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Personal Defense Lessons From The Buffalo Grocery Store Shooting


Buffalo grocery store mass shooting

For those who haven’t read about it yet, there was a mass shooting Saturday at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York. The shooter drove several hours to find a place he thought would have the greatest concentration of African Americans and few people carrying guns. He then used a rifle to kill ten people and injure three others.

In this article, I want to go through what information we can find about this tragedy with the goal of giving readers good information they can use to keep themselves safe from similar attacks in the future.

The Shooter’s Motivations Are Important

While I don’t wish to spread the shooter’s deranged message of hatred and racism, it’s important that we look at this shooting for exactly what it is. To do anything else would be to bury our heads in the sand and potentially leave ourselves vulnerable to sick people who will eventually be inspired to violence by these shooters.

The kind of person who would conduct a mass shooting of unarmed people in a grocery store won’t be stopped by hiding information. Hopefully we can save some innocent lives by learning what we can from the shooter’s manifesto (which you can find here, in full).

To be clear, the manifesto is clearly the product of a diseased mind, but there are a few important things we can glean from it.

First, the shooting wasn’t the lone act of a depraved individual. It’s part of a trend that readers should be aware of. The shooter specifically mentions other mass shooters as inspiration, including those responsible for the El Paso shooting in 2019, the 2011 bombing and mass shooting in Norway, the Charleston church shooting in 2015, the Poway synagogue shooting in 2019, and the Christchurch mosque shootings in 2019. Not only did he learn tactics and methods from the previous killers, but he shares a similar ideology.

While the manifestos and statements from these previous murderers differ in important ways from that of the Buffalo shooter, a common thread among them is concern that people of European descent are being replaced. The “thinking” here goes that white people aren’t having enough children, and that they’re being intentionally replaced by other races because minorities tend to have more children and come in as immigrants.

The Media Paints With A Broad Brush

Immediately after the attack, media outlets and left-leaning social media accounts set out to smear anyone on the right side of the political spectrum with blood from the attack.

While recent polling shows that 1 in 3 American adults share this concern to some degree, what sets these murderers apart is they think terrorism is the solution. The shooters think that by attacking minorities, they’ll discourage them from moving to predominantly white countries or staying in them.

The Broader Conspiracy Theory and Who Might Be Next

It’s worth noting that the Buffalo shooter (like some of the others) places the Great Replacement conspiracy theory into a broader narrative of a supposed Jewish conspiracy to dominate the planet, and he finds ways to shoehorn other groups he dislikes into the alleged plot as well.

He writes that transgender people (under the guidance of a Jewish media and activism cabal) contribute to replacement by becoming infertile instead of making white babies. People of East Asian descent, he says, are good people, but should stay in Asia while Islamic people are bad, and are intentionally trying to replacing whites.

The Buffalo attack wasn’t meant only to intimidate black people.

Whatever your feelings on any of the above, the key takeaway from this is that if you’re part of any “controversial” group (LGBT, Jewish, Islamic, Hispanic, black, etc.), you should realize that there are people out there — though very small in number —  who want to hurt you and your friends. If you frequent places where there’s a high concentration of potential targets (i.e. synagogues, mosques, black neighborhood stores, gay bars), you and those who run these spaces should be taking this threat seriously and coming up with a reasonable action plan for such an attack.

While it’s a complex topic (one that I’m willing to help people navigate), the basic idea is to make your venues harder targets to attack. When shooters see that you’ve got good security measures, they’ll probably go somewhere else where they have a better chance of racking up a higher body count.

This Advice Applies Broadly

Really, this is something any gathering place should consider, whatever the types and ideologies of the people who meet there may be. Gatherings of any kind without putting some effort into keeping the people there safe is irresponsible. Do the right thing and keep the sheep safe from the wolves, because even if this particular brand of deranged mass killer wouldn’t target your people, as we know from sad experience, some other kind will.

The Attack Itself

To help readers see what they’re up against, we’re going to share a link to the graphic video the shooter livestreamed from a camera mounted to his helmet.

Buffalo grocery store mass shooting

Once again, the intent here isn’t to glorify the shooter or his cause, as much as to drive home that this is not only a grave threat, but one that you can mentally and physically prepare for.

 * * * CAUTION: The video is VERY graphic. * * *

You can download the video here (H.265 Codec required), but don’t watch it if you’re disturbed by violence and don’t watch it at work or around children. The video is also available here.

Again, the video is GRAPHIC and DISTURBING. You have been warned.

Between the video, the shooter’s manifesto, and media reports, there’s a lot of useful information we can learn if we study this attack.

Situational Awareness Is Key

The biggest thing you can do to improve your odds in such an attack is to pay attention. Some of the first people to die did nothing to avoid getting killed because they didn’t notice that a man parked in an unusual spot (the crosswalk in front of the store) while wearing military-style gear including safety glasses and a helmet. Then they didn’t notice that the man exited his vehicle with a rifle in a ready-to-fire condition (i.e. not slung).

Buffalo grocery store mass shooting

While not everyone who was shot in the beginning stood much of a chance, buying yourself a few precious seconds to become a moving target can make a big difference. Getting behind some kind of cover or concealment would be even better.

Doing both of the above while returning fire with your own gun would be even better, but your opportunity to do any of this is lost if you don’t see and recognize the threat before it’s too late.

Today’s Shooters Are Preparing For Armed Opposition

It’s worth noting that the shooter planned to face opposition from a security guard — which he did — and possibly from a civilian with a concealed weapon. He shot and killed the guard in an exchange of fire (after the end of the video) by wearing body armor.

The killer minimized his chances of having to deal with an armed civilian by choosing a place with strict gun laws. Like other recent mass shooters, he didn’t plan to kill himself or die fighting police.

There are several takeaways here:

First, if you’re going to carry a weapon for self defense, be prepared to face the threat of a person wearing body armor. If you’re a security guard (or the owner of the establishment hiring security), you should consider having a rifle readily available instead of relying strictly on a pistol. That would both improve power against armor and improve shot placement.

Buffalo grocery store mass shooting

If a rifle isn’t a good option for whatever reason (i.e., you can’t get it approved by a corporate office, it isn’t legal, or you’re a concealed carrier and can’t reasonably or legally carry a rifle), work hard on your shot placement. The standard Failure Drill, also known as the Mozambique Drill (two shots to center of mass, one to the head) was designed for this kind of situation. When upper torso shots fail to incapacitate, targeting the central nervous system, which really can’t be protected by armor or a helmet, is the next logical move to stop the attack.

Even if a mass shooter chooses to use face armor, such armor is generally not very effective at preventing incapacitation. It may help them survive long enough to get to a hospital, but terrorists like the Buffalo killer want to maximize body count. Shooting them in the face is still the best way to stop them.

This will require more practice and proficiency, and may not be reasonably possible with the smallest pocket pistols, but it’s a skill and capability worth practicing and developing.

Anti-Gun Laws Attracted The Shooter

We do need to point out that the State of New York, especially the legislature, bears some responsibility for the loss of life here. The shooter specifically chose to exploit a weakness that New York intentionally created with their strict “may issue” (often “no issue” in practice) concealed carry permitting.

Sheriffs who won’t issue permits to anyone but the wealthy and well-connected are also to blame. The Buffalo killer lived in a small town on the New York/Pennsylvania border, closer to Philadelphia than to Buffalo. But he chose Buffalo because of New York’s stricter gun laws. New York gun control laws leave people helpless in the face of such dangers.

Buffalo grocery store mass shooting

Here’s a passage from the shooter’s manifesto:

A screenshot from the shooter’s manifesto, showing that he chose to exploit New York’s anti-gun laws to maximize death and destruction.

Hopefully the Supreme Court has the same spine they apparently showed on the abortion ruling that recently leaked to press. Many anticipate that the Court will do right by gun owners in their New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen and end “may issue” concealed carry laws. The ruling will be issued by the end of the Court’s current term.

Don’t Assume Deranged Shooters Aren’t Prepared

It’s tempting to think that mass shooters are insane, which is true on a broad level. After all, they’re doing something that won’t really achieve their political goals. Instead, what they invariably do is to galvanize their political opponents and fracturing people who agree with them on anything.

But that doesn’t mean they’re stupid or unprepared. The Buffalo shooter’s manifesto is full of information on how to conduct these attacks successfully. Everything from tactics to gear to target selection was extensively researched and thought out. The guy even wrote about what underwear would work best, hoping other shooters would follow.

The guy’s training may have been lacking (experienced shooters will see issues if they watch the video), but possible future shooters are reading what he wrote and watching the video. Some of them will take up the slack and get better training. Don’t rely on them being incompetent.

If you find yourself up against such a threat, don’t assume that you can just spray a few .380 ACP rounds in their general direction and they’ll go away like many past shooters. You’d better be as proficient as you can be, and be prepared for a real fight for your life.

While these sorts of mass shootings are statistically far less likely than a minor-league criminal trying to snatch your wallet, preparing for more than the “three rounds, three seconds, three feet” kind of fight won’t stop you from being able to deal with more common threats. And it just might save your life.



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