Editor’s Note: The following is a post from Sammy Reese, a former Marine Corps Artillery Officer and retired police officer from California. He is a part-time range master for the police department he retired from as well as a life-long martial artist and combatives coach.
Check out the last five episodes in this series:
- Ep. 6 Should I Shoot? What Gun Should I Get Part II
- Ep. 7 Should I Shoot? The Fleeing Suspect And the Good (But Dead) Samaritan
- Ep. 8 Should I Shoot? The Line In the Sand, How I Would Handle A Mass Killing Situation
- Ep. 9 Should I Shoot? Road Rage
- Ep. 10 Should I Shoot? Restaurant Etiquette
It’s 3:30 a.m. and you were sound asleep until you heard the sound of glass breaking. You sit up in bed trying to shake the sleep from your head while your ears strain to hear anything. You ask yourself, was it a dream or did I really just hear glass break? You decide to grab your handgun from the nightstand safe and go investigate in your nighttime “repel boarders” gear — skivvies, barefooted with a pistol. Is there an intruder or is your mind playing tricks on you?
Off you go down the hall toward the kitchen when you hear the sounds of a cabinet closing. You yell into the dark kitchen as you round the corner, “I have a gun” and come face to face with your daughter. You have a loaded pistol pointed at your pride and joy. Your heart rate is at more than 350 beats per minute, and when you realize you almost shot your daughter, you feel faint and sick to your stomach. Your daughter couldn’t sleep so she went to the kitchen for a glass of juice. She dropped the glass pitcher and was trying to be quiet while she cleaned it up.
Luckily, the only damage was a broken pitcher. Things could have turned out tragically, and they do more often than they should. If you keep a gun in the house to protect the family, you have to put thought and training into how you will defend the occupants of your castle.
The first step is knowing the law. Does your state have what some call the “castle doctrine,” or the law where you, as the homeowner, don’t have to first attempt to flee before you employ deadly force? The second step is what I call fortification — making your home as impenetrable as possible without having to dig a moat around it. (I asked my wife — she said no.) Having a whole-house alarm system is a good start. Crooks are looking for the easy targets and, hopefully, the alarm sign will get them to move on. If not, the alarm sounding has a tendency to get people’s attention and cause them to get out of dodge. To support the alarm, have proper lighting around the perimeter of your home. For some reason, bright lights can keep the bad guys at bay. I’ve added a big dog to my home-defense plan. When she barks in the middle of the night, I don’t tell her to be quiet — I find out why she’s on alert.
I keep a gun handy for when the fortification work doesn’t work or the crooks don’t care about bright lights, locked doors, and an audible alarm. Luckily, we had an incident happen in our home many years ago where the alarm went off due to a bad sensor. We had a plan, I had the equipment — handheld flashlight, pistol with weapon-mounted light and a bandoleer to hold spare magazines, light, first aid gear, etc. I learned a long time ago that no plan survives fist contact, and our plan went to crap from the beginning. I didn’t realize how loud the alarm was when continuously sounding. The dog hid under the bed and I wanted to also. The noise was disorientating to the point where I had a hard time thinking and communicating with my wife. The 911 operator couldn’t hear her at all. Let’s just say we learned a lot from the experience and have made some adjustments to our “repel boarders” plan.
If you encounter someone in your home, you have to be able to identify the threat before you employ deadly force. (If you are in my house in the middle of the night and you don’t live here, you are a threat until I can prove otherwise.) I keep several handheld flashlights for searching and I have weapon-mounted lights on handguns, shotguns and rifles that are set up for home-defense. Searching with only a light on a loaded weapon means everything you cover with the light is also covered by the muzzle of the weapon. I would much rather shine a light into my kids’ eyes or the drunk neighbor who walked into the wrong house than a loaded weapon.
I’ve said many times before: I can’t tell you when to shoot. That decision has to be based on the perceived threat but inside our homes, the intensity level is much higher since we have to protect our family.
Make sure you make plans and that you practice them. I can tell you from experience that while going deaf at oh-dark-thirty is not the time for either.
For more critical information on the use of deadly force and other firearms and self-defense topics, visit www.uscca.com/GunsAmerica.