Houston, Texas – the city of 6 million has this quiet and peaceful a business district as anyone could imagine. But people know that could be shattered at any moment. If you are ever to find yourself in the middle of an active shooter event, your survival may depend on whether or not you have a plan. This training video is designed to help people survive what's known here as an active shooter event. Do your best to remain quiet and calm.
The city of Houston was so concerned about the possibility of a mass shooting, they'd spent $200,000 on a training video. As a last resort, if your life is at risk, whether you're alone or working together as a group, fight, disarm him, and commit to taking the shooter down no matter what.” So we did some research and we thought it was important to maybe come up with a catchy phrase that people could remember, which is why we came up with run – hide – fight. Dennis Storemski is Houston's Director of Public Safety and Homeland Security.
The last I heard, we probably had close to half a million hits on YouTube. We had literally hundreds and hundreds of requests through our website for copies of the video. What do you think that says about the level of concern the general public is feeling? You know, I think it makes a lot of sense. You never know when these types of events occur, so it could happen anywhere anytime. As it happened, a shooting was underway as we spoke in the town of College Station, less than two hours up the highway.
Officer Bachmann was shot was shot by the resident, Thomas Caffall, in the front yard of that residence. Caffall then began shooting at other victims in the area and at College Station police office officers as they were approaching the scene. When the gunfire stopped, three people lay dead and another four were injured. The shootout took place just two blocks from Texas A&M, one of the country's largest universities, and as night fell, students gathered for a candlelight vigil. In the crowd, I find Caitlyn. One of the men killed today was a friend of her father's and it's left her understandably uneasy.
I guess for the most part, I feel like it's gonna happen anywhere. You just have to be prepared. Yeah. For you, what does being prepared mean? Concealed carry. Do you? Yeah. Really? Yeah. Yes sir. Wow. Are you armed right now? No sir, not on campus. It's not allowed on campus. Right. But you have a concealed carry lessons. At what age can you get one? I turned 21 a month ago. It's one of the first things you did. Mm-hmm.
The urge to take up firearms to defend oneself appears to be taking hold across the country. In Colorado, gun sales have soared since 12 died in the movie theater massacre. And nationally, sales are up 20% than last year. Almost everyone here it seems has grown up around guns, and many say they need them to feel safe. And then I, most of the time, I carry the Springfield XD Sub-Compact 9MM. It's a smaller firearm. At her home on the outskirts of Austin, Sharon Cundiff shows me the collection of small handguns that she and her husband are licensed to carry concealed under their clothes. I do use this one outside for dresses.
Sharon grew up around hunting and guns and describes herself as a shooting mum rather than a soccer mum. Concealed carry, they say, amongst each other, we say, “Always carry, never tell 24/7.” Two things: One, you never know when the bad guy is gonna show up, and two, it's my way of supporting the Second Amendment. It's my way of saying, “This is my right. I'm going to practice it.” As the former education director here at the Austin Rifle Club and as a certified trainer, she loves to pass on her passion for gunpowder. I call it my gospel of shooting sports. I preach and teach the gospel issue. Hallelujah. So I love to teach and I love it when they take that first shot and it's beautiful. I get such a high off of that.
Sharon says events like the movie theater shooting in Colorado never caused her to doubt whether America is striking the right balance on gun control. Not a minute. As the story was unfolding, I kept praying and praying and praying, please tell me there was somebody there that had a concealed handgun license and was able to take them out. And then when I heard there wasn't and that it got so bad, it just broke my heart.
Currently, around 3% of Americans are licensed to carry a concealed handgun in public places, with one of the biggest exceptions being university campuses. So-called ‘campus carry' is a highly politicized issue. University shootings have a long history here. The nation's first was carried out from this clock tower at the University of Texas at Austin back in 1966. It left 13 people dead. John Woods is a Ph.D. student here. The vast majority of students don't want guns in classrooms.
John was a student at Virginia Tech five years ago when a lone gunman stalked the campus, killing 32 people. When the shooting stopped, John's girlfriend was among the missing. You find ways to convince yourself that something else has happened, you know? Maybe she's being questioned by the police or something or anything, maybe she's in the hospital and they just got her confused with somebody else, but later that night, we got the call and the news wasn't good. John lost four other friends that same day. Three weeks later, he graduated from college and headed to Austin to begin his Ph.D.
A few months after I moved here, lawmakers here in Texas started saying, “We want to prevent another Virginia Tech by forcing colleges and universities to allow guns in classrooms.” Twice now, Republicans have tried to repeal the state's ban on campus carry. John Woods has been part of the lobbying effort that's defeated the measure both times. With lawmakers, it's just about, honestly, it's about marketing. If you can market guns as a firearm manufacturer, if you can sell more guns to college students, then that's good for your bottom line, and firearms manufacturers dominate the NRA Board.
Most students, because of what they've perceived from television or whatever, they perceive a firearm as a dangerous implement or tool. Those that know how, of course, to use firearms responsibly, they see them as just another tool. Steve Hall was executive director of the Texas State Rifle Association, which has been lobbying for campus carry. Steve insists that civilians pulling out weapons would not increase the danger in an active shooter event. In fact, it's just the opposite. Data would support the fact that in many cases where you have situation of threat, it could have been disarmed had somebody been carrying a concealed handgun license and knew how to use it.
I spent a really long time after the shooting studying and talking to people who survived, to people who'd been there. None of them thought that guns belonged in classrooms. None of them though that if they'd had guns, that things wouldn't have been any different. Some of them thought that if they had guns, things could have been worse. The gun debate, it seems, is locked in its usual stalemate, but there might be one glimmer of hope that doesn't rely on new legislation. I'm headed north into the Texas Panhandle to the town of Lubbock to meet a police officer who's taking a new approach to the problem of mass shootings.
I honestly believe that this type of training program could mark the beginning of the end of this type of crime. Today, Officer Chris Paine is on his way to a local private school in preparation for a teacher training session the next day. Along with Principal Mike Bennett, Chris Paine does a walkthrough of the school, assessing how a mass shooting here might unfold. I mean, look at all these exits, which is nice. And these don't have the connecting.
Chris is a member of the police SWAT team and their lead instructor for active shooter events. In all these events, we've noticed that the shooter is not willing to chase, for one, and he's also not willing to go seek and find, open up closet doors or really trying hard. He's looking for the most accessible victims that are stationary or in plain view and that are just available to be a victim. It's certainly a sobering talk for Principal Mike Bennett. People welcome the training because we're actually answering questions that they were eager to have answered and just didn't know who to ask.
Interest in the training has been almost overwhelming not just from the people of Lubbock, but from other police departments across the nation eager to replicate the program. The next day, the school staff gather for the training session. Chris estimates police response times in Lubbock to be 3 to 12 minutes, and it's this crucial time before help arrives that he's focused on. So if that's the case, the first victim or first couple of victims have no say in the matter, but everybody else does, right? Everybody else does, and what we're trying to do is tell you, look, you can survive, and each and every one of us can, and we're gonna teach you how.
To set the scene, Chris plays a recreation of the shooting at Columbine High, based on real-life CCTV footage. Who do we know out of that video survived? The ones that were running, right? So what we do is we identify at least two locations to evacuate. When you walk into a place, you're like, “Well, there's the exit, there's the exit.” The main aim of Chris's training is to get people to think about their options when faced with a gunman. When you can't run, we go to what we call deny. Denying takes our game of chase and then turns it into a game of hide-and-seek. Worst case scenario, we go to defend. We're just asking you to fight long enough, long enough for what? For help to arrive or long enough…
By the time Chris wraps up, the teachers seem buoyant about their chances of surviving a mass shooting. I always thought that I would sit there, laying on the floor and play dead, but now, I realize maybe that's not the best solution and go. I feel like I have more options than just hiding in a corner. And I guess I had never thought about how our rooms were made to get out and it's like, yeah, we could run through there and run through there and run through that door and we could get 3-year-olds out of there quick. Officer Chris Paine's hope is that if nationwide training can reduce the number of victims from active shooter events, it will become far less attractive as a crime, eliminating the copycats until it eventually falls out of favor just like hijackings. You know, I believe and I honestly do in what we're providing in our training that the goal is not just to nurse the problem, but actually to solve the problem.