we have not heard from yet, the ladies.
I would like to hear their point of view. The girlfriend seems pretty enamored with the heroics of her boyfriend, despite the “no carry, gun free zone”!
Are there any USCCA women who carry, that would have reacted the same way? In the same place at the same time?


Meanwhile, Sergeant Andrew Oblad of the Salt Lake City Police Department entered Trolley Square through the south entrance and encountered Kenneth Hammond.

Hammond, the off duty police officer, was interviewed and said something to the effect,
“there I stood, gun in hand, injured people laying on the floor and a police officer comes around the corner…” “I started yelling POLICE OFFICER POLICE OFFICER, lucky for me Andrew didn’t shoot…”

So it does happen the good guy with the gun runs into a police response. This time it turned out good.