Blue Line

Fighting back

April 14, 2014  By Michael Soden

Motivation has produced great leaders, athletes, entrepreneurs, soldiers, teachers and police officers. On the other hand, it can also lead to some horrific disasters. Hitler was a highly motivated individual, Al Qaeda is a highly motivated group and North Korea is a highly motivated government.

The United States is in the midst of highly charged conversations between advocates for gun control and Second Amendment rights; both highly motivated with their own agendas to support. When you cut through the rhetoric that each side spills out, they both have valid arguments for their reasoning.

The debate again surged in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut. Coward Adam Lanza was highly motivated and killed 26 people, 20 of them defenseless children. He allegedly had Asperger syndrome, but there are many people with that disorder who do not actively plan and kill innocent helpless people.

Other incidents include:

  • May 18, 1927: Andrew Kehoe, another highly motivated individual, planted explosives in the Bath Elementary School in Bath, Michigan. He blew up the school, killing 38 children and 6 adults.

  • Aug. 27, 2012: Yet another motivated individual, Robert Gladden Jr. entered Perry Hall High School in Baltimore, Maryland with a shotgun in an attempt to start another killing spree. He managed to shoot one individual, a child with Down syndrome. The major difference was that a motivated hero, guidance counselor Jesse Wasmer, met Gladden and, making a conscious decision to place himself in danger, tackled him. He ended a situation that could have taken more lives.

  • March 1, 2014, Kunming, China: A group of assailants wielding knives stormed into a railway station in southwestern China, slashing employees and commuters. They killed 29 people and wounded more than 140. This heinous act was committed by a group of motivated terrorists armed with edged weapons, not guns.

These four examples illustrate that negative motivation can be countered with positive motivation. Guns, knives and explosives are inherently dangerous but have many constructive uses. They have built nations and saved lives. The China incident is one of the most deadly attacks carried out since the term active killer has been coined. Will it lead to edge weapon regulation?

Regulation of all potentially dangerous items is not necessarily a negative mechanism; however, unless it is deployed correctly it will fail and leave us at the mercy of negatively motivated individuals. Many people living in remote areas depend on firearms for food and protection from predators.

China has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the world; civilian ownership is outlawed. Ironically, the negatively motivated individuals found a way to inflict their devastation through edged weapons instead. In this case, strict gun control and regulation failed.

Firearm edicts fail to take into account the individual intent on killing. Highly motivated people will undoubtedly carry out their plans with any means at their disposal: knives, explosives, clubs, maybe even a fork.

Regulating firearms will not curb violence. The reason is simple: “MOTIVATION.” You can neither stop or regulate the motivated. The more logical response is stringent and uniform procedures for the purchase of deadly weapons and ammunition and restricting sales to those without a criminal record or mental health problems. While this is not perfect and yes, some will still slip through the cracks, it seems more logical then outright restriction, which has proven time and time again to be ineffective.

Seung-Hui Cho, the coward from the Virginia Tech shooting, stopped several times to reload. While shelter in place and evacuation are the preferred methods by which we teach, there is a third and sometimes more viable option: FIGHTING BACK.

– Unknown.

Water takes the path of least resistance; so do criminals and certainly cowards. They choose their targets accordingly. We have been taught as a culture that violence is bad and in the perfect world it probably is, but there are times when violence needs to be met with violence. “Good” violence can saves lives and act as a deterrent to those who choose to harm others.

We have been taught that fighting back is bad; to be the bigger person, walk away and don’t engage. That simply will not suffice in the active killer situation. When the opportunity presents itself the would-be victims must turn and become the aggressors. Yes, some may be hurt or even killed but they may actually end any further killings.

The cowards have chosen to attack schools, churches and mass transit for a reason. Their targets do not put up a fight and so this has become their preferred method. The ‘violence is not the answer’ thinking has put us in this position. Simply put, do not allow this to happen, own your right to fight back and end it. Self-sacrifice or the death of one is better than the death of many. That philosophy has been prominent, and hasn’t failed, throughout history.

Jesse Wasmer demonstrated that immediate intervention will minimize the loss of life and cowards are unlikely to do anything but crumble. Another example is 9/11; three planes crashed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, killing almost 3,000 people.

The passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 decided to react differently. What precisely happened on the plane that day may never be known but one thing is for certain. Those brave passengers fought back. They lost their lives but saved countless others.

If we allow cowards to continue to utilize “active killing,” they will certainly do so. If we teach the public that it is good to fight back – that calculated violence is sometimes the answer to bad situations – then surely this method will begin to subside. After all, they may be motivated, but their acts and persona are cowardly and when challenged, they will falter and fail.

If you are faced with death, it is better to save others and die valiantly in battle then to cower and accept death at the hands of a coward!


Prince Georges County Police Sgt. Michael Soden is an adjunct instructor with Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions.

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