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Of all the self-defense possibilities, the Bump In The Night (BITN) scenario is the scariest. You’re woken from a sound sleep by a noise downstairs. Holy shit! Home invaders! Or the cat. Or your imagination. Or home invaders! I’m astounded by the number of people who grab their home defense gun, creep out of bed and . . . . shhhh! We’re hunting wabbits! Alternatively, we’re walking straight into an ambush . . .

Unless you’re Chingachgook, the home invader or invaders will know exactly where you are. You’ll have no clue where he, or they, are. Or aren’t. The better play: A) Get an alarm system. Use it. B) Get dogs. Feed them. C) Gather the family, assume a defensive position, call the cops. Embarrassing but you pay their salaries.

Again, the one thing you don’t want to do is clear your house. You don’t have the combat skills nor the manpower to do what is an extremely dangerous job. (There’s a reason that cops clear houses in teams.) The same rule applies if you come back home to a break-in, only more so . . .

The 33-year-old man told police he had just arrived home with his fiancée, a 28-year-old woman [at around 7pm]. When he discovered that his front door had been forced open, in an apparent burglary, he went inside his house to see if anybody was inside. Finding nobody inside, he retrieved his handgun and went outside.

The story starts with the ending, in the great pyramid journalist tradition. I’ve rearranged it here chronologically to make a simple point: don’t go in the attic! You know what I mean; all those horror movies where the heroine hears an unholy scampering sound in the attic and creeps up the stairs. A bat! Nothing. And then she turns around and . . .

What, exactly, would our 33-year-old Georgia man do if he found burglars in his house? Tell them to leave? Wrestle them to the ground? Anger or scare them enough so that they’d kill him, come outside and kill his fiancée? Maybe, and that’s one possibility that’s easily avoided. Don’t go in the attic!

He heard some rustling of leaves at the back of house and investigated. He noticed that one of his rear windows was broken.

He heard someone laughing and saw a young man, 12 to 15 years old, climbing over the back fence.

The moment you expose a firearm in a potentially violent situation, you’ve turned the confrontation into a gunfight. News flash! You can lose a gunfight. As in die. Or become paralyzed. Or shoot the wrong person. Or shoot the right person and get the shit sued out of you. What could these kids have stolen, what lesson could the homeowner have taught them, that was worth that risk?

We don’t know if the homeowner was hiding his piece. But the robbery was over. The homeowner was not in imminent danger—at least not until he placed himself in harm’s way. And probably even then, as the perp vaulting the fence was 12 to 15-years-old. Unless it was a big-ass kid and small ass homeowner, the disparity of size and age would not have worked in the homeowner’s favor in a court of law. Should anything happen.

The victim said he then saw two other young people in the vicinity.

Uh-oh! A gang of pubescent perps. Not good. Time to quietly withdraw methinks. Did he hell. But before that . . .

Did the homeowner call the cops when he first discovered the burglary? If I was looking at a gang of burglars—even if they didn’t see me—I’d want to know that the po-po were inbound and down. It would be extremely reassuring and allow for different tactics. Like, I dunno, avoidance. Oops!

Police officers responding to 911 calls that shots had been fired at 7:20 p.m. Wednesday in the 1300 block of East Division Street, found a man walking from a backyard to the front of his house, Decatur Police Sgt. Steve Chabak said.

And that’s because . . .

The victim told police he then pointed his gun toward the ground and shot five times to scare the young men and cause them to leave the premises. They all took off running.

Which means that the homeowner was now walking towards armed police responding to a shooting. What’s the bet the homeowner had a gun in his hand? And that the police were ready for action? Friendly fire is another risk you run with a gunfight, regardless of whether or not you call the police before or after hostilities. Not to mention other homeowners protecting their life and property from bad guys discharging firearms.

One warning shot was bad enough (although I’d probably call this a retribution shot, as the homeowner wasn’t warning the teens not to attack). Five times is madness. Even assuming the homeowner was carrying 19 rounds in a Springfield XD 9mm, it is NOT a good idea to waste ammo.

What if the three kids had heard the gunshot, pulled out their own guns and engaged in a firefight? The homeowner had just wasted five bullets creating a gunfight. If he was carrying revolver, he’d be down to his last cartridge. Facing the fun of trying to reload in the middle of leadstorm.

Of course, that assumes he’d be carrying spare ammo. I doubt it. Anyone irresponsible enough to put himself and his fiance in mortal danger to protect his territory/stuff would probably think that spare ammo is for bad shots and wimps.

We’ve been down this road before. Some of you will accuse me of mollycoddling the bad guys and, thus, encouraging them and people like them to do bad, bad things. You’ll see my condemnation of the homeowner’s armed aggression (yes, aggression) as a failure to defend the bedrock of civilized society (property rights). But I’m sticking to my guns.

The victim, who possessed a valid Firearm Owner’s Identification Card, was cited for reckless discharge of a firearm. He was issued a notice to appear in Macon County Circuit Court. His gun was taken by police, to be used as evidence in the case.

[Police Chief] Chabak said it is illegal to shoot a gun in the city, except in exceptional circumstances involving defense of a human life or to prevent great bodily harm.

So even if you think I’m wrong, lookee here. The Georgia homeowner is now facing gun crime charges, the cops have his weapon and there are at least three teens out there who may be out for revenge. It’s not fair. But it was an entirely predictable outcome.

As the rabbi says, if you survive a gunfight, you win. The best way to survive a gunfight is not to have it. And the best way not to have it is to not go looking for trouble. And keeping as low a profile as possible when trouble finds you. After that, all bets are off. Do you really want to go there?

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  1. Robert, I understand your point of view and agree with most of what you said in this article. I am a firm believer that each personshould know their home and by knowing their home they can distinguish the sounds that are made inside and the location. In some circumstances you may be able to tell how many are inside. My wife and I have run through scenarios, since I am a light sleeper (and 16 years of Special Forces experience) any "unusual nois" above and beyond the cats deciding to play body tag in the middle of the night, I am up, armed and listening.

    By listening I can usually tell where the sounds mayhave come from but more importantly if I start to command, which would be very loud indeed, my wife is on the phone with 911. She sleeps very soundly, until she hears my voice and then she is dialing and on the "safe side" of the bed. I do have 15 rounds for my 9mm but don't plan performing any "warning shots".

  2. What most dont understand, and I think you covered it well for this part, was the civil side: most think that if someone were to break into their home, the homeowners do not have a right to fire at the inttruders unless their life is in imminent danger. Someone in your home does not constitute immenent danger by the way. Some states have "duty to retreat" laws which mean you, as the homeowner, need to run, lock yourself into a room and contact the police. If you were to fire at an intruder and it is not deemed an imminent danger situation, that intruder can and probably will, sue you…..and……..(wait for it)…….(wait for it)……they very well may WIN!

    The bottom line, as you capture, is don't try to be the hero, use common sense (*which is not so common any longer) and know your fight! Rushing into an unknown situation makes you the "fish" inside the "barrel" and you maynot come back from that kind of stupidity. Remain aware. Good article

  3. MArk, while your statements are true in many states, they are not in Georgia.

    A person is justified in using deadly force in order to defend those inside or to prevent the commission of a felony if "the entry is made or attempted in a violent and tumultuous manner". The extent of the force used must be proportionate to the crime committed – although this sentiment is loosely defined. And Georgia also supports the "Castle Doctrine" that no retreat needs to be made.

    That being said, I don't agree with what the man in the article did. He looked for trouble, escalated the situation, etc. But he is not completely on the legal low-ground.

  4. Robert – a few thoughts.

    First, the idea that the local police are trained to clear a house? Laughable. Very laughable. At best, the police in my area are well trained to run speed traps, write tickets, and occasionally misfire their weapons at inappropriate times. At least I'm knowledgeable about my own home and can tell what should be around the next corner. I'd trust my (non-)skills against the local gendarmes any day of the week for clearing my own house.

    There's a big difference between the "come home and find the front door kicked in" and the "wake up in the middle of the night" scenarios. You seem to mix and match the above. I'd avoid that, since it really confuses the issue. What he did in the above story has not bearing on what you or I should do in the "wake up" scenario.

  5. part two
    Plus there's a big difference in each scenario depending on how many kids you have and at what age. When my 19 year old comes home at 2 am in the morning (works evening shift) we often hear the "bump in the night". I'm investigating, not calling the cops. If my 14 year old stayed home while me and my wife had date night, I'm not waiting on the cops to clear my own house if the front door is kicked open.

    Part of the reason a lot of us believe in being armed, carrying, etc. is that we can't depend on the local law enforcement to protect us. Hiding in the closet and calling the cops will just mean the cops will find our dead bodies in the closet.

    What the above guy did isn't right, but I don't necessarily agree with your thoughts on either scenario.

  6. Kentucky also subscribes to the “Castle Doctrine”. The home owner has no duty to retreat or even to give any warning. In fact, the perp doesn’t even have to be armed. This protects us against criminal charges but I’m not so sure about the tort law involved.

    • "I'm not so sure about the tort law involved."

      Me neither. Some Castle laws include immunity from tort liability if the defensive shooting is justified under the Castle law. Some do not. Some Castle laws extend criminal and civil protection to the streets,or any other place where the defender has a right to be. Most do not. So it's a mixed bag.

      Here in the People's Kommonwealth of Massachusetts, we do have the benefit of a weak Castle law with no duty to retreat (what's a propah Bostonian to do? Jump out a 22nd storey windah?), but no tort immunity.

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