The 12 Lessons of ‘Guns and Self-Defense’ by Robert A. Waters

Courtesy Amazon

By Dr. Michael S. Brown

Sitting in a place of honor on my bookshelf is a copy of The Best Defense, written by Robert Waters in 1998. This classic describes fourteen cases where ordinary citizens used guns to save their lives from violent attackers. I’ve kept it around as a reminder to stay vigilant and to occasionally loan to friends who don’t think guns are ever used for self-defense.

Waters’ new book is Guns and Self-Defense, which he co-wrote with his son Sim Waters, who has a degree in criminology. This time, he chronicles twenty-three dramatic tales of armed self-defense.

Like the now nearly extinct crime reporters of the newspaper era, he combines information from police reports and court records with victim interviews to tell the entire story in an engaging short form. He always lists the types of guns involved, how many shots were fired, how many scored hits and even where misses ended up.

Unlike the mainstream media I often ridicule, Waters is not a prisoner of the 24-hour news cycle. The information he collects, sometimes several years after the fact, has had plenty of time to crystallize into an accurate record that includes trial results, prison terms and the lasting effects on victims.

Waters does not have to add the drama. The stories are so intense that he can stick to a matter-of-fact style and you will still find yourself obsessively flipping the pages.

Only one of these twenty-three incidents made it to the national media, it was one of two in the book that involved armed citizens coming to the aid of police officers who were being beaten to death by a crazed criminal.

Looking at the other twenty-one stories, it’s easy to see patterns that might be of use to the average citizen contemplating self-defense or to those involved in the gun control debate.

  1.  Almost all of these attacks on unsuspecting people involved substance abuse in some way.  Either the attackers were flying high on drugs like alcohol, cocaine and meth, or they were trying to get money to buy drugs.
  2. Criminals can be extremely vicious and care nothing about the damage they inflict on others.  Many of the victims suffered life-altering injuries as well as lasting emotional trauma.
  3. Violent criminals, much like predators in the animal world, prefer easy prey.  Most of these victims were women, elderly or physically handicapped people at home.  The few who were not tended to work in convenience stores or high value targets like stores dealing in jewels and precious metals.
  4. All guns involved were handguns, except for a shotgun wielded by a woman home alone.
  5. Many of the handguns used for effective defense were cheap weapons that are accessible to low wage earners and have sometimes been targets of gun control efforts.
  6. Since most of the assailants were drug-enhanced and were only shot with handguns, they often had to be shot more than once.  So if you have time, reach for a long gun.
  7. Few of the defenders had much training, if any. Yet they all survived, and did not shoot any innocent bystanders.
  8. None of the guns used for defense were locked up. Due to the speed, shock and ferocity of the attacks, the victims would have been unable to deal with locks.
  9. Violent predators often work together in armed gangs that may require defenders to fire many shots to end the attack.
  10. All but one of the attackers had a long criminal history marked by repeated prison terms with early release.  Some were on parole or on bail awaiting trial at the time.
  11. The underlying explanation for these violent assaults is that society does not deal effectively with the three main causes:  drugs, gangs and mental illness.
  12. Criminals choose the time and place of their attack both to achieve surprise and avoid law enforcement, so prudent citizens must be prepared to defend themselves anytime, anywhere.

Anyone who is interested in keeping a gun for protection would do well to read this book while keeping some things in mind.

The commonly accepted theory is that most criminals will flee at the sight of a gun, but Waters understandably selected only incidents in which victims actually shot their attackers and lived through the experience. While this doesn’t give a statistically accurate picture, it serves as an excellent reminder that you had better be mentally prepared in advance to shoot to save yourself and your loved ones. Just displaying a gun is not always enough.

Another thought is that criminals who actually need to be shot are likely the most unhinged and violent examples of the species and will probably need to be shot more than once.  Some of the most dangerous hunt in packs. Owning a gun with a large magazine seems like a common sense choice and owning more than one if you can afford it is probably a good idea.

It almost goes without saying that you should make a household emergency plan, practice with your firearm(s) and seek training as possible.

After reading Guns and Self-Defense, the wise reader will likely wonder why compelling and inspiring stories like this so rarely make it into the national news stream. I believe they are suppressed because they belie the standard media narrative that ordinary people have no need for defensive firearms.

Why else would such riveting, life-and-death dramas be ignored? Almost any of them could be easily turned into a profitable made-for-TV movie or at least a 60 Minutes segment if our media were not so biased and agenda-driven.

After reading this book, I discovered another in this series published just a few months earlier titled: Guns Save Lives that includes 22 events.  If you follow defensive gun use news on the internet, you know there is an inexhaustible supply of such stories.

 

Dr. Michael S. Brown is a pragmatic Libertarian environmentalist who has been studying the gun debate for three decades and considers it a fascinating way to learn about human nature and politics.

This article originally appeared at drgo.us and is reprinted here with permission. 

comments

  1. avatar DesertDave says:

    “7. Few of the defenders had much training, if any. Yet they all survived, and did not shoot any innocent bystanders.”

    Well this can’t be right?!! Everyone knows that you have to be well trained to defend yourself and not kill everyone around you in a self defense situation.

    Just goes to prove that no matter what, being armed, having some situational awareness and the mental fortitude to defend yourself is better than being a defenseless victim.

    1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

      I take formal training to have something to provide in my defense if I’m ever actually involved in a shoot, and an aggressive anti-gun D.A. (plenty of those in CA) wants to try to prove to a judge/jury that I was incompetent and didn’t know how to control myself and my weapon.

      Then I can toss out copies of all my course certifications onto the table.

      1. avatar GunnyGene says:

        Which he would use to paint you as a crazy gun nut and unfair to that poor untrained dead guy lying on your living room rug in a puddle of warm blood. 😉

        1. avatar John in AK says:

          Indeed!

          Multiple certificates and voluminous training could be a double-edged sword if it comes down to who gets aggressively prosecuted and who does not, and how one is portrayed to a jury.

          “Just look at this! This fellow has been training for a gunfight all of his life, as if he WANTED one, and now he’s got what he wanted!”

          Personally, I think about how I would be treated, as a retired cop and firearms instructor, after a defensive shooting; Would there be the inference that I could’ve ‘shot to wound,’ or ‘been less trigger-happy’ due to my training and experience, or whether I should’ve just rendered the poor ‘victim’ hors de combat with my special Cop Ninja Control Techniques and manly fisticuffs instead of shooting him.

          I think that I’d rather be portrayed as a mild-mannered, frail, elderly gent who barely knows which end of the gun the bullet comes out of after a DGU than as a Range Ninja that should’ve been able to hit any incoming bullet with a bullet of his own.

      2. avatar Chris T in KY says:

        I Haz A Question
        Robb Pincus has said everyone needs to record any and all training sessions. It doesn’t have to be very detained. You can just record the rounds fired. And distances you shot from. If you have rifles and other guns then record the calibers as well. Examples of a blank training record can be found on line. There are many examples out there. Every time I pay for range time I keep the receipt in my training records.

        Massad Ayoob has said your training record in its current form is acceptable as proof you have had firearms training in a court of law.

    2. avatar A. C. says:

      Remember, this book lists only twenty three (23) incidents. There may be others where untrained victims did not survive. Maybe quite a few others. There may also be other attacks not listed in the book where the target had training, but no opportunity to use it.

    3. avatar MouseGun says:

      I know, right? Everyone knows you have to be a Level 23 tacticool mall ninja with a Gucci Glock with a combo red dot sight/ infrared scope and 10 extra magazines shoved up your taint, along with 10,000 hours of training from former SEAL Marine Ranger Snipers to so much as put the magazine in properly. Any and all other claims are pure boulder dash!

  2. avatar Knute(ken) says:

    I think a couple of things here should be elaborated upon:
    “Few of the defenders had much training, if any. Yet they all survived, and did not shoot any innocent bystanders.”
    Here is the reason why formal training, while nice to have, is NOT necessary for self defense, even those those with a vested interest always say different. For reasons that should be obvious.
    “None of the guns used for defense were locked up. Due to the speed, shock and ferocity of the attacks, the victims would have been unable to deal with locks.”
    This is the reason why mandatory gun lockup Statutes are insane on their face. Such Statutes remove one of the prime purposes of having a self defense gun in the first place.
    “The underlying explanation for these violent assaults is that society does not deal effectively with the three main causes: drugs, gangs and mental illness.”
    IMO, not only does our society not only fail to “deal effectively ” with these problems, it creates them.
    Witness the drug problems created by the “war on drugs”, exactly as happened in the 1920s under prohibition. One would think we would have learned a lesson after such an abject failure, but no. Instead, we continue to do the same thing, but expect a different result.
    Further witness the desire to keep illegals under deportation orders inside of this Country, encouraging MS-13 members (one of the most violent gangs in history) to come here, the lack of concern for mental health, except for providing yet more drugs, with violent thoughts and psychotic episodes clearly mentioned on the labels as known side effects, which make the existing problem worse, etc.

    1. avatar Hugh Glass says:

      No. 7, yup.

    2. avatar tdiinva says:

      A quick look at the murder stats from the decade preceding Prohibition saw a steady rise in the murder rate. Until the end of 20s the rate stayed on the trend line. At that point organized crime began to rationalize “the industry” as organized crime became cartelized at which point surplus capacity was eliminated. The murder began to decline before prohibition was over. Selling alcohol during prohibition was not the mobs biggest money maker. Gambling, loan sharking and extortion (protection) were the money makers. They required far less capital to operate. These activities existed both and after prohibition and both legal (Las Vegas) and illegal forms.

      The legalization of marijuana has not dropped violent crime rates. Denver, Seattle and urban California have seen big increases in crime rates since legalization. In any case, the crimes committed in this study are not criminal-on-criminal. They are committed by drug users. A drug addict is no more capable of earning a living when drugs are legal. They still commit crimes to get the money to support their habits.

      1. avatar Ing says:

        What I’ve heard is that theft and nonviolent crimes are down and the clearance rate for property crime is waaaay up, as the police have put the time they used to spend harassing potheads into catching people whose actions have actually hurt someone. (This is in Colorado.)

        In WA, Seattle’s “progressive” city gov’t has created a homeless population that rivals San Fran’s, with all the usual problems. That alone could skew the statewide crime rate. Living far away from Seattle in a rural area, I don’t see any effect from marijuana legalization at all, unless you count the occasional aroma drifting across the neighborhood.

        How this will all play out in the long term, I don’t know, but I think it’s a worthwhile experiment — and unlike most other gov’t related experiments, this one involves MORE freedom, which is a point in its favor.

  3. avatar GunnyGene says:

    The people who should read this won’t; and the people who will read it don’t need to.

    1. avatar sparkyinWI says:

      Yes ^^^^^^^

  4. avatar sound awake says:

    “6. Since most of the assailants were drug-enhanced and were only shot with handguns, they often had to be shot more than once. So if you have time, reach for a long gun.”
    and all students of the gun agreed and said AMEN
    keep in mind:
    pistol caliber carbines = handgun performance in almost all combinations of barrel length and loads
    general rule of thumb:
    a handgun round that isnt a veritable manstopper already doesnt magically turn into one just because the barrel length is increased a few inches

    ballistics by the inch dot com

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Sound Awake,

      Pistol caliber carbines chambered in .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum, if you use full-power loads and lighter bullets, basically jump up to intermediate rifle caliber territory in both energy and effectiveness.

      For example a full-power .357 Magnum load with a 125 grain bullet will achieve a muzzle velocity of about 2,200 fps coming out of a 20-inch barrel. That is a world of difference versus a mediocre load with a muzzle velocity of 1,300 fps coming out of a 4-inch barrel.

      And you will see a similar jump in performance with .44 Magnum. A hot load with 180 grain bullets will exit the muzzle of a 4-inch barrel at something like 1,450 fps. However, that same load will exit the muzzle of a 20-inch barrel at something like 2,100 fps.

      Either loading mentioned above (coming out of a 20-inch barrel) will tend to be fairly devastating to a drugged-up attacker.

  5. avatar Bierce Ambrose says:

    So, most, or at least many, people are prudent, measured, and capable in defending their own lives in extremis. Who’d have thought that?

  6. avatar Mad says:

    I shot my first gun at age ten decades later I still practice you never know when you might have to make a split second decision situational awareness is a good tool

  7. avatar Ed Rogers says:

    Here’s a recent news story, where a 15 year-old savaged a family, killing an old man. No word of firearms in the home:

    https://www.ksl.com/article/46596347/utah-16-year-old-charged-as-adult-in-fatal-home-invasion

  8. avatar TommyJay says:

    Panic 9-1-1 was a short lived TV series (9 eps.) still available on Comcast On Demand. Almost all are home defensive gun uses with nearly complete 911 recordings.

    To be really prepared you should probably be wearing your gun around the house. I’m not fond of the idea of leaving unlocked loaded weapons laying around.

    IMHO a full size semi-auto pistol is the best. I want at least 10 or preferably 15 rounds on tap right now. A shorter AR-15 or 12 gage pump is excellent, and those mini-shells seem like a nifty way to up the capacity and still pack a punch. Nobody would choose a bolt gun on purpose?

    1. avatar GunnyGene says:

      Mini-shells won’t work in many pump or semi-auto shotgun models without modifying the guns action. They jam easily and frequently.

      1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

        Yeah, I’ve always wondered why Aguila Ammo decided on the super-short 1.75″ overall length instead of perhaps 2.25″. That would still be half an inch shorter than a standard shell, would be easier for a smaller-framed person to handle, and cycle more reliably. I’m not too fond of the Aguilas.

        1. avatar GunnyGene says:

          They work fine in a Biden shotgun. 🙂

        2. avatar GunnyGene says:

          PS: I know a guy who cuts down standard shells to 2.25″ and they will cycle properly. Hardly worth the effort tho to get 1 extra round in the mag. Better to just carry reloads on the stock or receiver or on your belt, and practice combat topping off.

          Or get a gun that has more capacity to start with, such as the KSG bullpup (4 models available with up to 24+1 capacity standard shells).

  9. avatar strych9 says:

    “Violent predators often work together in armed gangs that may require defenders to fire many shots to end the attack.”

    Unpossible!

  10. avatar Anymouse says:

    2-3 dozen reports out of hundreds of thousands per year are not indicative. You can’t generalize from it. They’re antecedents that may be entertaining or thought provoking, but they shouldn’t be the basis of a defense plan. From 7, I learn I don’t need training. 3 says I won’t be attacked since I’m an able bodied male who doesn’t work in a Stop ‘n Rob. 12 is obvious. Criminals don’t clock in and out, and, generally prefer not to be caught. People don’t post signs that say “Available as victim. Weekdays, Noon to 3”. It’s as silly as saying, “I’m not going to get in a car accident today, so I’ll skip the seatbelt.”

    1. avatar Vic Nighthorse says:

      I don’t think it stated or even implied that there were any guarantees or endorsed avoiding formal training. You read that into it.

  11. avatar TommyG says:

    I’d like to see more stats on this kind of stuff. Does a alarm system effect your likelihood of a home invasion? Does a dog? Outdoor Cameras? Outdoor lights? I have firearms in every level of the house for self defense, but ideally I don’t want anybody to even try busting down my door.

    1. avatar Geoff "Guns. Lots of guns." PR says:

      “I have firearms in every level of the house for self defense, but ideally I don’t want anybody to even try busting down my door.”

      That’s the tough part – The sarcastic side of me says regular plinking off the back porch gets the word out you’re armed, but does that attract thieves who want to break in just to steal your guns? The same goes for the ‘cute’ signs with text on them like “Homeowner doesn’t call 911”.

      Does that increase the chance of being robbed?

      1. avatar Richard Steven Hack says:

        My father was an NRA member and conducted classes in hunter safety from a building on our property. We also had a 50-foot four point firing range on our property. He was also known to open carry when he drove to the Post Office. People in the neighborhood could hear the firing, especially when he hauled out the old .45 instead of the .22s.

        One night someone broke into the out building which housed the firearms and stole several. As an aside, the insurance company paid the claim – then canceled the policy, which angered my father considerably.

        So yeah, if people know there are guns, some people will consider that an opportunity.

  12. avatar GS650G says:

    ” Almost all of these attacks on unsuspecting people involved substance abuse in some way. Either the attackers were flying high on drugs like alcohol, cocaine and meth, or they were trying to get money to buy drugs.”
    I understand the arguments for drug legalization however legal drugs will still give us crazies that not only act this way but need money to buy their drugs, no matter how cheap or legal they are. Most are not going to be able to hold jobs to buy the shit.

  13. avatar "keep yur paws off my dead guy" possum says:

    If you’d add in all the times a gunm was used without shots fired I’d reckon that would be a pretty big book.

    1. avatar Geoff "Guns. Lots of guns." PR says:

      “If you’d add in all the times a gunm was used without shots fired I’d reckon that would be a pretty big book.”

      I’ve had two of those myself, one where a guy just walked into a house I was helping renovate, and the other when a guy decided to just open the passenger door to my car while I was stopped at a red light probably expecting I was just gonna give him a ride somewhere.

      First one, I drew keeping the barrel pointed straight down and told him (in a not-nice voice) “You need to leave the house”. He did.

      Second one, I began to draw when he made it clear he was getting in my car and wanted to go somewhere, and he rapidly decided he really didn’t want the ride when he saw Mr. Glock coming out of the holster.

      No paperwork on either one, since the situation had the desired outcome on my part, neither one decided to press the issue, and I was happy to leave it at that…

  14. avatar Richard Steven Hack says:

    Look at number 6 and 9 – then reconsider your low-capacity handgun.

  15. avatar Augustine says:

    11. The underlying explanation for these violent assaults is that society has forgotten about Jesus.

    Fixed it for you.

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