Your teenage daughter calls you just before 6 in the evening. Her voice sounds strange. Your daughter heard someone in your house. She calls you as she is hiding in a closet. You race the rest of the way home as you talk to your daughter. You run to the front door. You enter your home and find a stranger inside.
The news report doesn’t describe what was said and done at that moment. We know you’re a gun owner. We know you’re armed. You shoot your intruder one time. He falls to the ground. You shout for your daughter. Police are at your door in seconds.
You identify yourself as the homeowner. Emergency medical services transport your intruder to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. You and your daughter give a brief statement to the police.
Your neighbors called the police when they saw a strange man looking into people’s homes. The arriving police heard your gunshot. Police later identified the suspect as a 53-year-old man. He is charged with burglary of an occupied structure and criminal mischief. You are not charged.
Our defender did a lot of things right. It sounds like he was armed in his car so he could be armed when he arrived home. He identified a stranger in his home. He defended himself and his daughter. He stopped shooting when the intruder was no longer an immediate threat. The story does not give us the details we want, but it sounds like the homeowner complied with the police officers and then identified himself. He and his daughter both gave a brief statement to the police.
There is so much more we want to know about this story, and there are some things we’d like to do if we were in a similar situation. To begin, the intruder went door to door through the neighborhood. He entered this particular home because he didn’t see an occupant inside and the front door was unlocked. I’m sure the defender started locking his doors after this incident, and we can learn from his experience.
Protect your family by locking your doors and windows!
Millions of us bought our first gun last year. Unfortunately, many of those guns are sitting unloaded on a bedroom shelf. Those gun owners are betting that they will have minutes to recognize a threat, move to their gun, prepare their firearm, and then move to defend their family. That happens sometimes. More often, the unarmed defender will have seconds to react and have to engage the attacker with his bare hands.
Also, there are many people who have their carry permits but who don’t go armed. They will only carry their gun “when they need it.” I think we need it now. You’ll probably agree if you study the real patterns of crime in your area. Please walk into your local police station and ask them what they see. That will open your eyes and change how you see your neighborhood.
Please carry your firearm on your body.
We must identify the person in our home before we press the trigger. Don’t shoot your drunk relative who came over unannounced and walked into your home because your door was unlocked. Don’t shoot your neighbor who came over to find out what was wrong after he heard your daughter scream.
Identify your target.
A firearm is a lethal tool. Lethal force may be justified if innocent parties face an immediate, lethal, and unavoidable threat. Think through these situations now so that your actions in the moment are both legally and morally justified.
Know the self-defense laws in your state.
Any parent will tell you that children change everything in your life. They also change your priorities in a self-defense incident. If I am alone, then I can call the police, stand outside, and take cell phone videos to post on social media while the police make an arrest. In contrast, I would enter my house if my children were at risk. We all would.. unless we plan in advance.
There is no duty to retreat if you are moving to protect your children.
Have a safe room where you can protect your family. That can be as simple as putting a deadbolt on the door of the master bedroom, and longer screws in the strike plates and hinges. Your family could defend themselves by retreating to that room and locking the door. That plan works if all of you are at home or if they are at home without you.
Practice your safety plan with your family.
Finding a bad guy in your home is hard. You may know your house, but you don’t know who is around every corner. Defense professionals hate clearing a house, and most want to send in a police dog. I agree with them now that I’ve done force-on-force training in a home. We won’t go into close-quarters tactics here, but you don’t want to hand the bad guy your gun as you move around a corner.
Please consider that the adults in your home should have some training in armed defense. Think what might have happened in this story if mom was home, or if mom was driving nearby when the intruder walked in. She would have entered the home and surprised the intruder. We want her prepared too. Meeting an intruder can be deadly, as the surviving family members found out in this story last week. I want both parents to protect their own lives as well as protecting the lives of their children.
Everybody gets some training.
This news story describes the daughter as a teenager. We don’t know if she was an immature 13-year-old or a mature 19-year-old ready to move out on her own. If your children are mature enough for you to regularly leave them at home, then consider if they are old enough to learn self-defense. Teenagers are old enough to be part of your family’s safety plan in any case. If you and your family are in your locked bedroom with your gun pointed at the bedroom door, then the teenagers might make the 911 call. Let’s practice that now.
That safety plan goes beyond stopping the bad guy and includes meeting the police when they arrive. In this case, the police were close enough to hear your gunshot. Now you and your daughter are running around the house as the police walk through your open front door. Please make their job easy so you and your family don’t get shot. The bad guy isn’t a threat, so put your gun back in your holster. If the police are already there, then open your hands and let the gun hit the ground. Your family is safe, so no one needs to move quickly.
Stand still until the police give you clear instructions. Give the officers a minute to figure things out. Do what you’re told to do, be polite, and say little. State the bare facts, and let the rest of the story come later. To be honest, right now you don’t know exactly what happened.
State the bare facts, and say little.
Now, call your lawyer and tell him everything. You’ll talk to him over a couple of days, and let him submit your official statement to the police.
Rob Morse highlights the latest self-defense and other shootings of the week. See what went wrong, what went right, and what we can learn from real-life self-defense with a gun. Even the most justified self-defense shooting can go wrong, especially after the shot. Get the education, the training, and the liability coverage you and your family deserve, join USCCA.