It is before sunrise on a weekday. You have some yard work you want to finish before you leave for work. You’re in your backyard and look up when you hear a crash from inside your house. Your security system says there was movement outside your carport door. You go investigate.
You see a man standing in your kitchen. You shout for him to leave and you run to your bedroom. You grab your handgun and go back into the home. The man runs toward you from the carport door. This time he has a knife in his hands. You shoot him when he reaches the living room. Now he turns around. You go outside and call 911. You’re standing in your driveway when the police arrive.
Police find your attacker in your living room of your home. They disarm him. Emergency medical services take him to the hospital. Your attacker said he was high on methamphetamine and didn’t remember attacking you. He is arrested for first degree burglary and aggravated assault along with his outstanding warrants including violating his parole.
Our defender did a number of things to ensure her safety. There are also some actions we’d like to take if we were in her place. Many of us are in a situation like this every day.
Our defender had an alarm system and she turned it on. That action makes her extraordinary, and good for her. She also had a loaded gun for her defense. She kept the intruder at a distance rather than go hand-to-hand against a man with a knife who was out of his mind on drugs. Our defender escaped from her home and called for help. She stayed at the address to meet the police when they arrived, and she gave the officers a brief statement.
We have more in common with this defender than you might first imagine. Almost half of new gun owners are women. We had about 1.3 million violent crimes each year, though crime is on the rise and the total for 2021 is expected to be higher. About 70 percent of assaults are committed by people who are intoxicated with drugs or alcohol. About half of our defensive gun uses are outside our home but on our property. Also, about half of our defensive gun uses are at night. That means this is a typical crime rather than an unusual event.
As a side note, many criminals break into our homes to take the drugs from the medicine cabinet. With that in mind, it is no surprise that one news article used this attacker’s old mugshot in their story.
One thing that sets this story apart from the typical defensive gun use is that the homeowner fired her gun. Most of the time the attacker runs away when they learn the defender is armed. This attacker didn’t remember his crime and he may have been so high that he did not recognize that the defender was armed. Deterrence doesn’t work as well on people who are out of their minds.
This attacker stopped his attack after he was shot in the chest. As debilitating as that sounds, the wound was described as not life-threatening. The attacker stopped because he didn’t want to get shot again rather than because he was physically incapable of continuing the fight.
Our defender was disarmed in her backyard. That is the rule rather than the exception since most of us are disarmed most of the time. The best practice is for us to put our firearm on our body when we dress in the morning and to carry concealed all day. That means our gun is secure so that other people can’t take it. It also means our firearm is immediately accessible when we need it. If this defender were unlucky, then the attacker could have grabbed the unsecured gun kept in the home before the homeowner got to it.
The best practice is to avoid confronting an intruder. We don’t know how many of them there are and we don’t know how they are armed. We also don’t know how intoxicated or crazy they are. In this story, it sounds like there were no other family members in the home so our defender could have stayed outside and called the police.
This attack took place before sunup. Many of us are still at home at that hour. Your defensive options are limited if you have to protect your family. In that case, you either have to get your family outside to safety or to defend them from a safe location inside your home. It helps to have a plan.
A family safety plan is a series of actions you’ve thought through ahead of time. We have added at least five million new gun owners who bought their first gun in the last year. Many of them are still building their safety plan.
“I’ll only get my gun when I’m going somewhere dangerous,” is a safety plan of sorts, but not a very good one. Few of us think our backyard in the early morning is going to be a dangerous place. We carry concealed as often as possible because we seldom get a warning that we’ve walked into a dangerous situation. Plan to carry, and put good choices into your safety plan.
Let’s talk about making good choices. If we carry concealed, then we don’t have to run back inside our home where there is an intruder in order to get our gun. If we ran to get our gun from our bedroom, then we don’t have to run back out into the home where the intruder is waiting. We should lock the bedroom door and call 911. Use a flashlight or turn on the lights in your bedroom. Get behind the bed with the gun in front of you.
It is best practice to avoid clearing your house because we want to avoid a gunfight with strangers. Let the police go hand-to-hand with the intruders. They will show up with lots of men and lots of gear. Defend yourself with your firearm if an intruder breaks through your bedroom door.
We practice a fire drill so we remember not to run back into a burning building. We want to walk through our family safety plan so we won’t walk back into our home and meet an armed intruder.
Arizona is a constitutional carry state. The homeowner didn’t need a permit to carry in public. In contrast, there are some states where you need a permit to carry if you’re standing in your own driveway. You might not need the state permission slip of a carry permit, but you do want to carry the knowledge from a good class on armed defense. For millions of new gun owners, buying the gun was the easy part. Now they need to learn when and how to use their firearm.
Even if you’re owned a gun for a long time and have a carry permit, when was the last time you reviewed that class material and walked through your safety plan?
My concealed carry class talked about meeting the police after an incident. For obvious reasons, we don’t want to meet the officers with a gun in our hands. Reholster your gun if you can. Open your hands and drop your gun if you can’t holster it. Hold your hands out with your fingers spread and your palms toward the officers. Do what the police tell you to do. They talk about this, and more, in a concealed carry class.
There is more you want to know. You want to know what to say when you’re a mess after calling the police. If you have not studied it before, then say nothing. I’ve you’ve studied the law of self-defense, then say little. In this case, tell the officers something like this-
I called you. I’m the homeowner. A stranger attacked me with a knife. I defended myself and then ran out here. I’ll press charges and be a witness against him. I’ll answer all your questions once I’ve spoken to my lawyer.
Your concealed carry class should have talked about self-defense insurance or pre-paid legal plans. Your legal defense can be expensive even if you did everything correctly during the incident. Given a moment’s thought, your self-defense plan should include a way to pay for your legal defense.
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.
About Rob Morse
Rob writes about gun rights at Ammoland, at Clash Daily, at Second Call Defense, and on his SlowFacts blog. He hosts the Self Defense Gun Stories Podcast and co-hosts the Polite Society Podcast. Rob was an NRA pistol instructor and combat handgun competitor.