Clear Thinker

Oct 162012

Liberal gun hater Justice Stevens, in a 2006 photo.

John Paul Stevens was the nation’s third longest serving justice on the Supreme Court, having been appointed by President Ford in 1970, and retiring in 2010 (allowing for Obama to replace him with Elena Kagan, who Stevens described as ‘a brilliant justice‘).

Although nominally a conservative prior to his appointment, Stevens generally sided with the liberal side of the court (in case that isn’t obvious from his quote about controversial Kagan).  And so, unsurprisingly, he is also anti-gun, having taken the losing (anti-gun) side in both the two huge Supreme Court Second Amendment cases in recent times – Heller in 2005 and McDonald in 2010.

Although now thankfully retired, he is unable to keep quiet, and this article reports him offering up unwanted advice about how he believes that some classes of firearms can still be lawfully banned, as could also carrying of weapons pretty much anywhere.

About the best news part of this is that having been wrong twice in the two recent Supreme Court decisions, the chances are he remains consistently wrong on these matters too, and that he is confusing wishful thinking on his part with the actual law of the land.

If you can manage to read the whole article, there’s a ‘reward’ for you near the bottom, where the article quotes him as saying :

Stevens also had a recommendation for people who keep a weapon in their homes for self-defense purposes. “Maybe you have some kind of constitutional right to have a cell phone with a pre-dialed 911 in the number at your bedside and that might provide you with a little better protection than a gun which you’re not used to using,” he said to laughter.

Unfortunately, the laughter that greeted this comment was unlikely to be laughter at the idiocy of his statement, being as how he was making it to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence’s Legal Action Project.

His comments, and his judicial record, expose two ugly truths.  The first is that Supreme Court judges may be experts on the law, but they are seldom experts on the matters they are required to apply the law to (in this case, the best way to respond to an intruder threatening you in your own home).  The second and sadder of the two is that Supreme Court judges will sometimes let their own personal ideologies interfere with their supposedly neutral interpretation of the law.

However, supporters of the Second Amendment can take encouragement from one thing he said.  A spurious argument raised by some anti-gunners is that the Second Amendment only covers weapons that were available in the mid/late 18th century, not more modern weapons such as are available now.  But when Justice Stevens refers to constitutional rights to cell-phones with pre-programmed speed dial numbers, he clearly accepts that the Constitution applies not only to the things in place when it was written, but to derivative and more modern things that have subsequently been created.  Such as, for example, semi-automatic pistols and fully automatic rifles.

Sep 222012

The new Smart 911 service allows you to provide whatever information you want to the 911 Dispatch service to help them respond to your calls in the future.

A new service – Smart 911 – is slowly rolling out across the nation.  You can join it now and it is free, and hopefully sooner rather than later your local city/county 911 Dispatch Service will sign up for it too.

It works so that when you call in to a participating 911 Dispatch Service from a phone you’ve registered with Smart 911, the operator’s screen will fill with a lot more information about yourself, your residence, your vehicles, your medical conditions, other people living with you, and so on – all information that you’ve previously loaded into the Smart 911 database.

Now, for sure, some of us hesitate before giving any more information about ourselves to ‘The Man’ than we need to, but you can choose what you want them to know and what you’d rather not share, and if you think it is more likely that you’ll be needing help from The Man rather than hiding from him, you’ll find this very useful.

Normally when you call 911, the operator will only see the phone number you’re calling from, the name and address it is registered to, and perhaps some location data about where you currently are (if using a cell phone).  That’s not a lot to go on, and there may well be situations where you can’t conveniently spend five minutes having a relaxed chat with the operator about exactly what your needs are.  In such cases, the data you’ve preloaded into the Smart 911 service could well be a life-saver – it could well be your life-saver.

You can add a lot of information that might make all the difference when fire, paramedics or police are sent to respond to your call for help.  You can include photos of the people who live in your home to aid in identification, and a photo of your house too.

The photos are great.  It can help reduce a problem that few people think about.  When the police respond to a burglary call, they don’t know who the burglars are and who the lawful residents are.  If they respond to other – eg DV – calls, it can be even more confusing as to who should be living in the property and who should not.  By having your pictures already in ‘their’ database, you’ve helped establish your legitimacy, and so when they see you, their fingers will relax a bit and they’ll not be pulling on their triggers quite so anxiously.

We also recommend keeping some family pictures on display somewhere in your home, so you can point to those when the police are trying to work out who the good guys are.  Pictures of the group of you standing in front of your residence are particularly helpful for that type of purpose.

You can also add information about medical conditions to help paramedics know what they might need to prepare for or respond to, information about pets, cars, and all sorts of other information.

I’ve had problems with first responders having difficulty finding my place in the past.  This new service is sure to help.  Best of all it is free.  So go and join now.  It might save a minute or two of confusion, and that might literally mean the difference between life and death – for you and your loved ones.

Aug 212012

This 18 yr old has now been arrested and charged with six felonies after assaulting a 93 yr old man and raping an 84 yr old woman in their home in broad daylight.

We’ve written before about how your seemingly safest place – your home – can actually be full of unexpected dangers.  Our assumption of safety and our relaxation of our normal alertness upon entering our front door means we risk being surprised by already present intruders.

There are – sadly – many dimensions to the risks we have to always keep in mind at home, and we’ve discussed several of them before – the dangers posed when a safe ordinary seeming person comes to our front door, for example.  And we’ve also considered the need to re-secure your house whenever you enter it after an absence, in case it has been burgled, and in case there is a burglary in progress that you interrupt.

This last article suggested that any time you return home and expect other people to be properly present there, you call out to them and exchange all-clear code phrases – things that sound ordinary if intruders are present, but which allow you all to confirm your respective safety.  Calling out ‘It’s only me’ as a signal you are safely entering the house without others coercing you, and replying ‘I’m in here’ or something for the at home people to indicate that they are in a safe situation too takes no time, no effort, no energy.  It will be more bothersome for you to work the button of your garage door opener than it will be to do this simple all clear exchange each time you return home.

The downside, if you don’t, can be horrific.  In addition to the example in the previous article, here’s a new example of how a burglar broke into a house, and during the course of working his way through it, came across a 93 year old man who lived there.  The burglar beat the man, robbed him, and tied him up.

And then the man’s 84 year old wife came home.  It was broad daylight – early afternoon – a very ‘safe’ seeming time of day.

As bad luck would have it, she’d just been to the bank and withdrawn $400 in cash.  She heard her husband moaning upstairs, and so did what most people would instinctively do – rushed up without pausing to think, to see what was wrong with him.

Big mistake.  The intruder tied her up too, robbed her, and also raped her.  Details of this sad story, here.

If the husband and wife had arranged a code-word exchange, this could have been prevented.  Don’t let it happen to you.  Arrange a code word system with everyone who lives with you – for your safety and for their safety.

Jul 192012

A very positive outcome to a holdup was achieved by an armed citizen in FL last week.

You may have already read – and possibly seen the video clips – about a wonderfully one-sided shootout in an Ocala FL internet cafe last Friday evening.

Two youths, one armed with a pistol, the other with a baseball bat, entered an internet cafe with some 30 people inside, shortly before 10pm.  They announced their intention to hold the place up and rob not just the cashier but all the people in the cafe.

As partial explanation, it seems that the term ‘internet cafe’ in Florida is a polite way of saying ‘semi-legal online computer gambling facility’, and so it seems the youths figured that some of the patrons, and the establishment itself, would be packing more cash than normal.

But what they didn’t figure was that one of the patrons was packing more than cash.  He – Mr Samuel Williams – had a small .380 semi-auto (looks possibly like a Ruger LCP) for which he had a concealed carry permit.  Although 71, as soon as the two intruders foolishly turned their back on Mr Williams, he got up, approached the guy with the gun, and when the guy turned towards him, pointing his gun at Mr Williams, he opened fire.  The attacker panicked and ran away, with his accomplice following, all the while with Mr Williams chasing after them to the front door, shooting as he went, and sending what looks to be a parting shot after them as they run away down the street.

Both attackers were wounded, and both were arrested not long after at a local hospital.  As for Mr Williams, it seems that no charges will be filed against him.

Although we don’t like to see surveillance cameras all around us wherever we go, we are pleased that there were three different cameras in the internet cafe which between them captured most of the action.  The relevant parts of each have been put together and can be seen at various websites, for example here.  And on this site there is a remixed version with some extra and different footage, but missing out some of the other relevant footage, combined with some helpful commentary by a voice-over announcer.

You should watch both clips to see what happened.  We’re not saying that exactly the same scenario would play out the next time two youths try to hold up an internet cafe, but clearly, what you see in the video clips this time is real life, not Hollywood, and so understanding one scenario and outcome combination helps us all in anticipating other scenarios and outcomes in the future.

It is easy to second guess what happened and how Mr Williams acted as he did, from the comfort of one’s living room, and being able to play through the video countless times, and pause it at critical points to stop and think through the implications of each step of the encounter.  It is very different to be there, living the experience in person, with one’s critical thinking impaired by a huge adrenalin dump and the bowel-loosening experience of having a bad guy point a gun at you.

We think Mr Williams did a wonderful job in the circumstances, and clearly the prosecutors agree that everything he did was kosher.

Nonetheless, there are a few teaching moments in this, which we consider now – not as criticisms of a 100% successful outcome of a nasty encounter, but merely as opportunities for us to learn from this and to help ensure that if we are ever in a similar situation, we experience a similar positive outcome.

Several comments accordingly.

1.  While we can’t really tell much about the two attackers in terms of if they were hyper on drugs, crazed, incoherent, and credibly threatening senseless violence, of if they were cool, calm and collected and unlikely to escalate the situation beyond a simple robbery, it is clear that they were not ‘professional’ criminals.

A pair of professionals do not attempt to take down an internet cafe with 30+ people in it armed only with one pistol and one baseball bat.  They’d need a bigger team of players, and more credible weapons.

So perhaps it is unsurprising that the key fraction of a second of the entire confrontation – the point where the armed attacker swung to confront Mr Williams, and Mr Williams getting off the first shot – resulted in the attacker instantly giving up the fight and running away as fast as he could.  A more hardened attacker would have shot back at Mr Williams, and the situation could have turned out very differently.

Lesson – read your opposition up front so you understand the likely level of threat and response they will pose.

2.  As best we can tell, Mr Williams probably fired four or five shots, maybe even six.  We’re not sure how many of his shots hit the two attackers.  We know some of the shots landed on the bad guys, but we’ll guess not all of them did.

However, it is relevant to observe that neither of the two attackers shows any sign of being incapacitated at all from their wounds.  Sure, its only a small .380 semi-auto that Mr Williams has, but the teaching point here is that you can’t expect one (or possibly even two or three) hits on target to guarantee that your attacker will cease to be a threat.  Your job isn’t finished after firing the first shot, you need to keep at it without pausing and stop only when the threat has clearly ended.

3.  Coming back to the four or five or maybe even six shots fired.  We’re astonished that no-one else was hit, and mildly surprised as well that the armed attacker didn’t even loose off some ‘blind’ unaimed shots in the desperate hope of at least getting Mr Williams to back off his attack.

In addition to the 30 people in the cafe, who knows who was in the adjoining stores, and who knows who was on the street outside.

It isn’t just people you have to worry about, although for sure, an unintended fatal hit on an innocent passer-by should be your greatest concern.  What say a stray round hit someone’s new car.  You could be up for a thousand dollars or more of repairs to the car.  Maybe a round goes through a store window (they’re expensive) and then rips through various expensive stock items in the store.  And so on.  Even a .380 round can go through a number of walls and other objects before finally coming to rest.

If you’ve got to shoot, then you’ve got to shoot.  But if you don’t have to shoot, it is better not to (kinda obvious, don’t you think!).  It could be argued that by keeping up a ‘hail of fire’ Mr Williams was effectively controlling and dominating the battle space, and keeping the initiative, ensuring that the two attackers didn’t have a chance to regroup and mount a counter-attack.  That’s a valid consideration.

But we’re somewhat troubled by his last shot in particular – the one he shoots out the door as it is swinging shut, with the two attackers racing away as fast as their legs will carry them.

Was he still justifiably in fear of his life at that point?  Did the two attackers still pose an immediate credible danger to him?  This is actually a very complicated question to answer, because there are elements of both ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in the answer.

Our feeling is that Mr Williams dodged both a literal and also a figurative bullet in this case.  He was very lucky the bad guys didn’t shoot back.  And he is also very lucky that the DA decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and not press charges.  Realize that it is often easier for a DA to press charges than to hold them back – they can reason ‘It is a grey area, maybe it was lawful and justifiable, maybe it wasn’t; I’m not going to take a position on it, let’s leave it to a jury to decide’.  And then all of a sudden you’re ‘in the system’, facing months of uncertainty and tens of thousands of dollars in attorney fees, with no guarantee as to what the jury will decide.

Which leads to our next point.

4.  The second link above has the commentator saying that Mr Williams told the police he was in fear of his life.  That’s a key phrase to use when being subsequently interviewed by the police (assuming you decide to say anything at all prior to your attorney arriving).  It seems that Mr Williams knew exactly how to respond appropriately to the police.

Keep in mind another thing as well.  The ubiquity of video cameras.  Try to remember that anything you do may have been recorded and, if it was, will be analyzed every which way to see if you can be blamed for anything.  It is as though the DA, judge and jury are all behind a bulletproof glass screen, watching you as it all goes down.  While cameras don’t lie, poor quality surveillance video and bad camera angles can definitely mislead and give incorrect impressions of things as they happened.  Your point of view – from your eyes – and the time pressures acting on you – are never captured by passive motionless cameras on walls and ceilings.  Things you see might not be visible to the cameras, whereas things you don’t see may be obvious to the cameras.  Unfortunately, people will subsequently evaluate and judge you based on what the cameras show them, not on what you had to make sense of, from your perspective, in the heat of the moment.

You also need to keep in mind that this all happened in Florida.  The laws concerning justifiable use of deadly force vary tremendously from state to state – how you could respond, and how in turn the police and prosecutors would respond – might be totally different in your state.  The fact that Mr Williams was not prosecuted does not guarantee a similar outcome if you behaved identically in your state; indeed, it doesn’t even guarantee a similar outcome if you behaved the same way in FL either.

And while it seems no criminal charges will be pressed against Mr Williams, we don’t yet know what the two attackers might choose to do in the form of filing civil charges against Mr Williams.  Civil charges can be more vexatious because the burden of proof shifts from a 99% type burden of proof in a criminal case to a 51% burden of proof in a civil case.  Furthermore, in a criminal case you hopefully have a moderately dispassionate prosecution, but in a civil case, it is all about money – both money for the complainant and also money for his/her attorney.  The costs of defending a civil case can be every bit as high as defending a criminal case.

5.  Here’s a thought that is easy with hindsight to come up with, but which you need to train yourself to always have in your mind.  We saw the two guys come into the internet cafe, although when they did, Mr Williams had his back to them and was presumably concentrating on playing a computer game.

But we don’t know if the two attackers had already had a third or fourth person walk into the cafe normally.  This would be a far from unknown situation.  We don’t know if there were more accomplices about to break in through the back entrance, or more waiting outside with a getaway vehicle.

Mr Williams was extremely fortunate that there were only these two attackers.  You might not be so fortunate.  You must always be looking for the bad guys that you don’t see, as well as keeping an eye on the bad guys you do see.  Tell yourself ‘if I don’t see anyone else, that just means I’m not seeing them, it doesn’t mean they’re not there’.

And remember also that it ain’t over until the fat lady sings.  Who knows what that really means, but in our context, there are two vitally important thing to always do at the apparent end of a confrontation, things that Mr Williams does not seem to do.

First, scan and secure your environment.  Check for other bad guys lurking around you.  Don’t relax at all until you know, for sure, that none of the other onlookers are potential bad guys.

Second, your tactical reload.  Mr Williams had shot 4 – 6 rounds in a semi-auto that probably only had six or seven rounds in it to start with.  As soon as he had finished securing the store, he needed to reload his weapon, just in case.


From when the two attackers burst in to the internet cafe, to when they left it even more quickly, was a mere 17 seconds.  Much of the confrontation was at very close range, in a dynamic rapidly changing situation with everyone moving and changing positions.

This was a very difficult scenario to control – it was difficult for the two attackers to start with, as we saw, but it was also difficult for Mr Williams subsequently, also.  He did a great job.

And after having read our comments and analysis above, hopefully you’d do a similarly great job – or even a better one – if called upon to do so in the future.

Jun 302012

Gun sales continue to increase every month, and violent crime rates continue to steadily fall.

About this time last year, we commented on the annual release of the FBI’s violent crime statistics, showing a continued significant decline in violent crime of all type.  At the same time, other FBI statistics showed a steady increase in the number of guns sold each month.

Is this a coincidence, we wondered?  Or do increased gun sales actually lead to a decrease in violent crime – quite the opposite of what the gun control crowd would have us believe.

Well, we now have another year of statistics, both for violent crime rates and for gun sales.  And, guess what.  The FBI reports that violent crimes are down another 4% in 2011 compared to 2010.

Interestingly, the biggest decreases in violent crime were in the areas where a stronger offender preys on a weaker victim – types of crime where a firearm can be most helpful to restoring a balance between attacker and attackee.

For example, rape, down 9% in non-metropolitan areas (probably also the areas with highest gun ownership), down 6.8% in metropolitan counties, and down in all other categories except one – large cities with populations of 500,000 – 999,999, which showed a slight increase (0.5%).  Interestingly, these types of large cities are also the types of cities most likely to have the greatest restrictions on gun ownership.

At the same time that violent crime continues to decrease (and the decreases are even more significant when you consider that the population as a whole has increased), gun sales have continued their steady growth.  As this table clearly shows, total pre-sale ‘NICS’ checks were 15% up in 2011 compared to 2010, and continue to be up so far in 2012 as well.

A 15% increase in gun sales, and a reduction in violent crime.  And not just in 2011.  But in the last almost 20 years, consistently, almost every year in a row.  Violent crime rates are now down to the lowest point since 1970 – 41 years back.

Kinda makes you feel good, doesn’t it!

May 012012

It seems like a safe suburban paradise. Beware the threats posed by your own home.

We’ve written before about the deceptive perception of safety we all experience in our own homes.  We’ve also specifically covered the dangers of opening your door to strangers.

But there’s one other dimension of danger to be aware of.  This is perhaps counter-intuitive – the danger of entering your own home, yourself, when returning from any absence (whether as short as going over to the mailbox or as long as a several week journey out of town).

Have you ever thought about the possibility of walking in on burglars while they’re in the middle of burgling your residence?  This does happen, and more often than you might think.  Here’s an example of how a bunch of girls came home to find three bad guys already in the house.

Maybe you’ve learned about situational awareness and the color code of mental awareness – good for you.  And perhaps you do a reasonably good job of being in condition yellow while out of your home.  But, for too many of us, what happens as soon as we put the key in the lock and walk inside our home?  We switch off, and drop down to the sleep-walking unaware state that is condition white.

This might be a big mistake.  Stay in conditional yellow for just one more minute, please.  Just a few simple procedures will help ensure that there aren’t any uninvited guests waiting for you as you walk in your front door.

Before You Enter

First, as you approach your home, keep an eye out for unusual vehicles nearby (this of course works better if you live in a free-standing house rather than in an apartment/condo building).

If you see out of place vehicles, notch up your awareness level one notch.  There’s no need to do anything more at this point, but go from condition yellow to condition orange.

Second, as you get close to your home, look at the doors and windows.  Do they all look normal, or are there signs of forced entry or anything else out of place.

If you see signs of forced entry, don’t go inside.  Retreat to a safe position where you can keep an eye on the house and anyone who might be exiting it, and call the police.

Upon Entering With Other People Home

If you are expecting someone to be home, call out as you enter the dwelling to announce your arrival.  It doesn’t matter what you say – ‘Honey, I’m home’ or ‘It’s me’ or whatever.  The key thing is that you have a pre-arranged safe-word or phrase which people in the house will then call out back to you.

If they are fine, they’ll respond with the exact all-clear word/phrase – maybe it might be ‘Welcome Home’ or ‘I’m in here’ or whatever.  But if there are problems, they’ll say anything else at all, or add to the all-clear word/phrase if by some coincidence their captors required them to say exactly that.

If you get no response at all, try calling out more loudly.  If still no response, or if you get a response that isn’t the all-clear code phrase, immediately leave the house and retreat to a safe position.  It isn’t your job to engage in any type of ‘hostage rescue’ scenario (they are very difficult at the best of times) and most of all, you don’t want to find yourself in the classic movie situation where the bad guy confronts you with a gun at your loved one’s head and demands you surrender and become an additional hostage/captive.

In the case of no response, try calling whoever it is you expect to be at home on their cell phone, or if they don’t have one, at least call the home’s main landline.  If there’s no response, then you have to make a value judgment as to the significance of this.  If the missing person is your wife, and you know she often goes over to visit the neighbor, and is always forgetting her cell phone, then that’s probably a low risk event, and you could check in with your neighbor.  But if you have credible concern and expected the person to be home, and you know they’re almost always with their cell phone, you need to consider escalating matters.  If there is an unusual vehicle on the street, this should add to your level of concern.

Maybe you simply wait five minutes and try calling again.  But at some point, you’re going to have to resolve the mystery either by talking to the missing person or by calling the police.

If you got a non-safeword response, clearly you’ll be dialling 911 just as fast as you can, and waiting in a safe location for the police to show up.

Upon Entering With No-one Else Home

There’s a simple procedure you can adopt when entering your house in cases where you expect it to be empty.  We’re not suggesting you ‘clear’ your house in a full-on drill every time (indeed, we suggest you should avoid ever doing this other than as part of a multi-person trained team).

Once you get inside your house, quickly move a short safe distance away from the door, but not too far.  Being right in the doorway is a tactical mistake – any bad guys in the house may have seen you approaching and may be ready to ambush you at that point.

Then simply stop, stand still and do nothing except use all your senses to see if you can detect anything out of the ordinary.

Listen for any strange sounds.  Smell for any strange smells.  Look for anything unusually out of place.

It is amazing the type of clues – even unconciously sensed ones – which you might pick up.  You might hear an unusually loud sound from outside, suggesting there is a door or window open somewhere else in the house.  You might notice something out of place.  You might sense the slightest whiff of an odor that you’re not familiar with.  The house might be unusually hot or cold.  A light might be on that you didn’t expect to see on.

You might pick up on one of these clues without even consciously realizing it – you might simply sense that something is wrong.  Hopefully you’ll instead feel comfortable and can then proceed on inside and become successively more and more relaxed with each passing minute.

But what say something does feel wrong to you – something you can’t quite put your finger on?  Of course, if there is something specific out of order or out of place, you should immediately evacuate the premises and retreat to a safe place where you can call the police.

But if you just have a vague sense of unease, you can’t really expect the police to respond to that.  We have a simple suggestion.  Continue to stand perfectly still (this is assuming you’re in a position where no-one can creep up from behind you, and where you might have a bit of cover/concealment, and hopefully you’ll have a gun in your hand by now.

If someone is in your house, they’ll either have heard your arrival or not.  If they didn’t hear you, then before too long, you’ll certainly hear them moving about.  If they did hear you come in and are themselves hiding in ambush for you, then – assuming they can’t see you where you are – in a very short while, they’ll start to get curious and anxious as to what you are doing.  And although you can stand there for as long as you like, they can’t do the same thing.  They’re in a vulnerable location, and now that you are doing something unexpected and unknown, their tension level will rise to the point where they’ll almost certainly end up doing something that gives their presence away.

If after this period of still silence, nothing eventuates, you’re probably okay.  But if you’re still a bit anxious, leave the house, locking the door behind you, and carefully check the exterior, all around, for signs of forced entry, and also of course, looking in windows as you walk around.

The Sound of Silence

One point which may or may not be obvious from the preceding.

You should not leave the house with any noise sources operating.  Or, alternatively, if you want to perhaps leave the television on so as to convey the impression of the house being occupied, turn it off prior to entering the house, with some sort of a remote control.  Some televisions can be controlled through a Wi-fi app on a modern Android or iOS phone, others can simply be controlled by using a simple X-10 remote control system to turn them off.

When you go into a totally silent house, you can hear any significant noises that might be stealthily made by intruders.  Any noise at all will mask their sounds, giving them the advantage.


Anytime you leave your home, you have no way of knowing what might happen during your absence, and you have no way of knowing what to expect when you walk back in again.

There’s no need to be paranoid, but it does make prudent sense to follow some simple precautions whenever you return back home.

Apr 152012

The scene shortly after the fleeing car stopped. Soon to be dead guy at the top, six LAPD officers also visible in the picture.

Here’s an interesting story about a 19 year old youth in Los Angeles – Abdul Arian – who took police on a high speed chase around the city while at the same time calling 911 and uttering threats about what would happen if the police stopped him.

There are two things of interest.

The first is what happened after he eventually stopped.  He got out of the car, surrounded by growing numbers of LA police, and was moving backwards from the police while facing them, before turning towards the police in what was subsequently described as a ‘firing position’ and holding some sort of object in his hands.

No-one can argue about part of what happened next.  Unsurprisingly, the police that had him surrounded shot and killed the youth.

It was dark, the guy was clearly unstable and had threatened to pull his gun on the police if stopped, so when he stopped running away and appeared to present something at the police as if it were a pistol, the police did the sensible thing, and shot to stop the threat.

But – and here’s the but – it wasn’t just one or two police officers that fired four or five rounds each.  Eight police shot at the youth, firing, between them, more than 90 rounds.  That’s a lot of rounds being fired, particularly in a semi-residential area where who knows what was further ‘down range’.

There is video of the encounter on this web page and it appears, based on the voice over narration, that the shooting may have occurred over a surprisingly lengthy period of time (relatively speaking) – ie at least ten seconds, maybe more like fifteen.  Note also how the youth continued to act in a crazy and threatening way during this period of time, even after the police first started shooting at him, before finally collapsing.  He showed little obvious sign of impairment prior to suddenly collapsing.

The lesson here is one of our ‘favorite’ lessons – and to appreciate it, slightly change the scenario and instead of a fool being chased by many police, maybe you are being chased by a road-ranger and end up having to shoot to save your life against the incensed road-rager.

It took eight police officers more than 90 shots between them to reach a point where the guy finally collapsed, and the guy was still nimbly moving about the place prior to suddenly collapsing.  We can only guess at how many unnecessary extra shots were fired at the guy as he was collapsing, and of course, it seems pretty safe to assume that many of the shots missed.

But there’s no reason to assume the police are particularly worse at shooting than you would be; indeed, with at least seven of their friends around them for support, probably wearing bullet proof vests, the suspect generally moving away, and never shooting back at them, their own stress levels, while high, where several levels lower than yours would be when facing a deadly threat all by yourself.

So – answer the question.  How many rounds would it take you to achieve a similar outcome?  And bear in mind we have no idea how many rounds ‘more than 90′ actually is.  It might be 91.  But it could be 99 or way more, too.

Maybe you can do as well with ‘only’ more than 80 rounds, or maybe even more than 70 rounds or more than 60 rounds.  Indeed, why not consider yourself – alone – as being twice as good at eight LA policemen all together, and say that you only need ‘more than’ 45 rounds.

Do you carry more than 45 rounds with you?  If your answer is no, then in cases similar to this, you’ll run out of bullets before you’ve stopped the threat.  You’ll lose.

A related question.  The youth was never more than a second or at the most two from the police.  Once you’ve emptied your gun at the person attacking you, how long will it take you to reload and get back in the fight?  Any more than perhaps 1.5 seconds maximum, and you’re going to have the bad guy on top of you before you get your gun running again.

Remember also that this encounter required more than 90 rounds against a single adversary.  What say you find yourself confronted by two bad guys.  Or three?  Do the math.

The second thing of interest is the massive contradictions of facts as between what the now rapidly becoming sainted dead guy’s family are saying about the guy (I wonder if Muslims become saints?) and what the facts of the matter starkly reveal (better reported in the LA Times article in the first link than in the Huffington Post second linked article).

Remember that every bad guy is also probably a grieving mother’s son, maybe the father to some grieving children, the husband and breadwinner to a grieving wife, and so on and so forth.  Remember also you probably don’t have the moral support and legal resources of the LAPD to back you up and ensure you get at least your fair share of airtime to give your side of any story.

Somehow there’s much more news and emotional value to see a woman in tears while clutching an outdated carefully photographed picture of her dead husband/son/father than there is to see a woman rejoicing and happy at her husband/son/father having survived a deadly encounter by virtue of shooting a bad guy.  Life’s just not fair, is it.

Which leads to our most favorite lesson of all- any time you have a choice, don’t shoot.  Avoid the fight.  Even if you win the encounter, you might lose all the bs that goes down subsequently.

Apr 062012

Rats hunt in packs; and so too do bad guys. Expect multiple intruders/attackers.

When someone talks to you about intruders in your house, what does your mind immediately picture?  How many intruders do you automatically think of being in your house?

Some people will say one, others two.  A few might say three, but how many would say four?

I ask this question having just read an article about a retired police officer who woke up after a mid-afternoon snooze to find four intruders in his house.  One of the bad guys immediately came at him with a crow bar.

Fortunately, the retired police officer had a gun with him, and he shot and wounded the attacker (who died subsequently in hospital) with the other three ran off.

The article doesn’t say, but being as how the retiree was having a mid afternoon nap, my guess is that he may have not actually been tucked up in his bed.  Maybe he was sleeping in his favorite reclining chair in the lounge.  But – wherever he was – he had his gun with him, which was clearly essential when he woke and almost immediately was under attack.  So, confirming our immediately previous article about being prepared at home, make sure you have a gun wherever you are in your home, not just in the bedroom for nighttime protection.

The second moral of this story – be prepared for more than one intruder.  You need to expect any break-in or indeed any encounter of any nature at all with bad people involves more than one bad person.  Think of this phrase ‘Rats hunt in packs’.

You know that if you see one rat somewhere in your house, that means you’ve probably got an entire family of who only knows how many rats living somewhere in your property.

It is the same with bad guys.  They like to have a bit of mutual support, backup, encouragement, companionship, and safety while they are ‘working’ too.

So whenever you realize there is someone in your house, don’t stop upon hearing the first sound.  Keep listening and looking, and see if you can hear or see other bad guys too.

Now for the key point :  If you find yourself in a situation where you are forced to confront one bad guy, don’t focus only on that one person.  Where are his (or her) accomplices?  Just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there; it just means you haven’t seen them yet.

Try and protect your rear by getting a wall close behind you, so you can’t have someone creep up behind you.  Listen intently, and – as best you can – keep looking around you as well as straight ahead.  And if you come across the first bad guy, you need to get them out of the fight quickly while maintaining a defensive posture in case the first guy’s buddies come to help him out.

Note that ‘getting them out of the fight’ doesn’t mean shooting them.  It means proning them out – ie getting them to lie down, lying facing away from you, hands with fingers interleaved on the back of their head, legs outstretched and crossed at the ankles (or, if space allows, spreadeagled wide, arms and legs all stretched way out from the body).  That way they can’t suddenly leap up and at you again without at least some advance warning.

Once you’ve done that to the first person, you can’t leave them alone, of course.  You then maneuver yourself into a safe defensive position where other people can’t creep up on you and where you can still see the bad guy on the floor, and concentrate on waiting for the police to arrive.

Lastly, how do you feel now about having a five or six shot revolver for home protection?  Maybe you don’t get attacked by four intruders, like this retiree was.  But even if you have ‘only’ two or three, and if we allow that perhaps half your shots will miss, and if we further say you’ll need to hit each person three or four times to stop them, that means you’ll need perhaps 24 rounds to be sure of stopping a three person attack.  That’s a full revolver cylinder of six rounds, plus three reloads – and you’re for sure not going to have time for any reloading at all in such a close quarters attack.

At least with a semi-auto you can have 10 – 20 rounds in the gun to start with, allowing you to send anywhere from three to six rounds to each of three attackers before needing to pause briefly for a fast under 1.5 second reload and then continue the fight.  You’ve got a good chance of winning with a semi-auto, but a bad chance of losing with a revolver.

Mar 312012

What would you do if a home invader suddenly smashed into your home? Where's your gun?

We’ve written before about the danger of opening your front door to strangers (see here and here), the dangers of selling things, and on other topics to do with protecting yourself at home.

It is a vital topic, for two reasons.  First, for most of us, it is the place we spend more time at than anywhere else.  We probably spend half our lives; maybe even more, at home.  That is one of the main reasons why ‘more accidents occur at home’ than anywhere else, and it is also one of the main reasons why you are most at risk at home – simply because you are there more than you are anywhere else.

The second reason is that our home is usually also the place we feel most relaxed in.  It is our refuge, our ‘castle’, the place where we feel we are in control of our environment, and it is the place where we can relax and – oooops – let our guard down.

Think about this.  We’re driving somewhere in our car, and while stopped at a light, someone steps off the sidewalk and walks over to our car.  We respond with caution and concern, instantly recognizing the event as a possible threat.  But if we’re at home and the front doorbell rings, we respond instead with a frisson of excitement – ‘Oh, I wonder which of my friends is visiting’ or perhaps ‘I wonder what the UPS guy is delivering for me’.  About as bad as it gets is ‘Aaagh – damn door to door salesmen calling when I’m in the middle of dinner yet again’.  Note the total lack of caution in all these responses.

Okay, so you’ve read our articles on the danger of opening your front door to strangers.  Good.  You’ve closed that point of vulnerability.  But that’s not all.  Oh yes – maybe you also have a gun by the bed, too, so you’re sort of prepared if someone breaks in late at night while you’re asleep.

But what happens if you’re seated at the dining table having dinner when suddenly CRASH!  Someone kicks in the front door and bursts into your house.  Now tell me how useful the gun in your bedroom is, while you’re at the dining table, and potentially the bad guys are standing between you and your bedroom.

Similar scenario for if you’re outside mowing the lawn.  Or in the laundry.  Or maybe relaxing on your deck on a warm sunny summer afternoon.  The gun in your bedroom is only good while you’re within arm’s reach of it, also in your bedroom.

Not all bad guys are going to politely knock and wait for you to open the door for them.  Some are less patient.

Now for the curious contradiction.  The chances are, based on the fact that you’re reading this article, that you probably will carry a concealed pistol sometimes when outside your house.  But – what do you do when you get home?  You take the gun off, put it somewhere, and go from ‘Condition Yellow’ to ‘Condition White’ (read our articles on Situational Awareness for more on these terms).

Big mistake.  We all know that concealed carry is a bit of a hassle, requiring us to accept compromises in terms of comfort, convenience, concealability, and caliber/power.  We accept such compromises in return for the massive boost in safety and security we get in turn.  Now, when we’re at home, we don’t need to worry about concealability.  We can wear a nice comfortable on-the-belt range style holster, and wear a dual magazine holder on our other side, too, and carry as big a gun as we wish to.

It should be easier for us to have a gun on our hip at home than anywhere else.

There’s another thing to consider as well, and it comes back to the condition yellow/white thing.  Not only are we (and probably unavoidably so) in more of a condition white situation at home, but a threat can suddenly appear without warning, no matter what condition we’re in.  If the first sign of a pending home invasion is someone chucking a trash can through our sliding doors and rushing in through the shattered glass immediately behind it, we’ve only got a couple of seconds to respond before the bad guys have taken over the house and are controlling us.

If you don’t have your gun on your person when something like this happens, you’re probably not going to have a chance to go and get it.  Even if you have multiple guns hidden around the house, you’ve only got a some chance of safely getting to one such location and extracting the gun from its hiding place before the bad guys are (quite literally) on top of you.  Your best preparedness, at home, is to do the same thing you do away from home.  Have a gun on your person.

Some people might think ‘Oh, this would never happen to me.  I live in a good neighborhood.’  But, from a criminal’s point of view, ‘good’ neighborhoods are the best places for them to visit.  The chances are there are more valuables inside homes in a good neighborhood, and – sad to say – the chances are also that ‘good’ people are going to be more trusting and less likely to be suspicious and ready to defend against a sudden surprise attack.

Do you commute to work?  Guess what.  So too do the criminals.  It is actually considered impolite for criminals to attack each other; and they’re more fearful of recriminations if they should do so.  But they all know that if they do a reverse commute out into the better ‘burbs, they’re going to find street after street lined with tempting tasty targets.

It seems that the prevalence of violent ‘home invasion’ type burglaries might be slightly increasing.  Home invasions – when the criminals don’t care if there are people home or not (or, worse still, if they expect and are pleased to find people at home) are extremely dangerous for the home occupants, because the criminals have the privacy of the house they’ve taken over, and the luxury of uninterrupted time, during which they can do anything at all to the house, its contents, and its occupants.

Here’s an example of how home invaders suddenly swoop down on a house.  Note, in this story, that the police, while promptly called by a girl already in the house, didn’t arrive until much later.  We mean no disrespect to the police at all when we repeat the mantra that you must understand, accept, and build into your planning :  When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.

Are you ready to respond, right now, if your home is invaded?