This week in St. Louis, a couple found their home surrounded by an angry mob marching though the neighborhood. I don’t know the particulars of the mob’s demands nor their purpose. Its not relevant to this subject.
What is relevant is the nature of response by the couple. They came out loaded for bear. The husband with his AR-15 (was that a 20” barrel and fixed stock?!?) and the wife with her PPK. Now, much fun has been poked at these two and I would say it is wholly undeserved. These people were thrust into a potentially violent situation that would have most people quaking in their boots. They felt threatened and they reacted.
I’m quite certain that if you had asked them last year what they would do if an angry mob showed up on their doorstep the husband would chuckle and remark that’s why he has his rifle and that would be the extent of the planning and training he undertook to prepare for that event. He probably thought the idea so far fetched it would be nothing more than a joke to him. We now know it wasn’t so far fetched.
Now my point is not that everyone should be training and prepping for an angry mob to show up at their doorstep. No, my point is that you need to train for the likelihood of having to use your firearm and that means understanding how to use it and when to use it.
This couple came out of their homes, firearms in hand and ordered the mob off their lawn. I want to be clear: They did nothing wrong and were well within the law to do so. I don’t know the particulars and I am not going to armchair quarterback their action. What I do want is to try and give you a couple more option to think about as you prepare your plan of action in the event of the threat of violence (you are preparing a plan, aren’t you?)
A firearm is a tool of last resort. Once it comes out of the holster, once its unslung from the shoulder, once it is leveled at another human being, the world changes very quickly. You are now in a gun fight. The very real possibility that a life will be taken is now on the table. You need to prepare mentally for this and decide now how you are going to act in such a situation.
Tactically speaking, keep a barrier between you and the aggressor. Communicate to them to leave at once in a stern (read loud) voice. I have no doubt profanity will be used. In the case of this couple, no one appeared to approach them and they were outside but I didn’t see them make use of cover. In a situation like this cover is useful not only for protecting from incoming fire but also to allow them to conceal their arms till they need to make it know. It may be that introducing a gun in the situation prematurely could escalate the situation, keeping it hidden but ready to use may be the best course of action.
If the gun needs to come out, don’t delay. Get on target and order the aggressors to leave at once. Keep an eye on your avenues of escape, on how many attackers you can see, on your surroundings (don’t get tunnel vision, move that head!) and how close you are going to let your aggressor get to you before you engage. You have to draw a mental line in the sand and yell out that if they come closer you will be forced to shoot. If they get too close and you don’t act you could end up in a fight over the gun and that is never good thing.
I want to stress that I am not advocating for the use of deadly force in protection of property, this is not permitted, but deadly force in the protection of life and limb is! As for this couple, they have an affirmative defense of acting in protection of their lives. They can articulate that they did fear for their lives, an angry mob could cut through them like a hot knife through butter. They did a service for the rest of us in their actions.
We can see what they did learn from it and take the good and leave the bad. As much as we teach to our students that being aware of your surroundings will keep you out of a fight most of the time, in these odd days its is entirely possible the fight will come looking for you as it did these folks. Plan now so you don’t have to plan as you go.
Talking with family members about defensive firearm ownership
With the COVID scare and the unrest associated with the authoritarian abuse of power around the George Floyd murder, Americans who were once in the “opposed to” or the “neutral about” firearms rights have decided that a defensive firearm is an option to protect themselves and their family.
Unfortunately, most of the people in this belief group have had years of reinforcement that guns are bad, and that evil will invariably ensue should they decide to bring one into their home. Their quandary lies in the general assessment “does the added dangers of firearm ownership outweigh the dangers of being defenseless”? It is a very rational question; but the ‘quandary’ part comes far more from media misinformation being a seed in the decision making process about ownership, fogging all their data.
In this article, we’ll go over some of the things you should consider when determining if a firearm for home defense as right for you, and how to talk about it with your family. These items, in turn, help to demonstrate to loved ones that you have taken their safety into account in this decision.
For most people attempting to discuss bringing a defensive firearm into the home, the issue will be managing their fear, and like was mentioned before, penetrating the wall of misinformation.
At its core, you must demonstrate you have an understanding of the risks of owning a firearm. You must show that these risks can be mitigated, and that the mitigated risk of ownership is less than the risk of remaining defenseless. To get this balance, we need education.
Education is the antithesis of fear. When the HIV scare of the late 80’s hit, it was education that quelled the fear of getting AIDS from a mosquito bite or a public toilet. More recently, education has suppressed the Karens and their fear projection of public spaces and sans-mask interaction when facing the coronavirus scare. We now take educated precautions based on facts rather than listening to a bunch of Facebook posts about how walking in a park will end humanity.
When we are unfamiliar with a thing, we fear the thing. When we become familiar, that fear is replaced with understanding and respect.
For firearm ownership and usage, that understanding instilled through education allows the owner to pick up the firearm and operate its controls (actions, reloading operations, safeties, and trigger). We know how the device works and all the buttons and levers are not mysterious any more.
That respect instilled through education allows all this to be done knowing the firearm is potentially dangerous machine, and to perform all of its actions and operations in a manner that does not introduce additional risk due to ignorance or negligence.
Education, followed with repetitive training, instills the rules of firearm safety upon owners and users.
Take a class. Bring the adults. Our Essential Handgun course is set up specifically to take those first steps of ownership with you.
When we are properly educated on firearm handling, the risks of ownership are mitigated to a level lower than the risk of outside threats. But what about the uneducated members of the household? We must control access.
The simple truth is you are considering a firearm because you have people to protect. Yourself, spouse, children, Aunt Martha, whoever. They mean something to you. The biggest risk is the firearm hurting someone other than bad guy. To mitigate that risk, we control access to the firearm.
Controlling access to the firearm is simply this: Those authorized to use the firearm have access to it. Those who are not authorized to to use the firearm do not have access to it.
The gun safe may be an inexpensive handgun safe with a biometric sensor to open it, or it may be a massive 40+ rifle safe able to store a respectable collection. How you intend to store or stage the firearm will take some consideration, and the safe that is proposed should support that method.
The talking point here is clear: Adults will have access to the gun via the safe, and the children will not. The gun will be in the safe unless it’s being used.
An interesting aside here is the safe’s ability to protect from fire. Full rifle safes are often fire rated, which means your important papers, jewelry, silver dollars, grandma’s keepsake necklace, and your nice watch collection can all benefit from this purchase. We all have things we would prefer to put in a safe if we give it some thought. Here’s one opportunity to do so.
Any discussion about what firearm to purchase should also include what gun safe to purchase. Make it a part of the ‘total proposal’.
This goes beyond mere education. Education is ultimately the gathering of knowledge. Training is the ability to put knowledge into practice. Training is the commitment to continued safety, and increasing education.
Training is available before you even buy your first firearm. All decent schools will grant their students access to firearms to use, and responsible instructors will respect a student’s decision to acquire training before a gun purchase is made. If you, or you and spouse take training together, have a talk about the shared experience, and get the concerns in the open, training becomes an excellent way to bring familiarity to a topic to make it approachable.
The major takeaway from training is to acquire wisdom-based safe practices.
Develop safe practices
If your circle is unfamiliar with the sight of a firearm, bringing it out of the safe may be a cause for alarm. Cleaning it at the kitchen table may be a source of nervousness. Do not introduce these stressors.
If the firearm isn’t being used, ensure it stays in the safe, ready to be used. (As an aside, the NRA safety rules state to keep a firearm unloaded until it is being used. The Keep and Bear, LLC position on this practice is that a firearm in a safe ready for home defense is “staged”, not “stored”, and that it is indeed being used, just not actively wielded.)
Before the purchase, you can demonstrate your intentions to develop safe practices by setting up an area on the workbench for gun cleaning. Put a “No Ammunition” sign up in that location to demonstrate there will be no negligence involving gun cleaning. If asked about it, use it as an opportunity to show that you are addressing fears.
You know why mom is reluctant to get another pet? Because she’s the one that feeds the current pets. When the new puppy goes from being new and exciting to watch his every move to a known and accepted member of the household, his care must continue.
So too with firearm ownership. Do not let all the above demonstrations of responsibility be temporary. Maintain an ongoing vigilance to safety, education, storing/staging, and training. If you’ve reached this stage, you might have already been given the green light to get the gun. Show you were worthy of that concession. Keep your circle’s concerns and safety in the forefront.
This is truly a family decision. The adults must be on the same page. If Cousin Larry is a scumbag and will probably hock the gun, and you leave it out one Tuesday when he’s over… It’s up to you both to ensure that he doesn’t know about the gun, cannot get access to the gun, and you’ve agreed giving him the combination to the safe just isn’t happening.
You must be brutally honest about your situation, and you must accept if the risks cannot be mitigated. An adult child with mental issues prone to anger at home may preclude firearm ownership to ensure he/she does not harm. A son/daughter with lots of friends over all the time may prevent firearm ownership due to the transient nature of guests in the home. Your own issues, such as depression, anger, etc may mean it isn’t the best choice. Be honest with yourself, and be honest that you may not be able to address every fear or concern brought up.
Similarly, going back to fears, what are each person’s fears around firearm ownership. Address them. Don’t call the concerns stupid or unjustified. Fear is an emotion and could quite well be unjustified. The end game is addressing the fears, which , for a rational person, means reducing the perceived risks. Show you can reduce them, you will reduce them, and they will stay reduced.