Theater Shooting Scenario: What Would You Do?

theater shooting

theater shooting scenario

Would you know what to do in a theater shooting? Would you be able to protect yourself, your family and your fellow patrons?

The fictional story below accounts how one man reacted to a theater shooting. Do you think he handled it well? Would you do anything different? Let us know in the comments.


Theater Shooting Scenario: What Would You Do?

Every so often, you gotta give in to your wife, right? I mean, happy wife = happy life. So, I finally gave in to her endless pleas to go see the latest chick flick at the theater up the street. After we waited in line for what seemed to be an eternity, with her hanging all over my arm, wanting to hold my hands and plant wet ones all over my face, we were finally able to pay for the movie.

Of course, we got her some popcorn, a soda and some Swedish Fish to snack on. We found our way 2/3 of the way back in a packed out movie theater with stadium style seating.


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At least these chairs recline a bit so I can catch a few winks of sleep, I thought as my day dreaming made my foot catch one of the steps prematurely. I lost my balance, but thankfully, I was able to juggle all of the food that my wife wanted no part in carrying.

She’d eat it though.

As soon as we sat down she ripped the popcorn out of my hands with eyes glued to the big screen in front.

Ah well. Even though she was a pain, I loved her. She was my gal.

I’m not sure exactly when, but shortly after that, I fell asleep and was eventually woken up by a very loud and realistic bang along with screams of bloody murder.

Groggily, I sat up in my chair and glanced over to see my wife’s stricken face with eyes and mouth agape. A look of sheer terror in her face, I asked her what happened.

BANG. BANG.

Up front, what sounded like two gunshots accompanied by two flashes of light echoed throughout the giant room. Clearly, this was not a part of the movie, because the screen portrayed a couple of chicks driving in a car, smiling and singing their favorite song.

There was a lot of noise and screaming coming from the front of the theater, most of which I couldn’t make out. However, one very agitated female voice kept screaming over and over: “You killed him! You killed him!”

Someone has to be playing a joke on us. Right? Because this sort of stuff doesn’t actually happen to ordinary people in our little hometown. Does it?

BANG! BANG BANG BANG!

This time, my wife let out a shrill noise, but I didn’t bother to look at her. There was someone up in the front of the theater who had a gun, and may have actually killed someone. There were people shrieking all around the room, and people were hiding behind seats out of fear of being the next victim.

“Baby? Baby listen to me. I need you to get down on the ground and lay there until it is safe. Okay? Can you do that for me?”

Nothing. She was in shock. I looked back to the front of the theater just in time to see this criminal pointing his gun toward those of us lucky enough to be in the back.

Just as the first shot rang out, I threw my wife to the ground and got on top of her.

I’m not sure how many shots were fired this time, but one thing was for sure: this bastard’s gotta go. I told her to stay put one more time, and I formulated a plan to put an end to this madness.

The gun shots were loud. Much louder than anything I’ve ever heard before, even though I regularly go to the range to train with my own pistol. I guess that’s why I wear ear protection, though.

I got up to my knees so I could peer up and over the seat back. I couldn’t see anything at this point because the screen went dark. The criminal must have been shooting at the projection room in order to get the last advantage over his victims. And now, it was pitch black in here minus the very dim running lights on the ground. I knew that if I turned my phone light on, he’d have a target to shoot at.

Suddenly, from off to my right somewhere, came an elderly male voice that said, “What do you want from us?”

The reply came in the form of a few gunshots. I ducked back down behind the seat for cover.

I had no way of knowing what time it was, or when and if the police were called. Even if they were called, this was a hostage situation, and they wouldn’t come storming in here when there were innocent lives at stake.

I had my pistol, but I couldn’t just shoot blindly because that would put other lives in danger. I peered around the corner, and as I did, the main lights came on. It was disorienting at first. Sort of like when you first wake up in the middle of the night to take a leak and accidentally turn the light switch on. Only this was brighter.

I was able to get a good look at this felon once my eyes fully adjusted to the bright lights. He was wearing a ski mask, and had a pistol in his hand. He continually paced back and forth and waved the pistol in the air. He could have been saying something, but I wasn’t exactly sure.

There was a slight chance that I could creep up behind him whenever he walked away from me, and I took that chance.

I slowly made my way down the stairs to the front of the theater, hiding whenever necessary, and was just a few yards away from him when we made eye contact. Instantly realizing that I wasn’t there a few minutes before, he pointed his gun at me, and the hairs on my neck stood on end.

I ducked, but not before the bullet from his gun hit me in the shoulder. It hurt. A lot. He must have known that he hit me, because he walked over to were I was laying, and looked at me with anger in his eyes.

This is a man who has nothing left to lose, and it was now or never. I pulled my pocket .380 and put 3 rounds into his chest. He took a few steps back, dazed, but clearly wearing a bullet proof vest.

He raised his pistol and pointed it at me. What should I do next?

Click here for the conclusion of this story.


How would you handle a theater shooting scenario like the one described above? Share your thoughts in the comments.

16 Responses to :
Theater Shooting Scenario: What Would You Do?

  1. wbedwards says:

    Whenever my wife and I go to the movies we sit in the back and I always have my G27 with extra mags on me as well as a flashlight. My wife and I have discussed what would we do if there was an active shooter in the theater. The first thing is to get down and minimize your footprint, the scenario would be to determine if the shooter was alone or had an accomplice. My wife would call 911and I would keep low but move laterally and determine the shooters location. I would try to keep a shot count but that’s pretty hard to do when the hearts racing and the adrenaline is pumping. Once the shooter’s location I would try to move as close as possible while maintaining a low profile and wait until I could neutralize the threat. Hopefully I will never be put in this situation but it’s important to always prepare for the worst and pray for the best…..

  2. Jack Scholbe says:

    I would like to think I could adjust my aim to his groin area or head and keep on firing if it was clear behind him.

  3. DEFENDER88 says:

    Well my wife will have her gun and I will have mine.
    1st know this – since I argue our case for gun rights on left wing anti-gun forums I have come to know that even if I take out the shooter I will probably get sued by some L. Wing anti-gun nut – I have been told this several times. Even if I save their life. Yup – unbelievable but true.
    So, given that, we are going to get down, take cover, she will watch left and I will watch right.
    And stay put unless he approaches us.
    If, but only if, he does come for US, we will take him out.
    Thus satisfying the 3 rules for “our” self defense – The threat has – Opportunity, Intent, Ability – against US.
    I will have 9 shots, 9mm, in 1st mag(S&W Shield)(w/night sights) – 1st sequence – 2 center mass, 2 groin/hips, 2 head. 3 spares I will probably shoot out also. I also carry a Tac Light, knife, etc.
    Hornaday Critical Defense HP’s. (Helps with limiting shoot-thrus).
    Also if I am on the floor and he is standing the traj should help limit potential shoot thrus.
    Quick Slide Lock Reload and hold or shoot again if he is still a threat – to “US”.
    Assuming I don’t totally freak out.
    But I do practice this crap a lot in IDPA scenarios so maybe my training will kick in.
    Also, it wont be my 1st “real” gun fight.
    Been there, done that, did not like it.
    But Not Interested in saving people who have told me they will sue me(no matter the outcome) if I fire.
    What a world we live in now.

    1. Sharon Moran says:

      If it were me (I am woman) I would not wait to fire another round as long as no one was behind this gunman as it is him or me. It is like being in combat only on our own soil, here in America! It is too bad that things have to get this bad, but they will get much worse before they get any better if at all. This is not my way to handle a situation as this is a self defense case, & if they want to lock me up because I shot someone who is shooting at me, then I will do what I have to do to save myself as God did not say that we have to be martyrs at the hands of maniac’s, & drug crazed degenerate’s.
      It is life & survival, & that is my stand. I am a very devout Catholic, but when I am hit by a bullet because I am in a movie theater watching a movie, then it is kill or be killed!
      Sorry for everyone who does not believe in self defense, as I would not wait for a court to tell me that I should not have fired in the first place, as I will never see that court room. It is not my fault that there is another person who is broken like most of us, but we can to the best of our benefit try to deal with our problems, & not make problems for other people who are there for a good time, & not to sound harsh or say that this person is not a good soul of God, but there is a point where you draw the line. Sure, if you don’t want to shoot, then play dead, or take the next shot, as this person is not going to wait for you to make your prayers count to God.
      If that were the case, then the person would not have shot me in the first place. Sorry people but you have to have a mindset that is with today’s way of the world. Or kiss your butt good-by!

      1. DEFENDER88 says:

        That’s fine, but if you don’t do it right there is a good chance you will end up in jail.
        I would just as soon be killed than be in jail for defending myself.
        I tell you now – if you have never been in a real gun fight you have no idea how hard it really is.
        Also if you are serious about “Self Defense” then you should get serious.
        Find the nearest gun club that sponsors IDPA matches, go watch one, talk to the people there about self defense.
        It will be an eye-opener for you. And if you listen to what they tell you maybe keep you out of jail and learn how to really, actually be able to defend yourself the right way without getting shot.
        ps I shoot IDPA (ie Combat Pistol) competitions and 3Gun.
        I am retired but volunteer some now as a State Certified Firearms Instructor for local police.
        I still practice shooting about 1,000 rds/mo in defensive tactical combat shooting.
        There is a “lot” more to it then you seem to know.

    2. JS says:

      Firstly I too have been in multiple firefights as a soldier and as a LEO. I was unfortunate enough to have to shoot and kill a suspect on a traffic stop who pulled a sword from his cane and attempted to attack me with said weapon. All this BS of 2 to the chest 1 to the head……groin blah blah blah is pure machoism and fantasy. You aren’t rehearsing in the environment or a exact mockup of it for day or weeks, you aren’t doing CQB as a team and you have zero idea it’s going to happen. You are actively engaged in the movie, it’s dark you are with a loved one and there are sheep everywhere and they alone are issue enough. There are just too many variables and Murphy’s Law WILL bite you in your third point of contact with a quickness. I served in the Army for 20 years (8 of those in Special Operations), 7 years as an full-time LEO and 7 as a Reserves LEO. I served as quickly Training NCO, Armorer, Teams Weapon Sergeant and Department Armorer and Training Officer. As a civilian I shoot 2-3 times weekly and compete in USPSA (single stack and limited 10) I have spent hundreds if not thousands of hours on the ranges, kill houses, MOUNTS conducting live fire drills and not exercises firing millions of rounds in the process. If I were at the movies with my wife and an active shooter engaged the theater given the known tangibles. A center mass shot(s) would be the best case scenario. I consider myself an expert marksman and shooter and to say anything other than a center mass placement in this scenario is foolish and just… moronic. Telling yourself or attempting anything other wise is pure lunacy. On a sidebar; IDPA is way to scripted and unrealistic compared to USPSA. IDPA is easier but doesn’t allow for free thinking/shooting.

    3. JS says:

      Firstly I too have been in multiple firefights as a soldier and as a LEO. I was unfortunate enough to have to shoot and kill a suspect on a traffic stop who pulled a sword from his cane and attempted to attack me with said weapon. All this BS of 2 to the chest 1 to the head……groin blah blah blah is pure machoism and fantasy. You aren’t rehearsing in the environment or an exact mockup of it for days or weeks, you aren’t doing CQB as a team and you have zero idea it’s going to happen. You are actively engaged in the movie, it’s dark you are with a loved one and there are sheep everywhere and they alone are issue enough. There are just too many variables and Murphy’s Law WILL bite you in your third point of contact with a quickness. I served in the Army for 20 years (8 of those in Special Operations), 7 years as an full-time LEO and 7 as a Reserves LEO. I served as Training NCO, Armorer, Teams Weapon Sergeant and Department Armorer and Training Officer. As a civilian I shoot 2-3 times weekly and compete in USPSA (single stack and limited 10) I have spent hundreds if not thousands of hours on the ranges, kill houses, MOUNTS conducting live fire drills and exercises firing millions of rounds in the process. If I were at the movies with my wife and an active shooter engaged the theater given the known tangibles. A center mass shot(s) would be the best case scenario. I consider myself an expert marksman and shooter (always qualified as expert in both military and LE on all issued weapon systems) and to say anything other than a center mass placement in this scenario is foolish and just… moronic. Telling yourself or attempting anything other wise is pure lunacy. On a sidebar; IDPA is way to scripted and unrealistic compared to USPSA. IDPA is easier but doesn’t allow for free thinking/shooting.

  4. CaptTurbo says:

    Seems to me his mistake was that his target was still standing and he stopped firing. Fire until the threat is eliminated or your magazine runs dry. At that point reload and repeat, adjusting points of impact for desired affect.

  5. Bernard Dailey Jr. says:

    I live in Michigan and from my understanding under the Michigan conceal carry statute if the seating capacity is equal to or exceeds 2,500 that venue is PISTOL FREE ZONE!! So what are we to do, just not go to theaters where the capacity exceeds 2,500? It seem like certain laws are just making it more danderous for law biding citizens and anyone knowing this can just take advantage of those of us who want to do things by the law!!

  6. Objectivist Newbie says:

    Why would you sneak up on a active shooter with your own pistol in your pocket?

  7. I think a good place to start would be DON’T GO TO SLEEP IN THE THEATRE! Situational awareness, especially in this type of situation, which has become one of the more popular targets of late. As for targeting, I agree – chest, groin, thighs, head. Don’t fire and stop, giving them a chance to regroup. That’s like thinking you’re going to have a one punch fight. If you’re really lucky, maybe. But I wouldn’t count on it.

  8. Mort Leith says:

    I would pull my legal concealed weapon and shoot the MFer and save tons of lives that libT ards are OK will allowing to die…

  9. Mort Leith says:

    ORrrrrr, I would be a nitwit liberal and wait like a helpless idi0t for the cops to arrive 20 minutes AFTER we are all murdered.,, in a liberal ‘Gun-Free Zone’ !

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