Editor’s Note: The following is post is by Ed Combs, the Associate Editor of Concealed Carry Magazine.
Check out the last five episodes in this series:
- Ep. 36 Should I Shoot? Is that a Pellet Gun in My Face?
- Ep. 37 Should I Shoot? The Crazy Man With the Knife
- Ep. 38 Should I Shoot? Lunch Date Gone Wrong
- Ep. 39 Should I Shoot? ‘You Mad, Bro?’
- Ep. 40 Should I Shoot? Your Carry Gun vs. the Man with the AK
A few weeks ago, I offered a scenario in which you were awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of your front door being kicked in, and it raised some interesting questions about the implementation of deadly force inside the home. If you’re interested in perusing the ensuing discussion, check out Episode 33.
A lot of people saw it as a very cut-and-dried situation, but some did not. That’s fine; what we’re after here is discussion and critical thought. The body can’t go where the mind hasn’t been, and I want all concealed carriers and possessors of home-defense firearms thinking a heck of a lot about the possible circumstances surrounding the potential use of deadly force.
Say you’re standing in your kitchen one morning at about 7. Pick a reason why you’re there — finishing the dishes from breakfast, preparing your kids for the day, finally getting around to eating breakfast yourself, whatever. As this scenario unfolds, I want you to be concentrating as hard as you can on the following questions:
- Where is your closest firearm when it’s 7 in the morning and you’re standing in the kitchen?
- At what point would you access a firearm in this scenario?
- What are the steps it would take? And how long would it take for you to complete them?
So, there you are and you hear screaming outside. If you live in a house, it’s out by the road. If you live in an apartment or a condo, it’s out in the parking area. (If you live in the middle of nowhere, see if you can think back to the last time you lived near people.)
The screaming is a woman’s voice telling a man named Frank to “just go away.” The man is also yelling, but you’re unable to tell what it is that he’s saying. You hear glass break, and then you hear glass break again.
Looking out the window, you see a man with a 3-foot piece of rebar hitting a car, smashing its windows and denting every surface he can touch. A woman is yelling at “Frank” to “just get out of here,” but when he turns toward her, she runs to a door, enters the residence and closes it behind her.
Frank follows, tries the door, finds is to be locked, kicks it once and walks away. He approaches the next door, tries it and finds it to be unlocked. He enters, holding his piece of rebar, and you hear shouting. You hear glass break. You’ve dialed 911 by this time and the operator tells you that there are units on the way and that you should remain in your residence.
So you do.
By this time, Frank’s been run out of the residence he entered and, as he’s walking back toward the cars, you see a trickle of blood running down his forehead from the middle of his hairline. He’s back to hitting cars again, but he hasn’t gotten to yours yet. You’re watching out your window and, for a second as he turns around, your eyes meet and Frank stops swinging his piece of rebar.
And he starts walking toward your door.
Your door is locked, and at his current pace, it looks like Frank’s going to be at the threshold in about five seconds.
Should I shoot?
If you’re going to employ deadly force against an assailant, three conditions must be present: jeopardy, ability and means. (The acronym JAM is a popular way to remember them.) “Jeopardy” means you are in unavoidable jeopardy of death or great bodily harm. “Ability” means that your assailant has the physical ability to deliver that death or great bodily harm to you or another from where he is. And “Means” means your attacker has the tool or physical superiority he will use to deliver it.
As it stands now — at least for the next few seconds — Frank is still on the other side of a locked door. If you’re not holding a weapon and if you haven’t taken up a defensive posture by now, you’re crazy, but again, Frank does not yet have the ability to deliver death or great bodily harm to you. He’s still outside, and the last locked door he tried he kicked once and then walked away from.
Now those five seconds have passed, and you hear the knob rattle. It’s locked.
Then you hear the first kick. The door holds.
Then you hear the second kick. And the third. And the fourth. Now the doorjamb is starting to give way.
Should I shoot?
What you’ve seen so far is an extremely agitated man who is destroying property and who has violently entered a residence. He is holding a deadly weapon — a piece of steel rebar — and appears to have already been in one physical confrontation. He is now literally smashing open the locked door to your home, and as you do not have a legal duty to retreat from your own residence, you are:
- Clearly in jeopardy
- Facing a man who has the ability to inflict death or great bodily harm
- Facing a man who is holding a deadly weapon in his hands
As silly as this whole circumstance might sound, it is a combination of two different very real incidents: one I experienced as a law enforcement officer and another that is one of the more unbelievable videos you’ll probably ever see. If you Google “machete-wielding intruder shot on camera,” you will see the cell phone video of a man in Pocatello, Idaho, named Twain Thomas literally smashing through an apartment door like Jason Voorhees before the resident shoots him three times. In the ensuing wait for emergency services, Thomas admits that he was, in fact, looking to kill the resident.
Thomas absorbed three rounds. Those three rounds put him on the ground, but he survived the incident to receive a good long hitch in prison. He was holding a machete, so as soon as he went down and wasn’t moving, the resident stopped shooting. (I’ve said a few times that defensive shootings are rarely cut-and-dried affairs; sometimes they are.)
So back to what I asked you at the top.
Where is your closest firearm when it’s 7 in the morning and you’re standing in the kitchen?
Do you actually carry a firearm whenever you’re not in bed or bathing? Do you keep other firearms in your residence specifically for on-site security, or is your daily EDC sidearm also your home-defense gun? If it isn’t immediately on your person, how long does it take you to get from your kitchen to wherever it is?
At what point would you access a firearm in this scenario?
If you’re not already wearing that gun, at what point do you realize that you really need to be holding a gun? Is it the screaming? Is it the glass breaking? If we’re talking about a long gun, do you have a way to sling or otherwise secure it so you’re not just walking around with a rifle or shotgun at port arms? If you’re already wearing an EDC gun, do you pull it or do you access a different weapon? Are you a believer in the old adage that your sidearm is, “only for fighting your way to a rifle”?
What are the steps it would take and how long it would take you to complete them?
Are you literally just a proper draw away from your emergency lifesaving gear, or do you have to access a firearm from storage? Are all of your firearms squirreled away in a gorgeous $7,000 vault, or do you have other arrangements? Do you have a biometric lock box, a regular old keyed unit or do you have firearms otherwise secreted around your home? Are you more than the proverbial “three seconds away” from a firearm?
Should I shoot?
Assuming you’re been issuing strong verbal commands that he cease all hostile activity from the moment the kicking started, what happens next? Is running out a different exit even an option? Does your residence only have one entry/exit point?
“Castle Doctrine” laws aside, I’d love to hear your answers.
For more critical information on the use of deadly force and other firearms and self-defense topics, visit www.uscca.com/GunsAmerica.