No Such Term as Active Shooter

The term Active Shooter is not used in Israel.

That might seem surprising to hear, given the terrorist threats against that country.  Although there is an ebb and flow in violence, terrorist attacks in the form of knife stabbings, Molotov cocktail throwing, car and truck ramming and of course shootings are an intermittent reality there.  Instead of Active Shooter, in Israel the term used is Peegooah Hak Ravah peegooah hakravahwhich means ‘sacrificial attack.’  When you think about it, this makes total sense.  The linguistic distinction may seem trivial but to the contrary, it is critical to security.

The word ‘shooter’ is dropped because as we know a method of attack can be by any means.  Limiting the term to one thing (a gun) limits the Methods of Operation that need to be dealt with.  There are many examples of an attacker starting with say, a car that he rams into pedestrians, and when that stops, he takes out a knife to start stabbing, and so on.  An attacker would use any means available to succeed in his mission.

Being clear on the MOs assures that we are looking for the right indicators associated with an attack – surveillance , rehearsal, approach, etc.  Beyond detection, we also have to be prepared to not just detect but deploy.  There’s the story of a bus driver in Israel who noticed that the young man entering his bus dressed in army fatigues was wearing his unit’s insignia upside down.  The bus driver knew people in the unit and was familiar with the uniform including the color of the beret and the pins.  It was a strong indicator that the man was not only not a member of that military unit, but not a soldier at all.  The driver shoved him backwards out of the bus, closed the door in his face and accelerated away.  The suicide terrorist (the bus driver was correct) blew himself up at a distance from and, outside of the bus.  Countless lives were saved.

With incidents in Israel, first responders are not the traditional ones.  The responder could be a soldier on vacation, a passerby, a waiter, a security officer.  First responders there function more like ‘second responders.’  Unlike in other places, in Israel if there is an attack or shooting in the park across the street from the office building where he is posted, the security officer is expected to race to the park and do his best to stop the assault.  It is understood that his role goes beyond his immediate protected environment.  The same ‘rule’ holds true at retail malls, restaurants, boutiques, bus stops.  Even if the security officer uses lethal force to stop an attacker, he is within his legal bounds to do so.  It’s all hands on deck.

For an ‘Active Shooter’  or rather Sacrificial Attack event in Israel the emphasis is on localized, immediate, even improvised response to bring the attack to a close as fast as possible.  While this of course would be the intention of any law enforcement agency, anywhere in the world, the Israeli doctrine hones in on making security officers from the least trained to the highest level government agent, all part of a national security strategy.  This is specifically important given the fact that there are 160K security officers in Israel and only 40K police officers.

Law enforcement in the U.S., Europe and Asia takes the responsibility for response and protection but it’s problematic because they cannot be everywhere.  It’s simply impossible.  What’s more, they are a responding not a security force.  Some Chameleon law enforcement clients have noticed a disconnect between the current doctrine which is based on SRT/SWAT methodology and the more proactive method described above to deal with active threats.  SWAT is concerned with hostage rescue, the execution of high-risk warrants, search and rescue.  They are well-trained, tactical forces sent in to resolve situations.  They have some time to set a perimeter, put assets and snipers in place, establish command and control.  SWAT do an excellent job.  But a truly effective security and even response solution has to include other resources.

This was the conclusion of the then Chief of the Washington, DC Capitol Police Department, Cathy Lanier.

Lanier talked about how the key is awareness not fear. “You can be prepared and you can have a society that is resilient and — alert and conscientious and safer without scaring people.” She advocated for people being part of the solution.  Link here to her CBS 60 Minutes interview on Active Shooters.

In Israel, a combination of cultural and social attitudes (we’re in this together) and training (military but also mainstream) make for a powerful force multiplier.  With the right leadership and communication, this kind of collaborative security stance can be developed anywhere.


Chameleon’s Israeli Security Model seminar takes place May 6 – 13.  Link to Israeli Security Model for full itinerary, curriculum and registration information.


  1. Ileana Ireland on February 27, 2017 at 4:25 pm

    Great article!
    Thank you!

  2. Dave Grossman on February 27, 2017 at 4:47 pm

    Great info! Critical topic, per below.

    Dave Grossman here, retired US Army Lt Col, author of ON COMBAT, ON KILLING, ASSASSINATION GENERATION, the SHEEPDOGS kids book, and many others. I have been “on the road” for 20 years now, training cops in all 50 states and all federal agencies. (And I have long been a fan of your work.)

    I have been strongly encouraging everyone in this community to move away from the term “active shooter” and use “active assailant” instead. Or in some cases, “active mass murder”. One pioneer and leader in the field prefers the term “rapid mass murder.” Another expert in this field tells us: “…there is now a complete over-saturation of the words. Every person with a gun is now an “active shooter”. The whole term has become watered down.”

    The words we use shape and guide our thinking. Words are extraordinarily powerful … consider the words “shooter” and “shooting” as a term for some of the most horrible crimes in history: “The Sandy Hook shooting.” or “The Columbine shooters.”

    A “shooting” is what happens at the range. “Shooting” is our sport, our job, our Constitutionally protected right, and we have made the word a synonym for “mass murder”. If we look up the word “shooting” in the dictionary, does it say anything about “mass murder”? No.

    A “shooter” is the guy at the range. “Active Shooter Response”? Ha! We’d be real busy during deer season!

    If we tell people the word “shooter” means “mass murderer” then when a cop is in a “shooter” (in a legitimate police shooting) he is automatically condemned by our own words!

    Also, the killer could be using knives, like the one in Pennsylvania in 2014. Or fire bombs (molotov cocktails) as happened in a school in Colorado that same year. “Active Shooter Response” traps us in our thinking about the assailant. Also, I was told that one teacher actually said, “He wasn’t shooting yet, he’s not an active shooter!?” (Had to be an english teacher.)

    I think in some cases we need to revive the excellent word “massacre.” Remember the “Boston Massacre”? One of the events that set off the American Revolution? Five dead in that one. Remember the “Valentines Day Massacre”? Mobsters murder 7 mobsters outside of Chicago.

    Add up the Boston Massacre and the Valentines Day Massacre, and you still have more dead at Columbine. Double that number and you still have more dead at Sandy Hook or Virginia Tech. These crimes are massacres: The Sandy Hook School Massacre. The Aurora Theater Massacre. The Beslan School Massacre.

    Our refusal to call these crimes what they are (massacres, mass murders, slaughters) and to call them “shootings” is a sign of our denial, and a clever ploy by the anti-gun mass-media. I try to avoid association with anything or any one that perpetuates this denial and this anti-gun bias.

    Finally, consider this: Many of the leaders that we work with in the education community are avidly anti-gun. They don’t want an armed cop in their school under any condition. They say things like, “I don’t think guns have any place in our schools!” This belief is being reinforced every time we use the word “shooter” to refer to the assailant! Every time you use the term “active shooter” you are making the very act of “shooting” synonymous with creating a horrible crime!

    • Solomon on February 27, 2017 at 7:51 pm


    • Chameleon Associates on February 28, 2017 at 6:36 pm

      Good input – I agree that use of term ‘shooter’ maligns guns in a counterproductive way.

      Tactical response is important when all security measures fail. But we don’t want to rely for example, on an air marshal for airplane security. Better to work vigilantly to insure he and the rest of the passengers have an uneventful flight. This is true for any protected environment. And it’s one reason Chameleon’s primary focus is on early identification of internal (and external) threats and on prevention.

  3. Steve Albrecht on February 27, 2017 at 5:02 pm

    Well said.

  4. Mark V Murphy on March 11, 2017 at 4:47 pm

    Very interesting article, thank you for posting it.

  5. Maribert Martin on March 12, 2017 at 3:45 pm

    Very accurate, realistic view..

  6. Dennis Villamiel.CSP on March 14, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    Great very informative.

  7. Nalin Galappaththi on March 14, 2017 at 6:14 pm

    Valuable comparison,
    Terminology difference is mainly due to different mods operandis of undesirable elements. We also experienced a similar threat here in Sri Lanka during war against LTTE, called them ‘ Suicide bombers’. They used explosive jackets to blow themselves at pre identified key targets. One instance, they have used a pregnant woman with explosives to attak then Commander of the Army.
    LTTE recognized such acts as ‘Vira Maranam’ in tamil, meaning ‘heroic deaths’. Social, cultural and religious ideologies are influential factors for each party to decide the terminology to justify their acts and to motivate others to follow. Act of an individual and acts of a group or an organization also a factor for the terminologies.
    For security, I do not see any universal term but reading the threat situation and quick response is what matters to save lives.
    Collaborative security stance can be achieved through collaborative working, sharing know how.
    Thanks for sharing, valuable reading,

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