Saturday, December 27, 2014

Emergency self-defense

John Lott posted nine recent cases of self-defense where a homeowner or resident had to use a firearm at terrifyingly short notice to stop an intruder.  Reading them reminded me once again of how vulnerable most of us are to a no-notice home invasion.

Ask yourselves these questions.

  1. Do you have, right now, on your person or immediately to hand, a loaded firearm?
  2. If not, how far away (in both distance and time) is a loaded firearm, and how long will it take you (including entering a safe combination, loading the gun, etc.) to get it into your hands and ready for use?
  3. If you don't have a loaded firearm within almost immediate access, what other means of defense do you have if someone should kick down your door right now, or break in through a window?
  4. Have you discussed - and rehearsed - with your family what their response should be, collectively and individually, in the event that something goes wrong?  Do they know to get out of the way to a safe place, and get down and out of the line of fire, or will they run around in panic like chickens with their heads cut off?

I know a lot of people who own firearms, but refuse to keep them loaded and ready for use.  They protest that there are kids in the house, and they can't take the risk of a child getting his or her hands on a loaded weapon;  or that visitors are often present, and can't always be trusted;  or other reasons.  Nevertheless, a gun that isn't ready for use is of no use whatsoever to protect you - except, perhaps, as an expensive and unwieldy club.

I've trained many people to overcome such problems by careful analysis of the alternatives available to them.  There are many ways to get around the risk of loaded guns in proximity to children.  A few examples:

  • The most secure is to keep the gun on your person in a holster.  That way you have full control over it at all times.  When you have to take it off for some reason, lock it up.
  • Secure the gun in a safe that can be easily and quickly opened.  There are many small handgun safes available (follow those four links to see some ranging in price from $16 to $168) that can be screwed or bolted to furniture or a wall, and unlocked within seconds in case of need.  Keep the key on your person, so that only you have access to it (around your neck on a chain or cord is a good idea).
  • Have an unloaded pistol secured somewhere (with no ammunition readily available nearby), and keep a magazine of ammunition in your pocket.  If you have to retrieve the pistol, loading it is as simple as slapping the magazine into the well and cycling the action - a matter of a second or two.
  • If you just can't stand the thought of a gun, what alternatives have you researched, tested and implemented?  There are perimeter defenses (burglar bars on the windows, reinforced doors, etc.), chemical sprays (obviously a double-edged sword indoors, possibly affecting you as much as the bad guy[s]), Taser and other electroshock weapons (so-called 'stun guns'), impact weapons, and a host of other options.  Don't wait until you need them before deciding to buy or install them and learn how to use them!

If you own firearms, as soon as your kids are old enough to understand, I strongly suggest that you 'gun-proof' them through education (the NRA's Eddie Eagle program is a very good way to start).  It also helps to take away the 'forbidden fruit' mystique of firearms if they learn to shoot, using appropriately-sized firearms (such as, for example, a Crickett rifle), as soon as they're mature enough to be safe.  (Their maturity isn't necessarily a function of their calendar age.  I've known young girls of seven or eight years old who already have their own firearms and shoot them competently and safely.  On the other hand, I know adults in their forties and fifties who are utterly unsafe with any firearm at all!)  If kids know that there's nothing weird or magical about firearms and shooting, they'll be a lot more relaxed - and safe! - around guns.

If someone broke into my home as I write these words, it's comforting to know that within seconds I can get my hands on two loaded handguns and a loaded shotgun, plus electronic hearing protection, a high-powered flashlight, and other necessities.  One hopes and prays that the sort of encounters reported by John Lott won't happen to us . . . but I'm sure those involved in them never thought they'd need to.  They learned the hard way.  I suggest we learn from their misfortune and prepare ourselves accordingly.

(That's not paranoia.  As Clint Smith famously pointed out:  "If you carry a gun, people will call you paranoid.  That's ridiculous.  If I have a gun, what in the hell do I have to be paranoid about?")



Sevesteen said...

If you have a small lock box with a digital lock, some can be opened by dropping:

That isn't the original video I saw--the original was a toddler opening a similar box.

There are a bunch of lock boxes with similar ineffective locks. They are quite a bit safer if they are mounted to something using screws from the inside.

Anonymous said...

A murder victim costs society at least a million dollars: Perp burial not so much.

Here in Bellville,TX two murders had the potential to cost Austin Country 5 million plus dollars. Dr. Gonzales' murder with 4, (that we know of) assailants and Maron Thomas. Thomas butchered his entire family. Paroled from prison and I heard they wouldn't convert to Islam. Why the jury gave him life is beyond my comprehension.

So if you or your wife* would carry a gun and use it, much easier on the taxpayer and the criminals move elsewhere.

*I see a pattern of women being in position to defend their husbands and families, not always the other way around. Nikki Goesser, Susan Gratia-Hupp and the Tennessee housewife from a couple years ago that couldn't get her husband's gun to fire.


TatendaZim said...

My wife and I always have identical pistols at hand. We have no children, so need to secure them. In a box under my bed is electronic hearing protection, clear shooting glasses, hard soled (slip on) shoes, trauma kit, fire extinguisher, and jeans with gun belt, mag pouch with loaded mags and flashlight.

Anonymous said...

Or you can relocate to South Dakota. The Ethiopians move here because we have a big diversity campaign going on (GAG)but most of them leave after their first winter.

Will said...

I question the utility of the lockbox in a home invasion scenario. If it takes the BG's 30 seconds to kick in the door, that may be sufficient time to get it open by some, but certainly not everyone. Loud noises, combined with a sense of threat, make a lot of people incapable of doing anything requiring focus and dexterity.

The fact is that if a door can be kicked in, it will only take maybe three kicks, max, to accomplish it. That is just a few seconds. They have to plan and train for themselves to drop whatever they are holding and run directly to the box at the first loud bang-crash. Because that is most likely all the warning they will get. The boot to door, and the crash when it hits the wall.

They might not even get the loud kick as warning. A prybar being used to force the door open will not be nearly as loud. (Plus, creaking, cracking, and popping noises tend not to be alarming to most people) The first warning may be a strange face looking into the room you are in.

The door might not even be locked, for various reasons.

I always laugh at the scene on screen when the officer/detective/PI/CCW'er/BG gets home and immediately removes their gun and puts it away. (And then switches into Condition White. Because it's Miller Time!)

Inconsiderate Bastard said...

I'm siding with Will: lockboxes - of any type - are not the answer. Yes, they will keep most unauthorized persons from accessing the gun, but as far as quick retrieval goes, despite all the cute "magic lockbox" videos to the contrary, forget it. If the gun is not readily to hand within arm's reach, round chambered, magazine loaded, it's useless.

There are a number of door reinforcement kits available, several of which are quite good, but remember they are just a starting point, and you'll need some customization for it to be really effective. I have reinforced all my doors about as far as one can go and still get utility from the doors, and I expect that reinforcement to give me enough time to draw and aim. If I get more than that, all to the good, but it's not in the response plan.

For those serious about it, I'd suggest the Norden Police Lock. Spendy, but very good.

Don't forget that when you strengthen the door itself, including the hinge and locking points and how the door frame attaches to the house (Pro tip: Get the full door reinforcement kit, about $100 but worth it, and don't forget additional reinforcement around the deadbolt and knob), the next failure point will be the house structure itself. That will take more than a couple kicks to defeat, but I'm sure most readers of this blog can find a way to use the extra few seconds.....

Note to Peter: I know you do not control what the Captcha test looks like, and you definitely need something to stop the comment spam, but it's gotten ridiculous. It took 8 recycles to get one I could read. Then, while I was typing that sentence the Captcha expired and made me do it again. It's not your fault, but I, for one, have about reached my limit on Captcha crap.

10 Captcha cycles this time. This will be my last comment here.

Peter said...

@Will and I.B.: I agree - a lockbox is not the optimum solution. As I mentioned in my article, my first preference goes to keeping the gun holstered on one's person. However, there are those who can't or won't do that for one reason or another. For them, other solutions need to be found: and a lockbox is one option open to them.

It all boils down to what's possible in a given set of circumstances. That/those possibility/ies may be more or less ideal and/or suited to purpose.

retiredtpd said...

I speak with over 35 years on the streets, from a tiny town to a large metro area. The first thing I would suggest before getting a gun was to get a dog, doesn't have to be huge just one that is alerted to the smallest noise. I personally have a 14lb Affenpinscher that puts my 90lb GS to shame when it comes to going on alert.
Just want the early warning to give me 5 seconds to reach and grab my glock.
Got a glock with a light. Do not need that much more.

Practical Parsimony said...

As a child in the 50s, I grew up with shotguns and rifles leaning the back corner of a shallow closet with the ammunition on the shelf above. Not one of us kids ever touched the guns. I don't think children now are as well-behaved as children back then. Plus, my parents did not keep loaded pistols in reach of anyone in our house.

My aunt kept a loaded pistol ON her nightstand and refused to move it or unload it when we came to visit. She said we should not be in her bedroom. Naturally, my mother watched us like hawks. So, it was the adults doing job and teaching us that kept everyone safe, not locks or gun safes.

Only once did my father load the guns and leave them loaded for several days. Two escaped prisoners were in the Natchez Trace forest, and we lived on land that was right next to the Natchez Trace. I don't have any sort of gun, it would stay loaded and unlocked since I live alone.

tweell said...

If someone wants to break into your house, it's going to happen unless you have a very very unusual house. Do the little things that may gain you a second or two, but an existing house simply cannot be hardened to the point where someone cannot steal a bulldozer and smash their way in with it.

Dogs can make decent danger alarms, my mother's chihuahua mix tells her whenever something is happening. My last dog's judgement of such was as good as or better than mine. The problem as always is finding the right dog.

The way to avoid captcha cycles is to write your comment on a word processing program (notepad, word, open office, etc) then copy and paste. This also keeps you from caring about if the comment disappears - you have it outside of blogger's rather buggy interface.