Three teenagers are arrested charged with a violent home invasion in New Holland, Lancaster County [PA]. Police say they entered an apartment at 361 East Main Street with guns [a double-barreled shotgun and a revolver] and forced the residents to the floor. Two men who live in the apartment fought back against the intruders, and got blows to the head from the butt of a shotgun for their troubles.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not in favor of shooting anyone. Ever. When it comes to shooting people, I have a simple rule: IF my life or the life of my loved ones is NOT threatened, I opt OUT of a ballistic solution. I’ve been mugged at knife-point—in a state where the average citizen is as likely to get a concealed carry handgun license as infectious endocarditis. Oh wait; I got that too. Anyway, I made my decision, tossed my wallet and ran. Which worked out well for both of us, in some senses. We don’t know exactly what happened here. The vast majority of violent home invasions, indeed gun fatalities, involve “people who know each other.” In other words, it’s criminal on criminal violence. But say that wasn’t the case. If you were in your apartment and three gun-wielding home invaders entered your castle, would you have shot them? I’m not looking for the obvious answer.
The obvious answer is yes, of course. The real question is, could you have shot them? There are plenty of yes/no variables worthy of consideration. Number one on my list: did the invaders get the jump on you?
Most gunfights are nasty, brutish and short. One study concluded that the average armed encounter of the law enforcement kind lasts seven seconds. That’s not enough time to choose a breakfast cereal, never mind figure out who to shoot where when and how. If you don’t detect the threat in time, you lose the first mover advantage. That’s bad.
If a criminal with a gun sees you without a gun they may or may not shoot you. If they see you with a gun, they’re going to do the sensible thing (for them) and shoot you. Best case scenario: they miss. And then you shoot them. And then move, so they don’t shoot you. ‘Cause you might have missed.
Or hit them—and they’re still shooting at you anyway. Or taking fire from the (hopefully) dead man’s cohorts. BTW: this is not my idea of a good way to spend a Wednesday night.
The first mover advantage is the difference between life and death in a gunfight. Anyone planning on using a gun for home defense should train themselves to look at a potential target’s (for that is what they are) hands. If they have a gun, shoot them before they shoot you. Period.
All the experts agree: shoot the person who poses the greatest threat first. And not too many times—especially if there’s more than one attacker. (This is one reason I like shotguns for home defense: normally, one shot’ll do ya, and people don’t tend to “empty the clip”).
After you’ve done that, shoot the others. How do you know which assailant poses the greatest risk? You’ll know.
The Krav Maga experts got it right (of course): when the going gets tough, the tough get ridiculous violent. If you’re not going to be passive, you need to be as aggressive as humanly possible. If that means forgoing cover, screw it. Plenty of successful gunfighters have walked towards their attackers. If you run out of bullets, hit them with the damn gun.
No matter how you slice it, shooting one to three armed assailants AFTER they start their attack is going to be, shall we say, challenging. It may be best to wait for the end of the first wave of violence and NOT reach for your gun—so you can then achieve the element of surprise. Even if that means taking some physical damage and/or risking your life.
Whether or not a gun grab is even possible depends on the location of your weapon, the ease of access and its state of preparation. (Massachusetts residents need not apply.) Then again, would you rather die trying to get and load your gun or run the risk of execution?
This is a horrible, terrible situation. I hope that no one reading these words ever faces anything even remotely resembling this scenario. But if you do, to paraphrase Yoda (the most kick-ass guy in the universe, allegedly), no trying. Either do or don’t do. The sooner you make that decision the greater your odds of survival.