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.
- Do you have, right now, on your person or immediately to hand, a loaded firearm?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?")