A sheriff in a small county in New Mexico is making headlines for his advice about how to protect yourself and others if you were to find yourself in the middle of a mass shooting scenario.

Sheriff Mark Cage of the Eddy County Sheriff’s Office took to the department’s Facebook page after the recent Texas shooting to drop some important knowledge on every day Americans.

Here’s what he had to say.

In the wake of the recent mass shootings, and several rumors being spread of more pending, I feel it necessary to address a couple of aspects relating to this issue.

New Mexico is statutorily an open carry/concealed carry state. My opinion is that concealed carry is a more tactically sound option, but it is ultimately up to the individual. ECSO, NMSP, and local police can’t be everywhere at once in a county spanning over 5 thousand square miles. In the event that violence breaks out, you may be the first line of defense for yourself and loved ones as law enforcement responds. Although we still endorse the “run, hide, fight” theory for non-law enforcement personnel, the folks present at the time will ultimately make their own decisions based upon their individual levels of expertise and the situation.

My advice is to be prepared at all times. Train and plan for bad things to happen. Even if you don’t carry, always have a plan for escape and defense. If you carry, please do so in a responsible, effective manner. Know and follow the four basic firearms rules, know your weapon and how to deploy it safely and effectively, and know your own limitations as well as the law.

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None of the heroes who emerged in these tragic situations sought that role out; it was thrust upon them and they rose to the occasion. Are you prepared to defend yourself and/or others if the situation arises? Are you confident and well-trained in the weapon you carry (if you carry)? Please don’t put folks in worse danger by carrying and deploying a firearm you cannot operate safely and accurately. Know when to run and hide and know when to fight.

When law enforcement arrives, be aware that we may have no idea who the good guy is and who the bad guy is. Assumptions get people killed and we will be very cautious arriving at the scene. Show us your hands immediately and NEVER point a weapon in our direction. Follow our orders and understand that our immediate mission is to neutralize the threat as quickly and effectively as possible. We will probably not be saying please and thank you.

I am a staunch advocate of lawful, responsible concealed carry and the rights of citizens to defend themselves by deadly force, if necessary and justified. We live in rural America, where the number of law enforcement officers is nowhere close to enough to address all aspects of public safety at all times. There is a reason the statute books allow me as sheriff to call on any citizen to assist me if the need arises. Be prepared, be safe and always be aware of your surroundings, escape routes and cover/concealment options.


Times have changed and they will continue to change. Avoiding victimization is your personal responsibility and how you choose to react to situations can have a very meaningful impact on the outcome for yourself and others. As Americans and New Mexicans, we are very resilient, resourceful people who always find a way to rise to the occasion and triumph. I have no doubt we will continue to do so. God bless those who have suffered, and God bless those who have risen to defend the defenseless.

Well said, Sheriff.

Now let’s dissect his thoughts a little bit further.

The most important thing he said was ‘NEVER point a weapon in our direction.’ He could not have been any clearer. As he also stated, responding law enforcement often have no way to distinguish the good guy with a gun from the bad guy with a gun. When they arrive on scene and start issuing orders, you will quickly separate yourself as the ‘good guy’ by complying and doing as they instruct. The bad guy, on the other hand, will often refuse to drop their weapon or follow an officer’s orders.


Police in Dayton, Ohio rush to take out a shooter in the middle of an attack. (Screenshot – Dayton Police)


Next, Sheriff Cage reminded us of a very important concept. Simply being legally armed does not create a ‘compelled to act’ moment. Cage said that they still endorse the “’run, hide, fight’ theory for non-law enforcement personnel, the folks present at the time will ultimately make their own decisions based upon their individual levels of expertise and the situation.” Just being armed does not automatically make you equipped to successfully navigate the scenario you find yourself in. Training is very important. You must know how to use your weapon effectively, from a myriad of firing positions. You must also have situational awareness. You must know who else is around and what the risks are of pulling your weapon at all, much less firing it.

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Never assume that you are as effective at de-escalating a potentially violent situation as law enforcement officials. They are trained for these types of emergency engagements. The average civilian concealed carrier is not. Playing paintball on the weekends with your friends does not make you tactical operator any more than my Army training does, especially considering that it ended 15 years ago.

The Sheriff goes on to remind us that avoiding victimization is everyone’s individual responsibility. As such, we all have choices to make when confronted with evil. Not everyone will respond the same way. Some people will run or hide. Some people will stand up in defense of others. Neither option is more virtuous than the other, given the circumstances.

But it is our responsibility to know our surroundings, to be situationally aware and to avoid areas and people that make us more vulnerable.

I have friends that do situational awareness training here in Texas. In a recent training session at a north Texas college, a young lady stated,

“It’s easy for you guys to have situational awareness. You are all law enforcement and military. You’re taught how to have that. How do I, as a 19-year old college student, gain that?” 

Their response was fantastic.

One of the instructors pulled out his phone and said,

“See this thing right here? Put it away for 30 days. Of course, you can answer it. But if you aren’t taking a phone call, put it away. Keep your nose out of you phone for 30 days. Once you do that, you will start to see and learn what is normal in the world around you. Once you recognize what is normal, the abnormal stands out.”

Recognizing the abnormal is a big part of being situationally aware. Being situationally aware allows you to optimize your safety.

And to Sheriff Cage, thank you for communicating a valuable common-sense message with the residence of your county. The next time I am through Carlsbad, I would like to buy you a cup of coffee as a way to say thank you. 


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