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You’re startled awake by a crashing sound. You feel the house shudder even though you’re in bed. It is three in the morning. You’re a 27 year old woman. Your female housemate is 26 years old. You yell to her and ask her if she is OK. You both look outside your bedrooms and see a man inside your home. Both of you shout for him to leave. You move toward him. He pushes you and then hits you. You run back to your bedroom to get your handgun. When you return, your attacker is fighting with your roommate. You shoot your attacker in the leg. Now he stops fighting. Your roommate calls 911 while you stand there holding your gun.
The police arrive and arrest your attacker. Emergency medical services take your attacker to the hospital. You and your roommate tell the police what happened. You explain that you own the gun legally and have a permit for it. You go down stairs and look at the broken door. Your attacker is listed in critical condition.
Our defenders did a number of things to protect themselves. The great news is that they kept their doors and windows locked. They responded when they heard and felt the break in. They checked on each other. At least one of them had a loaded firearm readily available. They defended themselves when they saw an immediate, unavoidable and lethal threat. They contacted 911 and stayed at the scene. They gave a brief statement to the police. That is a lot to get right at three in the morning when you were asleep only moments ago.
Events like this are common. Home invasion robberies happen about 300 thousand times a year in the United States. Unfortunately, we’ve seen this type of crime increase after the Covid lockdowns. We have a pretty good idea of what works best in these situations, but what works best in your situation depends on the particulars of how you live.
There are a number of things we’d like to avoid during a home invasion. We want to avoid fighting hand to hand. We don’t know the strength of the attacker. We don’t know their skills. Also, we don’t know if they are carrying a knife. We don’t want to discover those things during a fight. Unless we’re defending our loved ones, we usually don’t have to close with and engage an intruder.
There are exceptions. We’d like to use a firearm as a defensive tool that works at a distance. In this news story, it sounds like the intruder attacked the unarmed roommate. This attack took place indoors at night, where the lighting might be poor. I noticed that the story didn’t mention the defender using a flashlight. Our gun might be accurate, but our ability to recognize the target and aim might be the weak link that doesn’t work at a distance.
We don’t want to shoot innocent people. Maybe the attacker’s leg was the best target that was clear of our roommate. A leg is considerably smaller than the center-upper chest. We might need to get closer so we can count on hitting our intended target.
There are other things we don’t know from this news report. Ideally, both victims would have been armed. It would have been great if they could have stayed in their rooms, called the police, and waited for the police to arrest the home invader. There can be a serious downside to that plan.
It is hard if not impossible to help each other if you’re locked in your own room. Each of you is trying to guard the door and call 911. Also, one roommate wouldn’t know what is happening when they hear the attacker banging on their roommate’s door. There are a number of reasons why it might be a bad plan to stay in your room behind a locked door.
One possible problem is the way the rooms were arranged in the home. Are you pointing your gun towards your roommate’s room as you defend your bedroom door? Many of us have a similar problem since we often have bedrooms located at opposite ends of the house. Pointing a gun into the center of our home could mean we’re aiming at innocent people who live behind those walls.
You learn so much by planning your defense. Study where you can stand so you have an advantage. You want a position where you can see into your home but the bad guys can’t see you. It is even better if the walls masking you from the rest of the home will stop a bullet. If you find a likely place to stand, then notice where there are solid walls. We’re looking for walls and bookcases that will stop our shots from going into other rooms or into our neighbor’s house. Kneeling on the landing at the top of the stairs and shooting down into the ground is a classic defensive position.
What works in my house probably won’t work in yours. You may not have a good solution.
There might not be a good position that lets you defend all of the bedrooms. Your best option might be to get everyone into one room and guard that one door. An advantage of a central defense is that one person can guard the door while other people make the phone call to 911.
It is hard to hold a gun and a phone at the same time. It is impossible to listen, to talk and to shoot at the same time. Once you’ve made the 911 call and given your address, it is probably best to put your phone down and pay attention to the doorway.
Here are some other things to consider. Our goal is to protect the innocent occupants in our home. The defenders in this story heard and felt their attacker break into their home. That is good, but it is better if we can keep the intruder outside. Reinforcing the doors and the windows next to them buys us time. Time gives us options. Reinforcing the doors and putting a film on the window may only cost a few dollars. Longer screws through the strike plates only cost a few cents. Consider getting a deadbolt lock. The cost for good locks can be less than the cost of a box of good ammunition. Let’s have both.
Our defense is made from many parts working together. Training makes us safer. Planning makes us safer. Even if both of those go perfectly, plan to get good legal advice.
Rob Morse highlights the latest self-defense and other shootings of the week. See what went wrong, what went right, and what we can learn from real-life self-defense with a gun. Even the most justified self-defense shooting can go wrong, especially after the shot. Get the education, the training, and the liability coverage you and your family deserve, join USCCA.
About Rob Morse
Rob writes about gun rights at Ammoland, at Clash Daily, and on his SlowFacts blog. He hosts the Self Defense Gun Stories Podcast and co-hosts the Polite Society Podcast. Rob was an NRA pistol instructor and combat handgun competitor.