Everyone has fantasised about it before. Well, maybe only men – Western men – have fantasised about being the ‘good guy’ in an ‘active shooter’ scenario. An American cultural cocktail of homoeroticism, action movies, and a twisted fetishisation of firearms unravels itself in the Western adolescent imagination as a Walter Mitty style daydream wherein the fantasist casts himself in the roll of the one good man with a gun in situation where some maniac packing heat has gone on a killing spree. Naturally, the star of the show – the daydreamer – whips out his piece, drops and rolls, before offloading a couple of well-aimed rounds into the bad guy gone psycho.

Invariably these pubescent fantasies include some slim dolly bird in distress, who upon the completion of the good guy’s mission wraps herself around him and they both ride out into the sunset. Sadly this spank bank material is never about the girl. Like the whole scenario she doesn’t exist. She is only an element of the dream, and as such lacks all personality and agency in the drama. As an essentially homoerotic piece of imagination these daydreams are all about the fictive superman of self; the masculine me as the manly man.

In reality, when confronted with the shock of gun fire and a mass of screaming frightened people, the expected response – after the initial freeze – is to panic and run. Let’s not be thinking that this is so because we are all cowards. Our flight instinct is, like it is in most animals, hired-wired into our survival mechanism. Heroic animals in nature documentaries, almost without fail, end up on the menu of the predator. Our fight instinct is secondary; we choose to engage the danger only under certain conditions – when, for example, our loved ones are in serious danger or we have been trapped. On every other occasion it takes a truly super-human act of willpower to short-circuit our desire to run and hide.

If we imagine for a second our super-human have-a-go-hero, then there are a couple of things we should consider before unclipping our good guy’s gun and clicking down the safety. Our active shooter – the bad guy – hasn’t come with an exit strategy. As he has flipped and gone on a murderous rampage, by definition, he’s no longer thinking of getting out alive. Having already fired a good few rounds he has momentum and has the hang of what he’s doing, whereas our hero is still trying to control his bladder. By the time he has figured out the safety from the trigger he is more than likely lying on the ground with a bullet hole between his eyes.

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