It is almost midnight when you hear your roommates call out. Someone is trying to get into the house. They heard someone at the windows and at the back door. You get your gun. A few seconds later, a stranger kicks through the front door. He rushes in and you try to push him back outside. He fights you. You shoot your attacker until he stops.
You back up and call 911. You put your gun away. EMS tries to life-flight your attacker to the hospital, but bad weather keeps the aircraft on the ground. You and your roommates give a statement to the police. Your attacker is transported to the hospital where he dies.
You look in the news the next day. You notice that your attacker already had a mugshot.
These roommates made themselves safer before they heard something strange outside. One of the roommates decided that they live in a dangerous world and they got a firearm. Like storing a fire extinguisher, they stored their firearm so it was both secure and immediately accessible when it was needed. They stored their gun in a condition so that it could be used as soon as they grabbed it.
Let’s stop here before we go on. We have millions of new gun owners who are trying to figure out how to live with a gun in their home. They bought a gun for personal protection. Many of them have roommates. What should they do now?
Learning to live with a gun is a process as much as it was to learn to own and drive a car. You didn’t learn everything from the car salesman.
Of course you want to talk to the clerk at the gun shop. Ask him about options for safe storage. Maybe there is a local gun club or shooting range. You probably know someone who owns a gun. Ask them for information. You need information that applies to you and your situation.
This attack took place in the state of Maryland where it is always difficult, and sometimes impossible, to get a “wear and carry” permit. You want to learn how you might carry at home and at work. It is good advice to shop for a holster as you shop for your firearm. You also want to learn how you must transport your firearm to be within the law. We also have to learn how to store our firearm when we’re not wearing it.
Welcome to the gun culture. There are many small things to learn. It is a series of small steps rather than one giant leap.
The news article doesn’t say how the gun was stored. We want it both safe and accessible. Many new gun owners imagine that they can store their gun unloaded so it is safe and yet have quick access to it because it is sitting on their top-shelf. They think that replaces a holster during the day, and replaces a rapid access gun-safe at night. In a word, NO!
Yes, you want to store your gun when it is not on your body. No, the top shelf of your clothes closet is not safe storage. The dilemma is that either anyone who walks in can grab the gun, or the gun isn’t useful because the ammunition is stored separately and it takes time to assemble. If you think the top of the shelf really works for you, then load your magazine with snap caps and set an alarm. When the alarm goes off at 2 am see how long it takes you to have a “loaded” firearm in your hands..even though it is loaded with dummy rounds.
I suggest that new gun owners shop for a rapid-access firearm safe. They run about $100. I know that is another hundred dollars you could spend on training. It is another hundred you could spend on ammunition and practice.
You bought a gun so that you and the people you live with would be safer; that includes safe storage of the firearm.
If you know a new gun owner who is undecided about safe storage, then send them this article.
What else did our defenders do correctly? We have to recognize that they locked their doors. That gave them warning when the intruder had to try every door and window. The defenders also sounded an alarm. There is a temptation, particularly in the middle of the night, to assume that everything is fine and to pretend that an unusual sound was meaningless and harmless. The defenders did the uncomfortable thing and raised an alarm. Next, our defender moved toward the sound rather than staying locked in his room and leaving the other roommates to fend for themselves.
We have to stop again to avoid misunderstanding. There are good reasons that a safety plan might be for every roommate to lock themselves in their room and call 911. What works for me might not work for you. What worked, in this case, might not be the best plan for your living situation. At least get-together and answer the who, what, when, where, and how of defense.
The best solution is to talk to the people you live with and build a safety plan together.
It also sounds like the defenders shouted for the intruder to stop and get out. They confronted the intruder and tried to push him back outside. That is dangerous, but critically important. The gun was their last resort. They only used a lethal tool after less lethal methods failed.
The defender shot because he was attacked in his home, a place he had every legal right to be. He stopped shooting when the offender stopped attacking him. When you go to a self-defense class someone will inevitably ask how many shots they should fire. The accurate answer is that you shoot until you can stop shooting. We have to justify every shot we fire.
Shoot when you face an immediate, unavoidable, and lethal threat. Stop shooting when the threat becomes delayed, avoidable, or non-lethal.
The defenders stayed at the scene of the crime. This is where multiple defenders are an advantage. Someone should watch the attacker to make sure the scene remains safe. Someone should check to make sure the defenders are not hurt or to assess the degree of injury. Someone should call 911, and someone should guide the police to the scene. You’re going to run out of hands if you try to do all that by yourself.
If I didn’t mention that you should have a safety plan with your roommates, then let me mention that now. It is less important who does what job so long as you remember the tasks to be accomplished and keep working. If only one of you is trained with a gun, then the remaining roommates are unarmed when that roommate is away from home. You don’t know who will be where when the door is kicked in, and you don’t know whose phone will have a dead battery. Yes, some of you may be better with a phone but it would be best if each of you could perform any task.
The person on the phone should give warning before the police arrive. Be sure to put your gun away before the police enter your home. In general, it is a good idea to holster your firearm as soon as you can and the scene is safe.
When they arrive, you will be separated from your roommates and questioned by the deputies. This is where you want to keep your statements simple and factual.
We were here in our home. He broke in. There is the broken door. We tried to push him back out. He fought with me. I had to defend myself and others. I’ll fill out a complaint and testify against the intruder. I’ll cooperate, but first I want to speak with my attorney.
If the deputy says you should seek medical treatment then do so. Besides getting treatment, the doctor’s report identifies the number and extent of your injuries. Let the full report come later after you’ve spoken to your lawyer. This approach is particularly important since you have roommates. In theory, each of you saw the same thing and said the same thing. In practice, any variation can be called a contradiction that calls your testimony into question.
Have a lawyer and plan to use him. You covered that in your safety plan, didn’t you?
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.