Editor’s Note: The following is a post by Ed Combs, the Associate Editor of Concealed Carry Magazine.
Check out the last five episodes in this series:
- Ep. 28 Should I Shoot? Gun-Free Zones, Problems with the 1911
- Ep. 29 Should I Shoot? Are You Afraid to Shoot Because of Media Backlash?
- Ep. 30 Should I Shoot? Have You Chosen Not to Be a Victim?
- Ep. 31 Should I Shoot? Self-Defense Amid a Riot
- Ep. 32 Should I Shoot? Threat Assessment in Cold Weather
“Should I Shoot?” is a question you never want to have to ask when it’s another human in your sights. That aside, those of us who carry concealed make it our business to be ready to defend our lives and the lives of our loved ones, and sometimes “Should I Shoot?” is a question that needs to be answered immediately.
After the recent car-and-knife attack at Ohio State, there was an online meme going around of the scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark in which Indiana Jones shoots a scimitar-swinging bad guy. It’s a pretty cut-and-dried example of what cops used to call a “good shoot” back before cages in squad cars and polymer frames: Bad Guy clearly presents himself and makes his intentions known, Bad Guy has a weapon and begins to close with Good Guy, Good Guy shoots and ends the threat Bad Guy presented.
I don’t know about you, but scimitars aren’t seen too often in my parts (at least not yet). The question of whether to employ deadly force is usually a lot less Hollywood.
Let’s say you’re asleep in the middle of tomorrow night and you wake to the sound of your locked front doorknob rattling. After you realize that, yes, that is your locked front doorknob rattling, you secure a firearm and a powerful flashlight before calling 911. As you confirm that everyone’s accounted for, you tell the operator that someone is trying to get into your house and that, no, you are not expecting any visitors. Everyone who’s supposed to be in the house is already there and, yes, you’ve personally confirmed that. No, you do not intend to go investigate and, yes, you will wait for law enforcement to arrive unless whoever it is comes to you.
Then you hear the doorjamb break, followed by erratic, heavy footsteps in the entryway. You’re frightened but kind of relieved to realize that your hearing’s become more acute than you can ever remember it to be; you can hear a piece of the broken doorjamb snap it off as it’s snagged on something. You can hear giggling and what sounds like both a male and a female voice. You can hear a shoe hit your floor as if it was dropped, and you can hear someone clumsily trying to shut your now-broken front door. Without realizing it, your training’s kicked in: you’ve dropped your phone on the bed, you’ve moved away from the line of your bedroom door and you’re now standing in an offensive posture with your light and weapon at low ready.
You hear additional footsteps coming toward your bedroom door and now your vision has caught up with your hearing: Even in the low light of your darkened bedroom, you can see the doorknob begin to turn.
“Should I shoot?”
Such a circumstance brings into tight focus what is popularly known as “Castle Doctrine” law. You are in your residence, you are minding your own business and someone breaks in. You, as the legal resident, are allowed the legal leeway to simply assume that this invader intends to harm you and defend yourself accordingly.
Should you shoot?
Now we’re back to all of that difficult decision-making … that difficult decision-making that has to happen within the next quarter-second. Let’s look at what we know.
Most burglars usually enter residences in the middle of the day, when they have the highest chance of finding the place deserted. Actual burglars don’t want anything to do with anyone.
Most home invaders are usually either silent or dynamic in their entries. They usually either sneak in and have you overwhelmed before waking you or they smash in like a natural gas explosion and overcome the residents with violence of action.
What you heard was neither of those things.
Should you shoot?
Well, let’s remember what we need in 99.99 percent of combat shooting: target identification, target verification, and target isolation.
On the one hand, you have identified a verified, isolated target: someone who isn’t supposed to be in your residence that kicked in your front door and is now turning the knob on your bedroom door. Plenty of you have already clicked this window closed; you’ve basically said, “The knob starts moving, so I shoot. What would you expect me to do? Whoever it is shouldn’t have been in my house.”
On the other hand, angry as you might be about the brazen violation of your personal security, personal safety and the sanctity of your home, I come from what most folks would call a “big-time drinkin’ state” (and, depending on the time of year, so do you).
You heard the locked doorknob rattle, you heard the door break and then you heard … laughter. You heard a shoe come off.
At least one person in my high school class broke into his parents’ home in a rather spectacular fashion while extremely intoxicated. A few years ago, one acquaintance of mine was placed in the county detox facility after walking through the plate-glass front of a hotel in a fashion that was described as, “Like the liquid metal guy in Terminator 2.” On more than one occasion, I’ve gone to the wrong hotel room and tried to get in, and that was just from extreme travel fatigue.
Do home invaders take their shoes off?
Should you shoot?
For more critical information on the use of deadly force and other firearms and self-defense topics, visit www.uscca.com/GunsAmerica.