Who is the first line of defense against terror?


After San Bernardino, I keep hearing that we need to arm the police with whatever tools they need in order to combat terrorism since they are our first line of defense. The police are definitely going to be the first responders to an incident, but are they really the first time of defense? I’m going to argue no, they’re not. By definition and nature, the police will be responders. This means they will be responding to an incident that is already in motion. That means that someone else already at the incident is going to be the first line of defense. Who is that person?

As you may have guessed, that person may be you, may be me, might be a neighbor, a pastor, a doctor, and so on. Rarely will it be a police officers. Terrorists and other criminals often do not choose the path of most resistance. This isn’t saying that police are “more” trained, but that they’re more “ready” when they’re in uniform. Going against someone that’s wearing armor, an exposed full sized firearm, backup magazines, non-lethal weapons, and a rifle or carbine in their vehicle is very different than walking into a store or event with a bunch of people who are assumably unarmed. The police officer is also most likely in a work mindset, which puts them in a different mode of being on edge and ready to respond to critical events more so than if they weren’t in work mode.

Let’s focus on who the first line of defense is against terror, or even a criminal. It’s not the police in most cases, unless they’re being proactive and serving a warrant or something. In most cases it’s going to be you. You’re the first line of defense. Surprise! I know, most of you reading this aren’t surprised, but some might be. A lot of people don’t think more than a few steps ahead. This can’t be you. You need to continually think several steps ahead so you’re ready. Ready for what? Who knows… But knowing where you are, where you can go, exits, who’s around you, cover, hard cover, and so on are going to be things you need to be aware of. However, what makes or breaks you is going to be how you can respond.

A lot of people, when confronted with a fight or flight situation will run first. Some people will stand and fight without considering flight. However, when people are cornered, most will fight back. If you’re cornered, or you’re the person who is going to fight before flight, do you have the means to fight? If you do, do you have enough means? Do you have a backup system? Do you have enough ammo? This sort of piggy backs on a previous article I wrote where I ask if we’re prepared enough. I think most people who carry daily are not. But even if you are carrying a good amount of gear, are you really prepared?

If you think you aren’t the first line of defense, you aren’t prepared. We all know the police can’t be everywhere which is why we carry in the first place. While we aren’t directly responsible for the people around us, we should feel an obligation to help be the first line of defense. We are a part of society, whether we like it or not. Some members of society have a greater burden to bear. Some physically or mentally cannot respond to these types of incidents. But there are those of us who can, and do. If you’re one of those people who can and will respond and be the first line of defense, you need to know that’s who you are.

So, the next time someone says that the police are the first line of defense against terror, please inform them that may not necessarily be true. In most cases, they’re the second line of defense. They’re the backup response to the people who need help. We call the police because we need help either physically or legally.

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Greg Ryman is a certified NRA instructor and RSO. He is also a California DOJ Certified Handgun Safety Instructor and a Certified Glock Armorer. Greg has been shooting for over 20 years and is the owner of Ryman Tactical.

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