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. 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
- Ep. 41 Should I Shoot? Do You Carry in the Home? Do You Know the J.A.M. Calculation?
Well, we’ve all had a pretty harrowing few months here at “Should I Shoot?” what with all of the random attacks and razor-thin margins for error and borderline exchanges of gunfire. Let’s take this week off and just have a seat, pour a cup of coffee or a tall tea, put our feet up and scan the local news.
Let’s say that you’re doing just that and come across a story about a semi-rural man in your area who shot an intruder in his home.
The resident heard a scratching noise in his dilapidated garage at about 10 p.m. Thinking it was likely the raccoon that had recently been raiding his trash cans that the county demanded be stored “indoors or otherwise secured,” he grabbed and charged a 20-gauge pump shotgun that he’d left by the door in hopes of getting a shot at the furry little bandit as it ran out into the wooded area behind his garage.
When he got to the unlocked door that connected his kitchen to his garage, he still heard the noise, so he opened the door very quickly and jumped through it, slamming it behind him. (The last thing he wanted to do was have the raccoon get into his house.) Turning on the light and grabbing the doorknob of the door that led to the backyard, he saw … a middle-aged man pulling a knife from the sheath on his belt while stumbling toward him, eyes bugged out, obviously very startled and angry.
The resident instinctively pointed and fired a load of #6 birdshot into the upper chest cavity of the burglar-turned-attacker, who promptly died before the resident could even dial 911.
Well, dang. Neither of them were expecting THAT.
This happened about 20 years ago to a mild-mannered semi-rural individual who owned a pump shotgun for a few rounds of clays every summer and the occasional trip to a pheasant farm with some buddies from work. There wasn’t a violent or even particularly aggressive bone in his body; in fact, his blubbering on the phone made the 911 dispatcher initially think that he was the one who’d been shot, and then when his wife came downstairs and learned what had happened, she grabbed the phone and made it sound as if another man had been shot since the resident first called. Like they so often are, this deadly-force encounter quickly went from a completely normal evening to a complete disaster in the span of seconds.
So, you’re reading this story on your phone or in your local paper and it gets you thinking:
What if he’d gone out there with a broom to shoo the animal out the door? What if his wife had gone out there with a broom to shoo the animal out the door? What if, rather than his survival instinct fortunately kicking in and saving his mild-mannered hide with the shotgun he was fortunate enough to be holding, he’d been holding a broom that would have turned the circumstance from a rather clear-cut defensive gun use into the world’s most exciting karate tournament?
All of this gets you thinking about the line we read in so many of these use-of-force stories: “The homeowner took up a firearm and went to investigate.”
So, in a break from form, I guess I have to ask: Should I call?
If you hear “a noise” that seems out of place — night or day — do you call the police before you do anything else? Maybe the non-emergency number, just to let them know that you heard something weird and you’re going to investigate?
Well … no. Were you to call your local police non-emergency number every time you heard a strange noise, you would quickly become that department’s least-favorite citizen. (Believe it or not, some people actually do call the non-emergency number every time they hear a noise; any dispatcher could tell you stories you wouldn’t believe.) Moreover, were you to call 911 every time you heard a weird noise and didn’t stop after several stern talking-tos from shift sergeants, you would likely be literally jailed.
What makes this a serious problem is that quite often, after someone has no choice but to employ deadly force in self-defense, a common question from the anti-gunners is, “Well, why didn’t he call the cops?” (SPOILER ALERT: Had he thought that the situation merited a call to the cops or had he the time to do so, guess what? He would have called the cops.)
I mean, think about it.
If I know that I have a load of laundry in the dryer and if I know that there are rivets on some of those jeans, I’ll understand that there will likely be some noises emanating from that dryer. Every now and then, though, I’ll hear something odd enough coming from my laundry room that I’m going to walk over and make sure that the washer isn’t unbalanced and making a run for the guest bedroom.
And when I do so, I’ll be — at least in the eyes of the law — “taking up a firearm to go investigate.”
As someone who is basically always carrying a handgun or handguns whenever he’s not sleeping or bathing, I am by definition “taking up a firearm to go investigate” anytime I go anywhere to investigate anything.
Should I call?
If I’m going anywhere on my property and I’m carrying a gun, if I end up having to use it to defend myself, all of a sudden, now I’m a guy who “took up a firearm to go investigate” and didn’t call emergency services before doing so.
Which, to be honest, doesn’t always play the best in a police report or in a prosecutor’s opening statement.
My rule of thumb is that if I’m not specifically thinking that what’s about to happen will possibly be dangerous, I never call anything in. If I do think that something might be dangerous and I am specifically headed over with a firearm, I’m calling 911 and explaining exactly what’s going on (situation permitting, of course.)
Problem is, the latter is only about 0.00001 percent of anyone’s daily activities.
So, let’s say you hear something at 2:30 tomorrow morning, and it’s weird enough that you’re hopping out of bed. It could be the furnace, could be the water heater, could be the dog … you have no idea. Since the world can be a not-so-nice place when it’s dark, you grab a flashlight and a sidearm.
Should I call?
I’d be interested to know what you think.
For more critical information on the use of deadly force and other firearms and self-defense topics, visit www.uscca.com/GunsAmerica.