Carrying a firearm for the expressed purpose of self-defense isn’t really your best choice. I am basing this on years of weapons and self-defense training. Let me explain…
First off, a personal reference. I spent a few years in the Marine Corps as a weapons instructor. I trained hundreds in the use of standard issue rifles and pistols. I also have a black belt and trained a great deal with the Marine Corps martial arts program. The reason that this is valuable is that it gave me a great deal of insight on the nature of self-defense and weapons.
Now as far as home defense goes, you need to consider several factors.
1) A gun will only be used about .00002% of the time that you own it.
You will be keeping and storing this weapon the whole time you own it, even though you might get attacked once or twice in a lifetime. The problem with this is that at any point something with the stored weapon could go wrong, such as losing pieces or unwanted people getting into your weapon. Granted it’s hard for a pieces to suddenly go missing, but it isn’t difficult for curious children to explore.
Second, recent surveys have shown that household members were only present in about 27% of cases of break-in. You are much more likely to have a burglar take the gun from under your bed while you are at work or on vacation than to actually arrive when you are present. Think about it, if you were to rob someone, why not take your time and not get caught.
2) Weapons are actually difficult to use.
Weapons like a gun have many pieces that have to be regularly maintained. You need to have training into how to take care of your gun. This doesn’t have to be in depth, but a person does have to research the information of the weapon. They have to know how to adjust the sights and zero their rifles. They need to know how to disassemble and clean their bolt or inspect their firing pins for imperfections. It takes time to figure out all this and is a lot easier to screw it up than to get it right. And if you don’t get it right the weapon might not work or even get you hurt as the burglar laughs at you.
3) Guns don’t shoot themselves.
I know that if you have ever seen a movie you know how to shoot, right? No. It is actually very difficult to learn how to shoot and hit the thing you are aiming at. You have to understand how the weapon’s sights work. You have to learn how to focus on only the sights while placing it in front of your target, without ever looking directly at the target. If you think that not focusing on the target makes no sense then you’re more of a danger to yourself than to the bad guys. In any case, learning how to accurately fire the weapon is very difficult and takes a great deal of time to master. If you ever want to get a weapon you need a great deal of professional education in one-on-one training in controlling your weapon and placing your shots where you intend them to go. This absolutely isn’t something you can teach yourself or your cousin Billy Bob can teach as you shoot stuff down by the river. You will only develop bad habits that will do you no good when you need it. Also, turning the weapon sideways doesn’t help, at all.
(If you’re curious you should check out the question Why do gangsters hold their guns sideways? for some interesting theories on why people do this, besides that they have never been trained.)
I have been trained by the best weapons instructors in the United States Marine Corps. I’ve literally shot thousands of rounds from several different weapons systems and even in a completely stress free environment; a nice indoor range with my family just practicing, and I still don’t always hit where I want to. If you have never fired before then how well do you think you are going to do when you really need it?
4) Emergencies never happen in the way that you can be prepared for.
I know that many people get hyped up with stories of dangerous encounters like someone breaking in at night, but this doesn’t happen as much as you would think. Some things to consider, there is more than one guy, the guy could be a child, the guy has a bigger gun, the guy attacks outside when you are in the city, the guy comes in the day when you are gone (and you just gave him a gun.)
The point is that you can’t say that you will be prepared and safe because you have a gun. You never know what you might be facing. You will be able to hedge your defenses much better if you instead invest in a very good security system. It will scare away predators under most situations, call for backup from police and help give you peace of mind even if you aren’t home or suck at shooting.
5) Guns are dangerous by design.
Shocker right? I know if you are reading this it makes it seem a bit patronizing. If you are considering a gun at home you need to think about the fact that at any point, it is always a gun. There is no safety that can’t be overcome, by a six year old. This stuff does happen.
Consider this horrifying scenario, what if you are disarmed because you aren’t ready to use the weapon. Now your weapon is his weapon, and you are worse off than if you just got a dog. What you can do is buy yourself a weapon with special biometric locks, but they’re expensive and rare. You could buy a gun safe and gun locks and all sorts of other things. These are great, but if you haven’t noticed, you will be fumbling and stumbling around in the middle of the night making noise and unable to even get the thing that is supposed to save you in the first place. These are things that take a great deal of time when you should be on the phone to the police anyway.
6) You shouldn’t ever “carry” a weapon for personal self-defense.
As a side note, I also have a serious grievance with those who think that they can use a weapon for personal self-defense outside the home. The fact is that if you are considering carrying a weapon in your pocket or purse, you are literally endangering everyone around you with virtually no chance of being of any use to anyone. First, a weapon that is not holstered is one of the most dangerous things a person can do to those around them. There are many ways that a weapon floating around can go off. If you carry one like this, I hate you. You’re going to hurt someone. Secondly, please imagine a time when you might need the weapon.
A robber comes up to you late at night beside your car. He pulls a knife and demands your purse with your car keys.
“Oh hold on just a second and let me find my gun.”
A few seconds go by. The robber impatiently reminds you of his presence.
“I’m very serious, about this you know. I am robbing you.”
“I know, I know. Just give me a second. I know it is over here somewhere.”
A few more seconds pass. The robber is getting very impatient.
“You see that I have a knife, right?”
“Just be patient.”
“I’m truly sorry, but I really must be going. I’ll be taking your purse now.”
“Oh, just one more second!”
He takes the purse and steals your car. Then as you stand there contemplating how the gun should have solved your problems, as you did when you bought it in the first place, the robber rolls down your window and throws your gun out to mock you. You hear Janie’s Got a Gun by Aerosmith playing on radio that used to belong to you. As you stand alone in the empty parking lot, you reflect on the song’s irony and how this didn’t play out the way you thought it would.
As a final note, if everything goes perfectly right, you might just have to kill someone.
The idea that you can bluff your way out of situation is not a good tactic, especially if you are dealing with someone truly violent. If you have a gun it needs to be for the purpose of killing someone when the need comes. If they view that their future lies in keeping you quiet, or if they feel that their life is being threatened (by your gun) they may attack you. In that case you will have to be able to kill him. There is no “shoot the knife out his hand or shoot him in the leg stuff.” It sounds nice, but you will be lucky to hit him in the chest like you’re supposed to (see point #3). Do a self-analysis and ask, “Could I deal with killing someone, even if they are going to steal my stuff or hurt my family?” Yeah your first response is easy to say, “You bet I would,” but would you really?
I have been to Iraq twice and have had to think long and hard about what it would be like if I had to kill someone. Could I live with myself? Could I look at my wife the same again? I saw it in many of the other Marines who had. It is a traumatic experience that changes a person. If you really think you can’t do that, figure out a strategy you can honestly deal with without a moral breakdown. To add to your moral dilemma, according to Bureau of Justice statistics, you should also know that offenders were known to their victims in 65% of these cases. Consider, now, that that robber won’t be some random thug that you are doing the world a favor by wiping from the surface of existence. Instead, think about that target being your brother, cousin, friend or neighbor and then ask please ask these questions again.
What should you do?
My advice is that you think about prevention. It sounds cliché, but statistics support this. Of the break-ins that occurred, about a third happened because of an open or unlocked door or window. Installing a security system also makes you about 300% safer, as it hardens the target for burglars and scares away most when the alarm goes off before any people or property can be damaged. A good one can even send in the police when a break-in occurs. In this case, the best defense is actually a good defense.
I know that questions like this are often asked out of fear. People want to have a great deal of control over their situation, but when others put you in danger you can almost always never get it back. If you have recently experienced danger, I feel for you I really do, but moving without caution or reason isn’t the solution to your insecurities. The best bet is to rationally consider your options before a situation occurs.
The odd thing is that I actually support gun ownership. I agree with the purpose of the second amendment and have a few myself. I enjoy them and like to go to the range to practice the art, but I doubt I will ever need to use them again in my life. Most of my motives for this post, like I have said before, are that I really don’t think people think about all that goes into the reality of weapons ownership. I don’t think people who are afraid really consider the better defensive options to guns. I don’t think that they do the proper research and put in the time to practice, give respect to the safety rules, take proper care of their weapons or put enough effort into making sure the wrong people don’t use them. I don’t think they have the ability to protect themselves in such a case as this question and do think they would probably be putting themselves or others they love in danger.
In reality, I blame these individuals for much of the problems in the gun world. Have you ever wondered where so many of the unregulated guns come from? Many trace their roots to frantic people who just need to have a gun to protect themselves, then decide three weeks later that they just don’t want a gun in their house then dispose of it in whatever haphazard manner they come up with in another fit of fear. These weapons, lost in rivers, sold at unregulated pawn shops, or just given to some guy, are many of the weapons that enter the unregulated weapons stream and into the hands of those who would do wrong to good people. These are, often, the weapons that members of the gun regulation lobby advocate need to be restricted. This does little to the underground market for weapons, but much to punish those responsible gun owners who house and use their weapons legally. After all, it isn’t they who will be breaking the law with the weapons later on down the road.
In closing, I really wish more people took more time before buying their first weapon. I wish it was a decision that more first time gun owners entered into with a rational mind, rather than with a reactionary, emotional mindset. I wished they did more research on weapons and spent more time training in their use. Sadly, this isn’t the case, so the best I can do is at least give people something to think about.