It is well before dawn on a weekday. You’re jolted from sleep by the sound of breaking wood. You hear someone moving through your house. Your ex-boyfriend comes into your bedroom and tries to tear off your night clothes without your permission. You fight him off. Then your child hears the yelling and comes into your bedroom. Your ex-boyfriend leads the child back to the child’s room.
You grab your handgun and wait. When your ex comes back, you tell him to leave. He moves toward you and you shoot him. He reaches for your gun and you shoot him again. Now your ex-boyfriend grabs your gun and runs away.
You drive to the police station and talk to the officers at the desk. You give them a description of your ex-boyfriend. The police find him at the hospital with a gunshot wound in each leg. Your ex-boyfriend is arrested for theft of a firearm, home invasion, false imprisonment, violation of protective orders, attempted second degree rape, criminal damage to property, and battery of a dating partner with child endangerment.
You are not charged with a crime, but the police are holding your gun as evidence.
There is a lot going on in this story and a lot to say about it. I’m glad the defender thought ahead and took out a restraining order on her ex-boyfriend. That made it clear that he was not welcome in her home, and in many states, not allowed within 500 feet of her. She made sure her doors and windows were locked. That was important because the sound of the breaking door gave her a warning when her attacker kicked his way inside. The shattered door is also visible evidence that the ex-boyfriend used force to enter her home. The defender also bought a gun.
After he broke in, the defender waited until her attacker was away from her child. She shot her attacker several times when he approached her. After the attack, without a gun, and with her door broken in, she moved to a safe location. She filed a report with the police and indicated that she would testify against her attacker in court.
These news reports don’t have all the details we’d like. My first thought was what happened to the woman’s child, but the report doesn’t explain.
This situation is extremely dangerous. More than half of female homicides are related to domestic violence. More than 90 percent of the time the attacker was a current or former romantic partner. Worried partners often seek restraining orders. Unfortunately, that often triggers a violent attack. One study reported that one-fifth of women who were killed were fatally attacked within two days after the restraining order was issued. About a third were killed within a month. That is frighteningly dangerous.
The restraining order can do a lot. It is extremely useful in court and when law enforcement encounters our ex-boyfriend. A restraining order is only a piece of paper and it can not provide immediate physical security for us or our family. That job is up to us. The good news is we are not alone. There are both support services and counselors who can help us build a security plan.
This is where we can all learn from this woman’s situation. While it is impossible to make a plan when we were asleep only seconds ago, we are able to recognize a situation and react in a familiar way. That is why we want to build a plan and rehearse it ahead of time. We can’t think under stress but we can identify a familiar pattern and act in a way we’ve already practiced.
Here are some important points to consider in such a plan. The details that fit your family and house will be particular to you and the time you have to respond.
You hear an alarm or a crashing sound that could be breaking wood or shattering glass.
- Grab your gun and your phone.
- Turn on the lights and/or grab your flashlight.
- Move so you’re between your child and an intruder.
- Get to the top of the stairs or behind a corner so you are not a target.
- Move yourself and your children to a safe room or a secondary exit.
- Call 911 for help.
- Shout that you’ve called the police and that you’re armed.
- Shoot your intruder if they advance toward you. Aim for the high center chest. If they come closer, then aim for the triangle between the eyes and the bottom of the nose.
- Shoot until the threat stops.
- Call 911 and ask for help.
Such a plan involves mental, physical, and emotional preparation. As one expert said, ‘If I could snap my fingers, I’d make it the way it should be. We have to survive in the world the way it is.’ Victims of domestic abuse struggle to accept that things did not turn out the way they planned and they now have to take action to defend themselves from a former lover.
In the story we covered today, the defender stopped firing while the attacker was still an immediate threat and while she still had ammunition in her firearm. The attacker took her gun and ran. I want us to have a better plan so we don’t depend on luck.
-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.
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.