Three Ways to Fight a Home Invasion

You want irony? Here’s irony. “Santa Clara County sheriff’s detectives are searching for three men who are accused of breaking into a Gilroy homeowner’s home,” mercurynews.com reports. ”Tying him up, beating him and making off with his collection of guns.” Assuming that some of the guns in his collection were suitable for self-defense, the vic’s decision to protect his home with firearms led to a home invasion to take those firearms. Not only did he make himself a target, when push came to shove, he got pushed, shoved, humiliated, tied-up and beaten, during a nine-hour ordeal. Here’s how you can avoid making a similar mistake.

1. Don’t discuss your gun collection with anyone

I’m serious. The invaders knew where they were going and what they were going to steal. Without that intel, the home invasion wouldn’t have happened.

According to an insurance investigator buddy, gun dealers are the criminals’ number one source of firearms information. Sometimes directly, sometimes through silent co-conspirators. You know how people love to gather at gun dealers and gun shows to shoot the shit about their guns? Some of those people are not your friends. Not at all.

The same applies to the Internet. Joining a forum to discuss your rare or expensive firearms makes for hours of amusement. But never forget there are bad guys lurking in the shadows. Do NOT reveal personal details that would give away your location; such as your favorite local gunsmith or gun dealer.

While most criminals are brain dead opportunists, some are like African lions. They follow the herds. Stalking. Waiting. Looking for prey. And when they pounce, you need to be prepared.

2. Carry a gun— to get a gun

Not to put too fine a point on it, a home invasion of this type is some serious shit. The thieves are not coming alone and they are not coming unarmed and they know you’re armed. In short, they’re ready for a firefight. Are you?

Not if your gun is in the next room or upstairs you’re not. The invaders will rely on speed, multiple anges of attack and overwhelming force to take you down. You won’t have time to get your gun. Which may not be in the ideal place to engage. And even if you do find your firearm, you’ve wasted time that should have been spent identifying the threats, organizing the friendlies and seeking cover or concealment.

I also recommend that your significant other home carry. And that children of responsible age should have access to an emergency firearm. While crossfire is a concern (ameliorated by a suitable and flexible home defense plan), the more armed people on your side, the better. I know this is on the far side of paranoid for some folks. But there’s no getting around the first rule of winning a gunfight: have a gun.

As this kind of home invasion involves multiple attackers, your handgun probably ain’t gonna git ‘er done. You (or someone on your team) is going to need the extra firepower of a long gun: shotgun, rifle or carbine. As long guns are not the most wieldy of weapons, and they’re relatively easy to grab, they’re best left at a defensive location (a.k.a. safe room) where, hopefully, you can gather and protect any friendlies while you wait for the police.

Install panic buttons

Yes the police. The cavalry. The brave guys and girls willing to put their lives on the line to save your collective ass. You want them on site, ASAP. That said . . .

A lot has been written about who calls 911 and what you say when you call. I am of the firm belief that 911 calls are best made AFTER the threat is neutralized, or at least diminished. Calling 911 takes way to much brain power, and those stupid friggin’ operators won’t shut the ‘frig up.

“Where are they now? Are they making a sandwich? What kind of sandwich? Stay on the line. I’m there with you. Not literally of course. But the police are on their way. They will be there any second. I swear to God.”

A panic button’s the answer. Press the button. Instant alarm activation. Instant cop call. Done. I recommend panic buttons in all major living spaces. Not to mention an alarm in general. If you’re not alarm equipped, when you can, dial 911, hit CALL, throw the phone down and yell your address.

Irony is the discrepancy between expectation and reality. Narrowing that gap can be the difference between life and death. Alternatively, just because you’re not paranoid, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared.

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

31 Responses to Three Ways to Fight a Home Invasion

  1. avatarMagoo says:

    The most interesting sentence in the news story is the last one.

    But taking the scenario as it is, 1 and 3 are excellent suggestions, while 2 doesn’t stand a very good chance of improving the outcome. Remember, the man emerged from the apparent encounter alive and in good condition. That’s far less likely in a fire fight with three presumably armed attackers. This plan also requires that we carry firearms on our persons 24/7 inside our own homes ( ! ) which is ridiculous in my opinion. On second though, I’d like to strike the word ridiculous and substitute nuts.

    • avatarAntiCitizenOne says:

      Care to explain the “ridiculous to carry in our homes” part?

      (without the “I feel” part.)

    • avatarJOE MATAFOME says:

      I must be nuts because I always carry at home. There have even been times that I wear multiple holsters (my record is 5 at one time). I always figure the more the better, and with multiple guns I don’t have to worry about reloading.

  2. avatarRobert Farago says:

    I, personally, would not like to take the chance that I would emerge from this kind of encounter alive. Nor, particularly, do I want anyone to beat me or tie me up—remembering that there are professional services for people who like that kind of thing. Not that I have any direct experience . . .

    If someone invades my house and puts my life or the life of a loved one is in mortal danger, I will shoot them. God willing I will be able to do so, and do so effectively. Until the threat has creased. Not to coin a phrase, I refuse to be a victim.

  3. avatarLance says:

    I take it one of those fancy 30 round mags would come in handy in a situation like this. As well as a couple spares.

  4. avatarmiforest says:

    If you think submission is the answer , google “petit case”. in our community a3 years ago, crooks followed a jewlery store owner home from work. We live in a town voted one of “americas 10 safest citys” a couple of times. The family had 4 kids , and the mother in law living there . No survivors. enormously tragic. 2 assailants .
    RF is not paranoid.

    • avatarMagoo says:

      Good lord, who said anything about submission? I’m talking about taking an active and effective hand in our own protection, as opposed to the passive one — cowering in the dark with a gun.

      Here we begin with “assume three armed men in your home.” That’s tunnel thinking. Screw that, I don’t want ANY uninvited people inside my home, armed or unarmed, and THERE is where I am going to focus my efforts, because once they are inside, things get much shittier. Plan for the things you can do something about, at the point where you can do something about them. Otherwise we are only endlessly war gaming the ninja scenario. Why three attackers? Why not 10? Why not 20? Job One: evaluate your true potential threats and plan accordingly. Let’s start here: how common is armed home invasion of any kind? What’s our actual threat level?

      So again, here’s my question: how did the three men get in the house? I’m sure that’s the same question the police are asking too, but we can put that aside for now. I will only note that (as the police know) home invasions of this nature are incredibly unusual events, which is important in accurately assessing the threat level.

      In 1992 a good friend of mine was walking down the street when a man stepped out of a doorway behind him and put a bullet in the back of his head. There was no coherent motive. The shooter was a schizophrenic who picked a random stranger and decided he was a demon. Defense against that. You can’t. Plan for the things you can do something about, at the point you can do something about them. And at some point you must separate your rational fears from the irrational ones and go live your happy and productive life.

      This must be the tenth time here the Petit case has been cited. But the fact is, a firearm wouldn’t have done Mr. Petit any good. He was asleep on the sofa when he was awakened by the sensation of being struck in the face with a baseball bat. A BAR under the sofa wouldn’t have helped at that point. And unless you are willing to forego snoozing on the couch for the rest of your life, a firearm would not have helped you there, either.

  5. avatarNick Dixon says:

    The best way to win a fight is to not get into it.

    It seems to me that fortifying the entrances, and keeping the doors locked whenever posible, along with video cameras, will probably do a lot more to keep you safe from a surprise firefight. If you are attacked my determined opponents, you should hear it, and you get precious time to prepare, be it going into a safe room or taking defensive positions with pikes.

  6. avatarMartin Albright says:

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention a dog. Yes, I know a dog isn’t always an option, but then again, neither is a gun.

    Dogs are helpful in three ways:

    1. With their superior hearing and territorial nature, they can provide early warning. Our little cattle dog goes nuts when the mailman walks up the sidewalk to the house, even though he does it every day. Early warning = time for you to react.

    2. Dogs can throw a monkey wrench into an assailant’s plan. Sure, there are ways to neutralize dogs but just like any other layered defense, you’ve now added another factor that the attackers will have to deal with, complicating their plan and maybe convincing them to move to a softer target.

    3. And of course the dog itself can be a part of your defense. Now this can be tricky, because if you aren’t careful in your selection, training and interaction with the dog, it can bite you in the ass – literally. But the biggest, toughest, meanest burglar out there will often wet his pants when the cops send in the dogs, and for good reason, too.

    • 4. Deterrence. If the criminals perceive (i.e. hear barking) that you have a dog and that your neighbor does not, they will often opt to invade your neighbor’s home. While home invaders demonstrate tremendous initiative when they kick your door in, at heart most are lazy and none of them want to go to prison. So unless they’ve targeted your home to pilfer something in particular, they’d prefer not to deal with an unpredictable noise box nipping at their heels.

  7. avatarTarzan says:

    Have a dog or two. It doesn’t even have to be vicious. It just has to warn you anytime someone approaches a door or window. Any small terrier and even some Golden Retrievers will do that for you.

  8. avatarRalph says:

    We’ve covered this issue before, but it is more than worth repeating. The first line of defense is an alarm system. The second line of defense is escape, if possible. The Castle Doctrine only keeps you safe if you win. Think you can fight three ninjas? Maybe you can, or maybe not. The last line of defense is the gun. Oh, and if carrying around the house is, in the word of a poster named after a blind cartoon character, “nuts,” then I’m nuts. And safe. And in compliance with state laws that, as written, virtually require home carry.

    • avatarJOE MATAFOME says:

      Magoo doesn’t want us to carry in public and now he thinks we’re nuts if we carry at home. What good are the guns locked away rendering them useless. Now if we lived in Canada we could all be good lil sheep and just let the badguys kill us. Three ninja’s with blades don’t stand a chance. LOL

      • avatarBuuurr says:

        No, in Canada they would break in, beat your family to death, order a bunch of porn, have their way with your daughter, get drunk on your beer, slip down the steps and sue your ass for it – and win.

        • avatarBuuurr says:

          But seriously. We had a kid break into our home looking for CDs of all things. We suspected he had tried before as there where crowbar marks in our door. Anyway this time he got in. My mom and dad were asleep and I was downstairs watching a movie with my girlfriend when I saw feet go up the back step. I figured it was my brother returning from his usual weekend tear. I heard a bunch of stumbling and commotion and went up to see if I could ease my brother’s passage to his room. It wasn’t my brother, it was some moron going through Dad’s ancient country music CDs and tossing them all about the place. I waited for him to turn around so I could see who it was and then busted him five or six times. He ran out into the yard and the cops showed up a while later. I was questioned as to why I hit him. Let me tell you. If I was OVER 18 I would have done time for it. I was 16 so it would all have been a waste and there were no charges.

      • avatarMagoo says:

        I affirm your right to do as you choose within the law. However, I do feel the carry requirements should be more rigorous. Some of the qualifying training is appalling, worse than none at all, as we both know.

        I assert that most citizens do not require a gun to be safe, in their homes or on the street. A gun is the last resort without resort. In a gunfight, you can have years of training and the best weapon(s) money can buy, and it’s still essentially a crapshoot. You have chosen your point of defense where your odds are the weakest, the variables are greatest, and the consequences are the direst. Relying on your firearm for safety is the low percentage choice, the hail Mary pass on 4th down.

        • avatarJOE MATAFOME says:

          Well if my chances are so low with a gun maybe I should just ask the badguy to PLEASE not kill me. Naw I think I’ll just blow his dumb ass away.

        • avatarAntiCitizenOne says:

          I don’t think people like the fact that they are called paranoid when they own and carry guns for self defense.

          It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. We know so little about the nature of mental illness yet we toss around “paranoid” so liberally. The target of your jibes may not believe it but other, more gullible “false compassionate” types will believe it, and shatter the reputation of the gun owner in the court of public opinion.

          I do not think any less of anyone who chooses not to own a gun. I have never seen a reason to. It is not my issue to force you to own one – but I will certainly give my reasons why I own guns should you ask. I may think less of someone who criticizes my decision to carry and train with a firearm for self-defense. I think even less of people who want to strip that right away from me under the guise of “safety” and “compassion.”

          Your culture war against gun owners must end, for you are simply perpetuating the problem you are trying to solve. You have gun owners mad at you and acting all “crazy-like” because you’re the one threatening their rights. Not many people own guns and not many people carry because they don’t want to be associated with the right-wing in this country – because of people like you.

          Yes, I understand that the concealed carry requirements may not be stringent enough – however the classes are designed to put you in close proximity to people who can help you train. You must emphasize more effective close combat tactics than the so-called “stand and deliver with sights” that will probably get you killed in a common man-on-man encounter. These techniques must be able to be taught within 1-2 days and be able to be reinforced with dry fire and airsoft force-on-force over a period of time. Training should also count towards extending or renewing your permit every time a class is taken. Finally, attendance at classes, ammunition, and travel expenses should be made tax deductible to give added incentive to train.

        • avatarMagoo says:

          Here are two schools of thought, summed up in two familiar adages. They are not necessarily contradictory, but they do tend to produce two different philosophies:

          Theory A: The first rule of gunfighting is bring a gun.

          Theory B: The only sure way to win a gunfight is to not be in it.

          Discuss.

        • avatarAntiCitizenOne says:

          Hint: The human mind is fallible is not right all the time. There are times when the gunfight comes to you and you don’t have a choice of avoiding it.

          As I’ve said before, if we were omniscient, we’d be able to avoid gunfights all the time.

          Are YOU omniscient?

  9. avatarRob says:

    Via David Codrea’s web site, I found this video report of what I presume is the same story.

    http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/video?id=7944990&rss=rss-kgo-video-7944990

    They value the collection stolen at $2 million. Even if that is an exaggeration, I think it suggests this is something more than a typical home invasion to get a few guns. As for the three suggestions, how do we know the victim didn’t follow them?

    Rob

  10. avatarJeff says:

    As a corollary to your advice about not talking about your guns, don’t put your gun photos on Facebook/Myspace/Youtube/etc. I’m amazed at how many people post photos of all of their expensive stuff that is at their home and then throw up comments like “I’m going to be gone from 2/14-2/23, Hawaii here we come!,” only to be surprised when they come home to find that someone looted their home during that 9 day vacation.

  11. avatarVigilantis says:

    A couple people have mentioned dogs, and they’re right. Guns are a second-best solution compared to a dog, because the dog will keep most burglars out in the first place. There are few better deterrents than a large, ill-tempered dog drooling on your front porch. If your adversary is determined enough they can get rid of the dog, but the sound of Spot going down in a blaze of glory should alert you and your neighbors that something is not right.

  12. avatarJOE MATAFOME says:

    RF made some great points about having an alarm system. With my video system (it also records everthing) I can see who’s at my door or anywhere around my house before I even answer the door, and even if they get in I can still watch them trying to sneak up on me. When they do find me they will have the surprise of their life. I don’t care if people think I paranoid or whatever cuz it’s my life and house and I’ll do as I please.

  13. avatarMagoo says:

    When one has a shiny new hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. Carrying encourages people to place themselves in bad situations by creating a sense of security that is mainly illusory. Example: the “Mexican standoff” discussed here a few weeks back. Farago spotted that guy’s mistake instantly. Had the guy been using his head the tiniest bit, he would never have “needed” to present his weapon in the first place.

    Nobody is omniscient. However: I believe that, both statistically and in any practical sense, the average person’s need for a firearm in daily life is reduced to effectively zero if one exercises ordinary judgement. (There are certainly exceptions, carryout owners for one.) We can’t expect the firearm to bail us out from poor judgement or lack of awareness leading up to the moment the gun is drawn. At that instant, all margin for error has left the building and the slightest mistake can well be fatal. When the hypothetical moment of clarity arrives, it’s essentially too late. We chose the worst possible point to initiate our defense.

    • avatarAntiCitizenOne says:

      “everything starts to look like a nail”

      really? Not everything looks like a nail to me. And we weren’t taught that in our Suarez International classes. Guess what? I DO believe that the best way to win a gunfight is to not be one. The issue is that it takes more than one person to BE in a gunfight. You may not have intentionally placed yourself in a bad situation but your assailant can simply move to your position and make it so. It wasn’t your choice, it was his/her choice.

      wait a minute. You just “feel” that way. How are YOUR feelings supposed to dictate MY life choices? You STILL perpetuate the problem you want to end. If you make exceptions, you need to tell us why they are MORE EQUAL or worthy of a EXERCISING their right than the rest of us, when we are all human. It’s a bill of RIGHTS, not a bill of NEEDS. The only restrictions on a right is the ACTUAL abuse – not pre-emption of possible abuses.

      If handguns are the worst possible choice for personal defense, perhaps you should start by taking away the guns of police officers, because if they mess up, I guess they’re in a really bad situation and their gun will do them no good. Or better yet, go to The Armed Citizen, and tell those people that their gun essentially did them no good.

      When all margin of error leaves the building and the slightest mistake can be fatal – guess what – this is why you, hmmmmmm…..TRAIN in combatives and HANDLING YOUR WEAPON?

    • avatarMagoo says:

      “If handguns are the worst possible choice for personal defense, perhaps you should start by taking away the guns of police officers…”

      Now we’re getting somewhere. A police officer’s job is to go looking for trouble, if you will: Patrolling the beat, responding to calls, deliberately sticking his or her nose into the most dangerous places. It’s a hazardous job, and damn right they need firearms. But even then, drawing the gun is a remarkably unusual occurrence. It doesn’t happen every day, week, month, or even year for many officers. And the majority of beat cops retire without ever firing their weapon at anyone.

      I’m not a police officer. Looking for trouble is not my job. My job is protecting myself, my loved ones, and the people around me. I can employ the same tools and others the police use to sniff out trouble and then, instead of walking straight into it, identify and avoid it. If I’m doing it right, I have infinitely less use for a firearm than the beat cop — effectively none, in fact. Some citizens quite legitimately require firearms for defense, but I don’t.

      Clearly, the most powerful weapon at your disposal is not a firearm. It’s good judgement. Meanwhile, the firearm is no use at without the judgement. Even in their far more dangerous daily environments, police officers do not count on their firearms to keep them alive. They rely upon training, judgement, and remarkably conservative procedure. The gun is the last resort.

      Obviously, there’s lots more to it than that. But any way you look at it, these skills are just as necessary with a carry permit as without one; in fact, even more so in many ways. But if you take the active role in your own safety, you may find after a while that the firearm, the last resort without resort, is the least useful tool in your kit. For me it’s superfluous, a pain in the ass more than anything. Are we interested in exploring this further? Do we want to be truly safe on the streets, or do we just want to carry a gun?

      • avatarAntiCitizenOne says:

        I carry a gun because it is the best way for me to deal with deadly threats, be it someone armed, someone much bigger than me, or a group of assailants. I have access to training that allows me to keep up to date with skills with my weapon and my combatives. This training gives me the edge I need in such a defensive situation that I can reduce my chance of a fatal error to near zero. This same training is offered to police officers – if the training didn’t work, why are they still teaching it?

        Would you not agree that trouble and criminals can be mobile and can choose when they want to strike? Police officers can certainly seek out trouble but I bet most of them can tell you the exact same things I’m saying right now.

        “If I’m doing it right, I have infinitely less use for a firearm than the beat cop — effectively none, in fact” What happens if you are wrong?

        Would you not agree that your mind is not omniscient, as well as it is not perfect? How many times have you misinterpreted someone’s words, or perhaps a life situation?

        If you feel you don’t need a firearm for personal defense, that’s fine. I don’t care. If it’s a pain in the ass for you, fine. I don’t care either. I train as much as I can, I organize my time efficiently, and I still have a good life. You probably wouldn’t be able to pick me out of a group of people at a party unless I gave you identifying information. I do not feel my training or my carry is of any burden to me whatsoever. Some people pray 5 times a day for 30 minutes to an hour facing Mecca and they’re fine. Some people may have a daily routine of Tai Chi at 8 in the morning. It’s a routine for me I gladly accept, much as these people have accepted their own self-imposed commitments. A doctor I once worked with runs dry practice on his own every morning and every evening keeping up his skill sets with his firearm and combatives, and he is doing very well in his practice right now.

        You can say I don’t need one, but it’s up to me whether I should listen to you or not. You’re more likely to try and ban the carry of weapons in general IMO.

        What I am asking you to do is stop assassinating the character of gun carriers because you are reinforcing the problems you want to solve.

      • avatarMagoo says:

        “What happens if you are wrong?”

        I’ll happily take my chances, secure in the knowledge that my possibility of facing an armed attacker is remote enough that I can rationally rank it somewhere below choking on a chicken bone or slipping on a wet sidewalk. If I exercise reasonable care, I have very, very little to worry about. So naturally, I exercise reasonable care and I don’t worry about it.

        Obviously, you spend considerable time worrying about and preparing for crime. How well do you understand your opponent? The first thing to know is crime is not randomly distributed; in fact, its incidence is remarkably concentrated. With a few simple steps, most people can reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim by over 90 percent — from an incidence rate that is pretty low to begin with.

        Example: The incidence rate of crime classified as violent in the U.S. in 2009 was 439 reported victims per 100,000 population, which is down over 40 percent from the historic peak in 1991. Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of these crimes were aggravated assaults, and in 63 percent of these cases, the attacker was known to the victim.

        • avatarAntiCitizenOne says:

          If you want to take your chances, that’s fine by me as well. I choose not to take that chance and I am not a threat to anyone else or to myself, nor am I socially isolating myself from the world. YOU are the one making up the paranoid assumption, not me. YOU are slandering my character. YOU are deceiving people who should be thinking for themselves about what kind of person I am without them having ever met me.

          There are instances in life where you may choose to accept guarantees or accept risks. You say “steps to reduce risk of being a victim by 90%.” I say, not good enough. I want 100%. You say crimes where around 70% where assailant and victim know each other, what about the other 30%? If that is your line in the sand, so be it. Are you a danger to yourself or others? No. Neither am I.

          So I reiterate again. Your character assassination ends here.

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