In a surprising comment, Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier is encouraging ordinary citizens to subdue or even kill active gunmen if they can as the “best option for saving lives before police can get there.”
During an interview Sunday on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Chief Lanier was asked what should people do if they are in the vicinity of an active shooter like the ones who terrorized Paris on Nov. 13.
“Your options are run, hide, or fight,” the D.C. police chief said. “If you’re in a position to try and take the gunman down, to take the gunman out, it’s the best option for saving lives before police can get there.”
The District for decades had outlawed handguns until the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the ban in 2008. Since then, city leaders have enacted restrictive laws that are still being challenged in court by gun owners and pro-gun activists.
Chief Lanier, who has enthusiastically supported the city’s efforts to limit handgun ownership, admitted that her suggestion for the public in the midst of an active gunman does not reflect the longstanding advice offered by many police officials around the country.
“That’s kind of counterintuitive to what cops always tell people, right? We always tell people, ‘Don’t … don’t take action. Call 911. Don’t intervene in the robbery’ … We’ve never told people, ‘Take action.’ It’s a different … scenario,” Chief Lanier told CBS.
She said that her remarks were not meant to frighten people but to heighten their awareness of their surroundings.
“You can be prepared and you can have a society that is resilient and — alert and conscientious and safer without scaring people. It’s not about scaring people,” the chief said.
Local authorities last had to deal with a major active gunman situation in September 2013, when a defense contractor gunned down 12 coworkers in an hour-long shooting at the Washington Navy Yard in Southeast.
After-action reports issued last year on law enforcement’s response to incident noted that police radio channels were overloaded, officers were not familiar with military complex and emergency calls reporting the active gunman were routed to two different 911 call centers.
In addition, at least 117 officers from eight different law enforcement agencies had entered Building 197, where contractor Aaron Alexis skulked through the hallways and randomly shot people he encountered. His onslaught ended when he was killed by law enforcement officers.
Law enforcement agencies have since promised to improve communications between various departments and better train personnel to handle active shooter situations.
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