“LaVar Burton, 33, testified that he ran upstairs in his Lansing home July 22, 2010 after seeing a man with a gun break through the living room screen late at night,” lansingstatejournal.com reports. “Burton testified that the intruder fired several shots at him as Burton ran upstairs. Burton then retrieved his .45 caliber, semi-automatic pistol, and tried to return fire from the upstairs landing, but the gun jammed, according to testimony . . .
Burton testified he then ran into a bedroom, and was able to dislodge the bullets. He said he stepped out of the room, heard footsteps coming towards him in the darkened house and fired one shot. ‘I closed my eyes and then I shot,’ Burton testified. The next thing he knew, his 7-year-old stepdaughter Amaia Edmond, “was lying on the floor.” She was later pronounced dead.
Like so many tragedies, perhaps all tragedies, a chain of avoidable events led to Amaea Edmond’s death at the hands of her step-father. For one thing, the video above reveals that Burton was a convicted felon. The article about the shooting says the two men who invaded his home were “casing the house” the day before the attack.
Connecting those dots, one could assume that, once again, Burton’s felonious past caught up with him. Amaia’s mother has the rest of her life to contemplate the rabbi’s dictum “avoid stupid people doing stupid things in stupid places.” We have a few minutes to contemplate the self-defense implications of this incident, in terms of protecting our loved ones.
1. Keep your gun close, your gun closer
Not only are you bound to lose a footrace to your firearm, any such dash for a gun adds to the fog of war. As you focus on GETTING THE GUN, it’s all too easy to lose track of who’s where doing what—especially when they may be reacting to the deafening roar of gunfire by moving in entirely unpredictable directions. A desperately fluid situation becomes a raging waterfall.
As TLC will tell you, don’t go chasing waterfalls. The only solution, the best possible solution: home carry.
In self-defense terms, the less variables in play the better. Hence the large number of gun gurus who will not carry a gun with an external safety. It’s just one more damn thing to think about, at a time when your mental resources are required elsewhere.
If your gun is on your hip, you free up a LOT of mental space. You don’t have to worry about getting your gun (perhaps whilst dodging bullets), opening a safe, thinking of a survival plan and keeping track of friendlies and bad guys.
2. Don’t buy a broken ass gun and practice drawing your weapon
This story doesn’t tell us why Burton’s gun jammed. The media use the word “jam” indiscriminately. If we take the website’s description (Burton “was able to dislodge the bullets”) at face value, it indicates a double feed (two bullets in the chamber at once). I doubt it.
Clearing a double feed is a relatively complicated process. Ideally, you start by tapping the underside of the gun and racking the slide. If that doesn’t work, you eject the magazine, rack the slide, shake the gun, reinsert the mag and rack the slide. Even the most practiced shooter would have difficulty performing that maneuver in the heat of battle.
We don’t know if Burton’s gun had an external safety. If so, he may have experienced the aforementioned WIFTS (Whoops I Forgot the Safety) problem. He may have carried his .45 unloaded, and only remembered to rack the slide later. One way or another, it was either a crap gun or operator error or both.
These issues are easy enough to avoid. First, don’t buy a crap gun. Buy the best (usually the most expensive) gun you can afford. And then stretch financially. When it comes to your life, price is no object. Period.
Second, make sure your gun works—with your chosen ammo. Begin by running 500 rounds through your new gun. Then run 100 rounds of your carry ammo. Then clean and lubricate it.
Third, run the gun. Practice shooting your gun in appropriate conditions: carrying it (or not) as you would when the SHTF, wearing clothes you’d be wearing in combat, etc. Regularly. In terms of not doing anything stupid when you need to be the smartest guy on planet earth, there is no substitute for regular practice with your gun. None. That said . . .
3. Practice not shooting
The vast majority of shooters never practice aiming a loaded gun at the target and NOT shooting. Wrong answer. If you ALWAYS ready your gun, aim and empty it at the target, what do you think you’ll do in the heat of the moment? Well EXACTLY. For the safety of your children (if nothing else), you need to wire your subconscious mind to offer the option of not shooting the target at which you may be aiming.
4. Establish your own rules of engagement
Gun gurus waste valuable time asking new shooters if they could kill someone who posed an imminent threat to their life or the life of their loved ones. Most could. Easily. The ones that couldn’t . . . well, you can’t save everyone from themselves. Nor should you try.
BUT there are times when you should shoot and times when you shouldn’t. My personal ROE (Rules of Engagement):
1. During the day, I will not shoot until and unless I identify the target and know where the friendlies are. If there’s any chance the good guys are behind the bad guy, not shooting is the default option. Repositioning for a point blank or “clear” shot is the order of the day.
2. At night, I will not shoot until and unless I identify the target and know for sure the friendlies are behind me. While this seems the easier situation, as the bad guys have to come up the stairs, you never know.
IDing a target can include a verbal warning. But it should include an alarm system to which your teenage progeny DO NOT have the nighttime access code. Late night boyfriends are best not shot.
5. Consider using a gun-mounted flashlight, but train with it if you do
Here’s the problem: most people “aim” a gun-mounted flashlight by pointing the muzzle of the gun at the possible target. In that case, if you failed to accept the wisdom of point number three (practice not shooting at a target) and somehow forget to keep your finger off the trigger, you can point the light at the wrong someone and kill them without much thought.
The trick: practice activating and aiming the light away from the potential target. With your finger off the trigger, turn on the light and bounce the beam off of a reflective surface (floor, wall, etc.). Once you’ve IDed the perp, THEN bring the gun to bear on them. Remembering to keep your finger off the trigger until the moment you decide to shoot.
That’s what’s called counterintuitive. The natural instinct: aim at the bad guy and shoot. So you either have to practice not aiming at the BG with the light/muzzle or . . . forget it. Me, I don’t go there. I don’t trust myself. I use external lighting and fill-in night lights around the house to maintain enough illumination to see. If the BGs cut the power, well, I’ve got a flashlight and I’ve trained to use it with my gun.
Does that seem paranoid? If you’ve got a gun and you’ve got kids and you don’t want to shoot your kids with the gun during the worst case scenario, you need to think this through before Armageddon comes knocking on your door. Or, even worse, forgets to knock.