It is after midnight on a weekday. You hear a stranger at your door. The news article isn’t clear if the door was unlocked, or if someone in your apartment opened the locked door and let the stranger in. Your roommate tries to push the stranger back outside. The intruder draws a gun and the two men fight for control of it. You’re armed. You shoot the stranger in the chest one time. Now the stranger drops his gun and stops fighting. Unfortunately, you also shot your roommate in the hand.
You and your roommate back up and call 911. Police arrest your intruder. Emergency Medical Services takes both your roommate and the intruder to the hospital for treatment.
Later, police tell you that your intruder’s handgun was a pellet pistol.
The occupants of the apartment were attacked at home and after midnight. The attacker was both armed and violent. Those form a common situation rather than an unusual exception. Criminals want to attack us when we’re still half asleep. Fortunately, one of the defenders owned a firearm. We assume it was a handgun, though the make and model of the defender’s gun is not mentioned in the article. The defender kept his firearm in a location where he could have it in his hands in a few seconds. He also kept it in a condition where he could use it immediately after he grabbed it. That “good luck” is the residue of planning.
That night, our defenders recognized a threat. They defended themselves. They stopped shooting when the threat stopped. They did not chase the attacker down the street, but stayed at the scene and then called 911 to ask for help. They also put their firearm away before the police arrived at the door. If I had to guess, they were probably fully awake by the time the police arrived.
Let’s think about what we can do for our safety before we have to defend ourselves while we’re half-asleep.
The best plan is to avoid the fight in the first place. That is why we lock our doors and windows. Often, the attacker is looking for easy entry and a locked door is enough to send him to the next apartment. That is why we put in deadbolts and reinforce the strike plates in our door frame. We want it to take time and effort to break into our home. That might turn the attacker away, but it will certainly give us more warning and more time to respond as an attacker tries to break into our home.
We want more than strong doors. Attackers arrive with a plan. This attacker brought what looked like a firearm and he intended to fight and intimidate the occupants of the home so he could take what he wanted, typically money or drugs. The attacker thought his unexpected threats and sudden violence would overwhelm the occupants of the apartment. Contrary to the attacker’s expectations, the unarmed roommate recognized the threat and decided to fight back. The roommate pushed the attacker back toward the door. The attacker had a pellet gun in his hand rather than a firearm, but the roommate didn’t know that at the time. The roommate fought to control that gun.
We normally think of a firearm as a distance tool. That is how we’d like to use it so we don’t have to go hand to hand with an attacker. In contrast, the attacker usually plans to close the distance to us and get in his first strike before we’re aware of his intentions. In many cases, our first sign of trouble is being knocked to the ground. That means we start our defense in a disadvantaged condition and from a disadvantaged position. We have to fight back hard in order to win the conflict.
Note that even if the unarmed roommate had arrived at the door with a firearm on his body, he might not have had the time and distance to use his gun without letting go of the attacker’s gun and then being shot. Having a firearm won’t cure every defensive problem or guarantee our safety.
Talk about your home defense plan with everyone who lives in your home before something like this happens. Think about your defense before you’re woken up from a deep sleep and have to make immediate and crucial decisions.
We have millions of new gun owners who are learning to live with a firearm for their defense. They might take a firearms safety class. They may go to the shooting range to practice and they may consider getting their concealed carry permit. One of the next steps is to take a class on close-quarters combat. That is where we practice defending ourselves with a firearm while we’re hand-to-hand with an attacker or defending someone else who is hand-to-hand.
In this case, we have to get close enough that we can shoot the bad guy without shooting our partner or shooting ourself. That might mean grabbing the bad guy’s shirt so that we move with him as the two combatants fight. It might mean using weapon retention and disarming techniques to get the bad guy’s gun away from him. It might mean putting our gun against the bad guy’s body so that neither us nor our partner can get between the muzzle of our gun and the bad guy.
There are other things to consider, but they are more advanced techniques that are learned in team tactics. For now, I want you to consider what is possible as you defend yourself when the bad guy is up-close.
Personal defense in your home is it’s own unique topic. You need to make your own plan that takes into consideration the layout of your home as well as the particular people who live there. Consider the tools you have and what you can ask your roommates to do in their own defense. Having several armed adults in your home gives you more options, but it also puts more demands on you and your safety plans.
I assume that the two combatants who were hand-to-hand moved as the shot was fired and that is why the roommate was shot in the hand. It could also be that there was not enough light and that the defender could not see clearly before he fired his gun. Having motion sensors on the lights in our entryway would let us both see what is going on and leave our hands free.
A home defense plan is like a map; it shows us how to go from where we are to where we want to be. We can improve our situation whether we are renters or homeowners, and it doesn’t cost a lot of money. Consider taking one step each week. Why not talk to the people you live with and get started today.
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.