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I was sitting at the bar, waiting for the chefs to finish my take-out order. I was watching the Bollywood version of MTV, contemplating the fact that my youngest daughters were sucking down a drink named after a child movie star who defied F. Scott Fitzgerald’s pronouncement that “There are no seconds acts in American lives.” The owner approached me. “So you are the gun guy. I am thinking about buying a gun” I made some kind of disclaimer. And then guided the restauranteur through my usual checklist of the three things any law-abiding citizen should consider before buying a firearm for home defense . . .

1. Do you have an alarm system?

An alarm system is your first line of defense: crime prevention. If you live in a neighborhood where most of the houses aren’t alarmed, the alarm company’s stickers and lawn signs send a clear message to Mr. Perp: “Dude! Rob him instead.” Sad but true.

An alarm system is your second line of defense: deterrence. Criminals don’t like cops. Nothing says “the cops are are on their way” like an alarm. If a robber is stupid enough to break into a house with an alarm system, the sound will, in all likelihood, lead to a strategic retreat.

An alarm system is your third line of defense: an early warning system. The more time you have to respond to an attack, the more mentally prepared you are for what might follow, the better the chances that you can avoid or eliminate the threat. Nothing says “showtime!” like an alarm at 2am.

DISCLAIMERS – To protect against a professional attack, make sure your alarm activates if the line is cut. Perimeter coverage is all you really need (windows and doors), but don’t forget to turn on the alarm during the day if there are long stretches of time without traffic. Also, install a panic button near the most-used door or doors and your bed.

2. Is your house set up for safety?

I ask this question second, because most people simply will not upgrade their property beyond an alarm system. They should, but they don’t.

Start with a vault-like front and back door. Criminals lower down on the food chain (a.k.a. opportunists) are likely to invade through the main portals. Proper security doors will stop stupid perps, and give you time to implement a defense against the really scary bad guys (e.g., triggering the alarm, calling 911, getting your gun, securing your family, but not necessarily in that order). I like

Lighting and gardening are also key. Criminals are naturally shy (at least until they’re in your house); trim away any foliage that blocks the view of your windows or doors from the street or drive. Install lights on the ground pointed upwards towards the windows. Any thief who attempts to break in at night will cast a shadow on your house. Bad for them, good for the cops.

Remember that being “set-up for safety” means making sure everyone in your family has what gun gurus call “situational awareness.” It’s not paranoid to scan for strange cars or people every time you enter and leave your house. Or instruct occupants never to open the door to strangers. Or establish a home defense plan. Or increase security as needs be (an angry boyfriend, reports of nearby break-ins, etc.). It’s common sense.

3. Are you sure you want a gun?

Unless you’re prepared to learn how to use a gun efficiently and effectively, practice with it regularly, and learn the rules for the legal use of lethal force, don’t introduce a firearm into your home.

If you don’t take these steps, it better to do something else during an invasion—from hiding (alarm triggered) to launching a counter-attack with a Taser, knife, pepper spray, table lamp, etc. If not, you could shoot the wrong person. You could shoot at the right person and miss, inviting lethal retribution. You could shoot the right person—and discover another person. Or you could simply waste time that would be better spent doing something else (see: above).

I’m not saying that only properly trained people should have a home defense gun. I’m saying that YOU should be properly trained if YOU are thinking about buying a home defense gun.

That process starts by finding out whether or not you’re suited to firearms. Some people can’t handle guns safely (in the same sense that some people can’t figure out the TV remote). Or shoot them well. Some people just can’t make the leap from the idea of a gun to the fact of one in their hand. If you can’t, don’t.

Ascertaining firearms suitability is a simple matter of receiving some professional instruction at a local gun range, using a rented gun. (Note: if the trainer launches into a pro-gun spiel, gently remind him or her that you’re there to learn how to handle a firearm, not receive political indoctrination.)

Also keep in mind that you may not be the only one who needs/wants a home defense gun. Your significant other may spend more time in the house (without your protection) than you do. In any case, discuss the new potential home defense plan with all adults living under your roof before you bring home a gat. Then talk to the kids about their role.

IMHO, home carry is the ultimate litmus test for whether or not a person should use a firearm for home defense.

Keeping your handgun on your person in your house is critical to an effective firearms defense. The chances of getting to your gun safe, opening it and extracting your weapon during a home invasion in time to deal with an attack are minimal. (There’s no getting around this limitation while you’re sleeping.)

More than that, home carry affirms your commitment to responsible and effective firearms ownership. It’s a constant reminder that you do, in fact, have a gun. A lethal weapon that you will use if you have to. That you must know how to use.

If you’re not prepared to make that commitment, then don’t. If you are, then do. But do so realizing that shooting someone is the last thing you ever want to do in a self-defense situation. And if you have to do it, you’ll need some serious shooting and tactical skills. Otherwise there’s a good chance you’ll lose your life, anyway.

After talking to the restaurant owner, I established that he’d ticked all the right boxes, except for the one about firearms familiarization. He’s planning a trip to the range. As well he should.

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  1. I agree with all your points. Most people think shooting at a badguy is the same as you see on TV.(and by the way most people miss on TV) I’m at the local range a few times every week, and shooting isn’t as easy as it looks. Try shooting at someone who’s moving while your under stress.(they might even be shooting back+MORE STRESS) I’ve seen so many new shooters who should NEVER have gun for home defence that it’s scarey. But it’s not up to me who wants a gun in their home cuz I pretty much love all guns.

    • If only everyone else felt the same about letting others make their own decisions!

      Another point worth mentioning is knowing your state and local laws on DGU, castle doctrine, and the like. The last thing you want is to own and employ a weapon in a way that can land you in jail.

  2. “… That process starts by finding out whether or not you’re suited to firearms.…”

    And stops sometimes. The first two years or so my wife and I were together I tried regularly to cultivate some small interest in her for my handguns (forget the rifles/shotguns). I repeatedly asked her to come to the range and shoot with me or to maybe participate in the cleaning and assembly of my handguns afterward. She quietly yet consistently refused to participate in any way and I finally let it go.

    In retrospect it was for the best. I worried about her a lot (because I really loved her) but she just didn’t have it in here to properly handle a gun or, most importantly, to fire that gun if necessary. I guess the moral of my story is it’s better to recognize up front that someone isn’t cut out for the responsibility of gun ownership than to get them into a situation where they might cause more harm than good to themselves or others.

    • So, JF, what makes you believe you’re suited to firearms?

      As I read many of these comments, commenters seem to assume they’re well-suited for the responsibility of owning guns. Of course, when I read gunloon blogs–all authors and commenters assume they’re not just well-suited but expert.

      Isn’t it a bit odd that you never find a gunloon blogger or commenter proclaiming to be anything but super-proficient or ultra-responsible?

      • Did I miss something? Where is Mr. Fritz’s post did he proclaim to be an expert, or for that matter, where did anyone here on TTAG proclaim expertise? And when did “well-suited” act as a synonym for “expert”? As a commentator and author to TTAG, I will be the first to admit that I am far from ‘expert’. I think almost everyone here at TTAG will admit the same. The only real self-defense expert is the Rabbi, although he is classy and probably won’t admit to being an expert. I am certainly proficient and responsible – hand my any gun and I’m sure I can make it fire. Stop me at anytime and ask to do a “safety check” (not the actual gun safety). I guarantee that you will find no faults. I don’t know about “super” and “ultra”- they are just fluff words anyway- similar to “high capacity” – with the exception of maybe super-awesome!

        • PC: Apparently, you did miss something.

          Regardless, the “well-suited” questions was never answered. Who makes and how is that determination? Are you seriously suggesting that the ability to perform a rote “safety check” makes one “well-suited?”

          • What the hell makes LEOs and the military any better than a private citizen, when we are all humans?

            You’re exhibiting the same paranoia you accuse us of.

            Even if we took safety classes you antis are still going to scream your heads off. So it’s either you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

          • JadeGold : I’ve owned guns for 25+ years. I have never had an accident. I have never committed a crime. I feel I’m well suited. Your thoughts?

  3. An absolutely fabulous article. There is so much more to “gun ownership” that just buying a gun. And part of the commitment under #3 is gun training.

    Also, I’m curious who the model is in that photograph? (the one on the right, thought the one of the left is cute too)

  4. Alarms, vault doors, exterior lighting….Where do you live? Beirut? Nothing in here about what to do if a meteorite hits your house, which is about as statistically likely as a home invasion.
    I’m with you that if you live in a dodgy neighborhood the first things you should do is secure your house properly. You might not need a gun. And if you have one, and God forbid have to use it, it will look better to both civil and criminal juries if you’ve taken all the reasonable precautions.
    But something not considered on this blog — or any other gun-related blog, really — is the mental and emotional effects of preparing constantly for disaster. Keeping a gun, carrying a gun, preparing your house to withstand invasion — none of that is without cost. It changes how you see the world. (I’m experiencing this now, starting my second year of carrying a gun.) Maybe you’re all right with the change. Maybe you think the change is healthy. But let’s acknowledge that people who prepare and arm to confront violence are changed by doing so. It is something to consider.

    • DB: Your point is well-taken.

      I’ve sagely noted that the primary reason for many gunloons to own guns is as compensation for a lack of social/professional success and low self-esteem. Once they get the gun, it cannot help but change their perspective and attitudes–in a way that might not be healthy or productive. I’d note that if you take a look at many gunloon bloggers, they’re extremely aggressive and belligerent not just in their attitudes about gun policy but on most any other subject. Quite often they talk about killing as one might discuss Joe Mauer’s batting average.

      Frankly, if one truly wishes to protect himself and his family, the best possible thing one can do is choose his friends (and sometimes, family) carefully.

      • Frankly, don’t you mean Shirley? Anyway, I’m pretty certain that the customers waiting in line at the Rubio’s Restaurant in the Chandler Mall on Wednesday were neither friends with, nor relatives to, the mentally unstable Adam Hernandez. Mr. Hernandez of course being the man who, at the sight of a US Marshalls looking for another fugitive in the area, began holding hostages and shooting into the air, leading to a 4-hour standoff with police.

        • Sadly, PC, statistics are not your friend.

          Yes, we can all find instances where perfect strangers elect to act badly. However, you run a far greater risk of violence at the hands of your supposed friends and family.

          BTW, Mr. Hernandez probably believes he is “well-suited” to firearms.

      • “I’d note that if you take a look at many gunloon bloggers, they’re extremely aggressive and belligerent not just in their attitudes about gun policy but on most any other subject.”

        I’d suggest you take a look in the mirror. You’ve described yourself to a T.

  5. Joe makes a great point. I think people forget that when they are under stress it might not be as easy to point and shoot than you think. It is defiantly important to practice your shot at the range and know how to use your guns correctly just in case you ever need to.

  6. Jadegold:

    You write: “I’ve sagely noted” about your own notings, and I submit that you ought to stop right there. It is not for you, or I, to call ourselves sages, but to prove it by our words, deeds and choices. Yet this you do, giving yourself laurels, while at the same time criticizing other commentators for claiming to be experts.

    We cannot confer respect upon ourselves, we can only earn it from others, and a little humility goes a long way in that endeavor.

    • So what makes YOU believe you’re right all the damn time? Much like the same thing when you question us about whether we are competent to own firearms.

      In any case, you’re not God, no one is. And you can’t save everyone. No matter how hard you try.

  7. And for what it’s worth, I’d like disassociate myself with the word “gunloons,” which is as offensive to me as “gun grabbers.” Firearms enthusiasts aren’t loons, and those who think society is better off with stricter controls on firearms aren’t gun grabbers — they’re people who disagree on policy with those who would expand gun rights. I know I’m somewhat tedious on this point, but as a writer, I can’t help but believe that words matter. As does civility.

    • DB: “Gunloon” is a perfectly valid word. What’s more, it’s an apt description.

      There are “firearm enthusiasts” and there “gunloons.”

      Often, the two organizations intersect. When I start to see “firearm enthusiasts” decry the excesses of “gunloons” who talk seriously of overthrowing the Govt and demand to carry assault weapons everywhere–perhaps revisting the word “gunloon” might be in order.

      It’s simply mind-boggling the US–a nation of great wealth, power, and global standing–has gun violence rates rivalling Third World Nations.

  8. Heck, I love guns but I would never own a real piece b/c I would play with it all the time and probably shoot myself in the foot or worse. But I compensate with four airsoft guns. Anyway, the article is excellent!

    • Then please don’t own a real one. If you think you’re not confident, then you’re not. You’re only figuratively shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t have confidence. And if you DO shoot yourself while goofing around with it, it’s YOUR fault. Not ours. Or the gun’s.

  9. JadeGold, visit a range. What you call assault rifles are already everywhere. The AR-15 platform is quickly becoming ubiquitous, and violence continues to fall. Semi-automatic rifles with pistol grips and detachable magazines are taking over the gun business, and the sky is not falling. Also, the United States isn’t even near the top of the list of countries with high murder rates. Russia, for example, has a murder rate four times that of the US, and no private guns. Our gun-murder rate may be higher than other countries, but so what? Our overall murder rate isn’t all that high. And more than half of the people who die by gunfire are suicides. That’s tragic, and it would doubtless be lower if those people didn’t have access to guns. But I think you’re getting the vapors over something that, in a big, messy, polyglot country of 305 million people, is not all that huge a problem. Tragic for everybody affected by firearm-caused death, of course. But in the big picture, it’s a problem that is not huge, and is rapidly diminishing.
    Dude, I started where you are. As a good liberal Democrat, I made all the same noises. I’m no less a liberal Democrat, but the evidence on guns and violence in the US doesn’t begin to point to more restrictive laws. It may be you don’t like guns. It may also be that you don’t like gun people. That’s fine. Using the law to harrass people you don’t like, though, isn’t much different than banning marijuana because you don’t like the stoner lifestyle. And about as effective.

  10. Jadeloon is a gun hating lunatic that hasn’t got a clue. She doesn’t want anyone to have guns cuz she’s a gun hating nutcase, and who is she to decide who is worthy of a gun. I just returned from my local range where I meet a family of four newly licensed gunowners (husband wife son daughter) and the wife’s best friend. The 4 family members did a great job, but the poor friend was scared to death. Even the sound of a lil ole 22 going off scared her (she nearly jumped out of her skin when my S&W 500 let off a atomic style explosion, and yes with a nice fire ball to boot lol). This family have all taken classes together and they use their firearms for protection and for fun. Their friend on the other hand will never own or be able to handle a gun for home defence because the bad guy would most likely kill her with her own gun. As for the family, no one really knows how they would handle a home invasion, but at least they have a fighting chance. Not to brag, but if I’m not an expert I’m pretty damn close to becoming one, and I don’t need that jadeloon gun hater deciding if I’m “well suited” to deal any firearm. I make my own choices in life, and I’ve decided that I’m more than “well suited” to own any gun I please.

  11. I find it amazing how much time and energy sheep like loony Jadegold, Mike B and their cult spend trying to demonize people who have taken on the personal responsibility to defend themselves and their families in an effort to justify the reasons that they are unwilling to defend themselves. Apparently, they don’t think their own life nor their family is worth saving.

    If you are not willing and able to defend yourself, all you can do is beg for your life like the sickening display during the FL School Board meeting. Had the attacker actually wanted to hurt them, they would have all been dead. (It’s obvious his only goal was to force the cop to shoot him.) They could have done lots of things to save themselves, but they just sat there like sheep being led to slaughter–literally.

  12. This article is fantastic. please revisit or repost it on a regular basis. As to the training part you should add that no matter what level of training one has YOU will never be prepared enough for what follows the shooting of another person, as a vet and knowing many who have been. It (the pulling of the trigger) affects YOU in as much as the one who gets the bullet. I caution all that a paper target is in no way the same as a person.

  13. Just passing through. Trying to understand TTAG. Having trouble understanding their angle.
    Does JadeGold own a gun or guns?


  14. Coming into this article I suspected and those suspicions proved true that this was going to be daffodil approach to someone coming at you with a gun. Run and Hide, make noise, wait for the police to show up faster than a speeding bullet!
    My Great Grandmother handled a rifle quite well, Brace, aim, pull trigger. Great Great grandma knew how to load a musket.

    Also, What about when its goose-stepping storm troopers? Swat bugs. Train your dog not to growl or these pussy storm troopers will shoot your dog too and they might have the wrong address! And also, what about the obvious effort to infringe on the 2nd amendment?

    I hate guns. Is that a hate crime? No, right? I hate those who are attacking our constitution, is that a hate crime? The left will make that a hate crime.

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