Defending the Castle

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I’ve always believed that a man’s home is his castle.  Now, with the world’s current unstable economic situation, my thoughts have turned increasingly toward home defense.  To thwart today’s savvy high tech criminal, one must proactively develop a creative defense plan.  I recommend doing that right now, rather than waiting until the unthinkable happens.  However, it is important to understand that a modern home defense plan must be a tad more sophisticated than the obsolete redneck strategy of emptying a couple of loads of buckshot into an intruder’s face while your Rottweiler chews on his rear end.  The old mindset of keeping a gigantic slavering dog in the house and hanging a loaded scattergun on a couple of nails over the front door is a mindset that is not only crude and outdated, it is also highly illegal most places in this land of the free and home of the brave.  In fact, shooting a burglar has probably been classified by Homeland Security as an act of domestic terrorism.  Siccing a dog on a scumbag most likely violates several United Nations animal cruelty treaties.

Thus, to avoid the risk of becoming a double victim (first by being the victim of a home invader’s criminal acts, and then of the United States legal system by means of arrest, litigation and/or prosecution), shooting an intruder has become a tedious, ponderous affair; quite unlike the nonchalant gunslinging action you may have seen in the movies.  Nowadays, lawyers get rich on things like shotguns and dogs when carelessly deployed by unsophisticated yokels.   

I’m not discouraging any of my readers from using a firearm with deadly force, mind you.  That is certainly your prerogative…your constitutionally protected right, even.  I just don’t trust myself in a dangerous, adrenaline-charged, potentially deadly situation, to remember all of the precautionary legal steps required of today’s gun-packing victim of crime.  Such steps seem neither practical nor efficient when I have a crazed meth-head charging toward me brandishing a 14 inch machete or when I find myself staring at the gang tattoos on a set of knuckles that are gripping a .25 auto held sideways in my face.

Nevertheless, for those of you who prefer to use the old lock and load home defense technique, let me lay out a step by step procedure that you might want to consider following when and if you find yourself in a potentially sticky situation.  Hopefully, the information contained in this material will keep you from running afoul of the justice system when you find yourself using the toe of your shoe to gingerly poke at a bad guy who is lying on your floor with three dribbling 1” MOA taps to center of mass.

Here’s the scenario.  You’re in bed during the wee hours of the morning.  Something wakes you up.  Groggily, you peer about and to your shock discover that there is a shadowy figure looming over your wife’s side of the bed with an upraised hand in which something glints ominously in the feeble glow from the nightlight.  How do you secure your family’s safety and hopefully protect yourself from any unpleasant legal repercussions?

First, Remain calm and assess the situation.  A good way to assess the situation is to politely inquire who is there.  After all, the shadowy figure could be your dementia-afflicted grandmother-in-law, who has mistaken your bedroom for hers after returning from the bathroom with a glass of water in hand.  Even if she lives in Kansas.  You know how those dementia afflicted people can wander.  If the intruder does not respond, turn the light on to assist in identifying the person.

Once you have gotten a clear visual on the intruder, or if they identify themselves but you do not recognize the name, ask them what they want.  Perhaps they are simply a tourist looking for the registration office for the next Denali Park bus tour.

If the intruder responds by verbalizing criminal intent, it is time to evaluate their threat level. Ask them to assure you that they mean no harm to you or your family.  Ask them if they would consider going away if you let them have everything of value in your house down to the copper plumbing and the electrical wires in the walls.  Do they appear to be armed?  If so, do they seem to really, really mean it, or could they be bluffing?  Have you done anything that would provoke them into an attack?  If so, would an apology be helpful?  Does the intruder appear to be a hardened criminal or are they perhaps an at-risk youth who could benefit from a compassionate hug, followed by enrollment into a government perk such as a rehabilitation or education program?  Do they appear to be high or drunk?  If so, can you determine why they may have chosen to participate in substance abuse?  Perhaps they are trying to drown the sorrow of some deep pain.  Consider walking them down to the kitchen table and offering them a cup of herbal tea and a sympathetic ear.

If, after assessing the situation and evaluating the threat level, you still feel unsafe, immediately dial 911.  Law enforcement response time in Delta Junction on a good day should be no more than 20 minutes or so.  Remember that law enforcement officers are the trained professionals and are really the only people qualified to responsibly and safely interact with a criminal.  Explain to the dispatcher that you have an intruder.  Stay on the telephone with them until they finish asking you any questions that they may have, such as your name, date of birth, social security number, physical address, father’s maiden name, number of family members in the house, whether anyone is hurt or is in the process of being hurt, whether you have a dog or an alarm system, what the intruder is wearing, what he looks like, whether he is armed, if he has accomplices, etc.  This will help assure that the law enforcement personnel have sufficient information to collect any appropriate equipment as well as additional personnel necessary to safely de-escalate the situation without exposing said law enforcement officers to undue risk.  It also provides them with accurate location information so that they will not have to break down half-a-dozen doors and discharge their tazers at an assortment of your neighbors before they find your address. 

Not only will you be reassured by talking to the operator, but you will be able to create a recording of the incident and what is happening. This recording can then be used in court. “He’s right in front of me now.  He’s about 5’ 9”.  Muscular build.  He has me by the throat.  Now he is inserting a knife into my abdomen and torso. Repeatedly.  It appears to be a lockback folder with a blade approximately five inches long.  Okay, now that one felt like it might be partially serrated.”  While you have the dispatcher on the line, it would be a good idea to request an ambulance as well.  Just to be on the safe side. 

Staying on line is especially true if you plan to use some kind of home defense weapon. Inform the dispatcher that you are armed. Police HATE coming onto a property with an armed owner and an intruder, not only because of their chances of getting shot, but also because it requires them to identify their target before firing. That’s an added annoyance that most cops would rather not have to deal with.  It’s less stressful for them to be able to blast away at anybody who pops up with a gun without having to worry about the possibility of going on paid leave while internal affairs investigates them.  

Meanwhile, it is imperative to alert your family to danger.  Yell out the secret code word to alert other family members to proceed directly to the safe room.  The code word should be something short, easy to remember, yet unlikely to be used in ordinary conversation.  Something such as “Rumplestiltskin” or “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” or perhaps the uncrackably cryptic yet panache ripe “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis”. 

The centrally located safe room should have a solid core door with multiple locks and reinforced walls where you can cower until help arrives.  It should have been stocked ahead of time with soft ambient lighting, floor cushions and soothing music.  This will help temper the stress of the situation as well as drown out the screams of any family members who failed to make it there in time.

Now politely excuse yourself from the intruder and follow your family toward the safe room.  En route, you may retrieve your locked gun case from your locked child-proof gun safe.  Proceed with it to the secondary location where you may now retrieve your ammo from its separate locked box, hopefully in a different room than the one in which your gun is stored, in compliance with child safety protocols.  Then continue your retreat to the safe room.

Once all family members are accounted for, ensure that all doors and windows in the safe room are barricaded.  It is now time to turn your attention to armed defense.  Before actually handling your firearm, remove the owner’s manual from its case and read it completely.  Next, remove the firearm from its case, being careful to follow all safety precautions outlined in the manual.  Remove the trigger lock.  Carefully load the firearm per instructions in the owner’s manual.  Don appropriately rated shooting glasses.  Wear hearing protection and provide hearing protection for all members of your family.  Offer to throw some hearing protection out the door to the intruder.  Explain that you expect to shortly be discharging a firearm in his direction and that you don’t wish to be liable for any hearing loss he may sustain.  Don’t take it personal if he refuses.   Not all thugs are safety conscious.

If at any point the intruder attempts to enter the safe room, request that he refrain.  Avoid profanity, racial slurs or threats that may provoke him.  Instead, deliver concise, clear commands.  Communicate such neutral messages as “I have a properly registered firearm and I recognize my right to shoot to defend myself.”  Another possible message might be, “My friend, I am preparing to dump a mag of live rounds downrange and you happen to be standing in my line of fire.”   Such a non-confrontational tone may decrease the likelihood of having to use deadly force at all.  It also decreases your likelihood of being charged with a crime even if you do end up discharging your firearm. 

Whatever happens, don’t leave the safe room or let anyone in until law enforcement arrives and shows a badge.  Your family is with you.  That’s what matters.  Stuff can be replaced…except for priceless heirlooms and items of deep sentimental value.  But think positively.  At least somebody will get some use out of everything you worked so hard for all these years to acquire.  Even if the intruder sets your house on fire, stay put.  It is better to die a horrible death with your family in your arms, than to live with the knowledge that you presumed to engage in a risky and frowned upon attempt to apprehend a dangerous criminal without proper law enforcement training.

Beyond this point, if the intruder continues move toward you or exhibit threatening behavior, raise your firearm and work the action with an intimidating “shik, shik” sound.  Close one eye and peer at him over the sights.  Be aware that under the surge of adrenaline your peripheral vision has dropped to near zero.  So before you pull the trigger, familiarize yourself with your target’s foreground, background, and what is flanking it.  In other words, make sure your little girl isn’t behind the bad guy when you unleash a hail of bullets.  Or a propane tank.

Now kill him.  Don’t shoot to wound.  Even if your defense is 100% successful and you drive a wounded attacker from your home, you have avoided injury or death – but passed it on to the next victim.  Wounding an attacker doesn’t guarantee that he can’t still beat the snot out of you. Remember, the probability of a dead home invader jumping up and killing you or your family is precisely 0%.  So drop him in his tracks.  Otherwise, your prosecuting attorney will argue that if you really felt your life was in danger, you would have shot to stop the threat.  If you wound him and he crawls out a window and dies on the front lawn, drag his corpse back inside, unless you want the lawyer to say that you are responsible for his death because he was outside your house and no longer harming anyone when he died.  Most importantly, let’s show some consideration for the poor judge.  Why, if the intruder lives, the judge will have to listen to two sides of the story.  That will waste the judge’s time and confuse him.  One last thing:  make sure every bullet enters the front of the bad guy and every exit wound is in his back.  Otherwise, the dead guy will come back to haunt you in the courtroom.

By the time the SWAT team shows up, you better have unloaded your gun and put it somewhere far away from you.  They’ll want you to show them where it is.  Comply, but there are only two things that had better come out of your mouth: “I shot out of fear for my life.” and “I wanna speak to my attorney.” If you follow this protocol, it should go a long way toward minimizing your legal liability in an unpleasant situation.  Don’t take my word for it, though.  Ask your lawyer.  Of course, like I said, I personally don’t bother with firearms.  Too much red tape.  I’ve found that there are plenty of other ways to protect your home.  I can’t divulge any details due to security concerns, but let’s just say that you’ll be hard pressed to find any scorpions or tarantulas at the pet store in Fairbanks.  I hear that Home Depot has a hard time keeping crazy glue in stock too.

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