Nov 022011

This chart from the Gallup survey clearly shows the drop in numbers supporting handgun bans and the rise in numbers of people opposed

The Gallup organization holds an annual ‘crime poll’ every October, and this year’s results have now been released.  And while one does not normally associate Gallup with pro-gun attitudes, the results of their survey this year were so strongly skewed that they couldn’t find any way to try and disguise the sentiments expressed.

A record low of only 26% of Americans now favor an outright handgun ban, with an all-time high of 73% of Americans opposed.

In answer to the more generic question about if gun laws should be made more strict, less strict, or kept the same, an all time low of 43% of the population favored making laws more strict.  44% wanted to keep laws as they are, and 11% wanted to make laws less strict.

Even the guns that the media most love to hate – so called ‘assault rifles’ were not so vilified this year.  An all time low (gosh, I like typing those words) of only 43% supported a ban on assault rifles.

But unable to suppress all snide comments, Gallup closes its report by saying

Diminished support for gun-control laws may also be tied to the lack of major gun-control legislation efforts in Congress in recent years.

The moral of this story is that although the general population is becoming more gun-friendly, we’re still very vulnerable to the efforts of gun haters in Congress and the media to spin things against us.  And with the sampling error being at least +/- 4%, these numbers are not as significant as we might hope them to be.

In another section of Gallup’s Crime Poll, the survey found that 47% of adults admitted to having a gun somewhere in their house or on their property.  This is the highest number since 1993 and steeply up on last year’s 41%.

Some of the data in this part of the poll seems inconsistent.  For example, women (who unsurprisingly report themselves as being less likely to own a gun themselves) also report a much lower likelihood for a gun being in their household (43%) than do men (52%).  If we accept that the largest majority of households have both a man and a woman in them, while there could be understandable differences between personal ownership of men and women, the household ownership numbers should be more closely matching.

This discrepancy reminds me a bit of polls about sexuality.  Heterosexual men generally claim to have twice as much sexual experience as do heterosexual women – a clearly impossible result because each sexual experience by a heterosexual male clearly involves a heterosexual female too.  The numbers should be close to identical.  The huge difference suggests either than men exaggerate or women diminish their sexual experiences – and quite possibly, both men and women are simultaneously lying.  So it is possible that there is some ‘inaccurate answering’ in the gun survey, too.

Gallup themselves postulate that the increased results for gun ownership might not be accurate, based on whether or not people are willing to admit to a stranger on the phone that they own guns or not.  This is an understandable issue, so one should view the numbers Gallup reports as being the absolute lowest levels of gun ownership, rather than the likely exact numbers.

Our guess is there are elements of both real increases in ownership and also a greater willingness to admit to gun ownership.  The other relevant data point is the number of guns being sold every month/year – this being a number that has been steadily and consistently rising over the last some years.  With guns having a very long life before being eventually scrapped/discarded, most of the new guns being purchased are adding to the total inventory of guns in the country, rather than simply replacing existing guns.

As we calculate in our article about increasing gun sales, over the last decade it seems likely than an average of more than one new gun per US household has been sold.  Add that to the inventory of guns already out there, and this poll’s suggestion that 47% of households have a gun in them – while the highest number in 18 years – is probably still very understated.

Here are links to the two sets of Gallup results – on attitudes towards guns and on gun ownership.

Oct 172011

Not all dogs will or can attack all burglars

Conventional wisdom says that if you want an easy way to protect your property against burglars, you should get a dog.  The reasoning goes that even the smallest dog will deter many burglars, and larger more fearsome dogs will be even more effective against more motivated burglars.

Well, yes, that’s right, as far as it goes.  If a burglar has a choice between breaking into a house with nothing more fearsome can a pet hampster in a cage, or breaking into a house with any sort of dog inside, of course he’ll risk being attacked by the hampster rather than the dog!

A dog helps protect your property two ways.  First, it will bark at burglars, possibly drawing someone’s attention to the burglar’s presence.  Second, it may attack the burglar.  You’ll be unsurprised to learn that burglars don’t like drawing attention to themselves, and they doubly don’t like being bitten by a dog.

So your ordinary burglar, just prowling up and down the street, looking for the easiest house on the block to break into, will not select any houses with dogs inside – there are plenty more without dogs to choose from.

Unfortunately, this same logic doesn’t apply to a burglar who has specifically targeted your property, due to something that attracts him to your property.  Maybe he somehow knows that you have something valuable in the property, or maybe the property is very vulnerable in other respects and there is only the dog preventing the burglar from being able to go through your house from one end to the other at his leisure.

What will the burglar do then?  How can the burglar protect himself against the dog and keep the dog quiet?

If you’re a dog lover, you may be genuinely puzzled by this question, or you might think ‘Oh, I’ll feed the dog treats and get him to like me and be friendly’.  Well, for sure, that’s one possible approach, but if you’re a dog owner, you’ll know that even the finest 22 ounce steak will only keep your dog quiet for a minute or two before he’s finished eating it and then resumes normal duties.

On the other hand, if you’re a dog hater, you’ve probably already thought of a more effective solution to a guard dog.  Poison it.

Yes, this seems heartless, cruel, even unthinkable.  But that’s when approached from the perspective of an average ordinary and honest person (such as you) – someone who isn’t planning a burglary to start with.

Burglars can, will, and indeed do poison dogs if they have specifically targeted a particularly property they wish to break into.  Now some dogs can be trained only to eat food from their master, but this is a difficult thing to train.  Most dogs will respond to an offered slab of fresh raw meat the way you’d expect them to – they’ll eat it up with gusto.

Here’s a recent story of burglars who poisoned four Boxer dogs so as to get into the property’s back yard and steal some marijuana plants growing there.

We’re not saying you have marijuana plants.  But we are saying that if for any reason you think your property might be at risk not just of semi-random burglaries but also of specific motivated burglary by villains who believe there may be something in particular of value in your property, then you need to realize that they won’t think twice before poisoning or in any other way putting your dogs out of action.

Dogs are good.  But they’re only one part of a home defense/hardening solution.

Sep 282011
Xray of drill bit through head

A drill bit suddenly plunged through your eye socket could ruin your whole day

I was watching a Sylvester Stallone movie last night – D-Tox.  I didn’t much like the movie, but there was one bit in it that struck a chord, and had me reaching for the keyboard to write this note now.

The thing that resonated was how the bad guy overpowered his victims.  He would go to their home and ring the door bell.  The victim would go to the front door and look through the peephole to see who was outside (conveniently for the movie’s plot line, all the victims had peep holes in their doors).

As soon as the bad guy saw them getting close and peering through the peep hole, then Whammo!  He had a power drill with a big long drill bit in his hand; he brought it up and plunged it through the peephole glass and into the victim’s eye.  The bad guy would then crash through the door and overpower the victim, who was disoriented and grievously incapacitated from just having had a power drill bit stuck through their eye.

Sheesh!  How do they think these things up?

Well, yes.  I’m not sure that would work in real life.  For one thing, it would be hard and time consuming for the drill bit to get a purchase on the smooth exterior glass; it would slip and slide and by the time it had drilled through and gone forward, almost certainly the victim-to-be would have had a reflex duck back/flinch response, such as any sensible person does without thinking when something sharp and pointy zooms in towards one’s eye.  But it sure made for some gruesome scenes in the movie.

On the other hand, don’t chuckle in a superior way after reading this far, and then move on to the next blog entry.  Please keep reading.

A power drill might be way too slow, and too uncertain a weapon to attack a person through a door with, but think some more about the peep hole.  You’ve almost surely looked through both sides of one at some time or another, and in particular, think about what you see from looking through it from the outside.

Yes, you don’t see much, but you can see light and darkness, and you can see movement, and you can sense when a person has approached the door, and you for sure know pretty exactly where their head is, don’t you.  To put it another way, the peep hole is like the 10 ring in a classic bulls-eye target.  Whatever you want to do, do to the peephole or just to the right of it (most people are right eye dominant) and you can be sure of causing maximum damage to the person on the other side of the door.

Furthermore, even if the door is a solid core door, the peephole is not solid anything.  So that’s another reason to shoot through the peephole – because you’re not only certain of a vulnerable part of the person being right behind it, but you’re also certain of being able to get your round through the door on on to its intended target.

Oh – my earlier description about being able to get some vague impression of what is inside the room by looking through the peephole from the outside?  Some peephole manufacturers have ‘wised up’ and so they add a little privacy flap on the inside of the peephole assembly.  For the person to look out the door, they first have to lift up the flap.  This, we are told, gives the people inside the dwelling or hotel room or whatever more privacy.

But – hello!  For the bad guy, it tells him exactly when to unload into the target.  Wait until you see the flap lift up – an unmistakable sign that someone has just positioned themselves behind the peephole.

Okay, enough of thinking like a bad guy!  Now think like the good guy again, please.  🙂

Knowing what you now know, do you really want to put a peep hole in your front door?

What’s that?  Someone is still undecided?  Okay, enough of movie make-believe.  How about this story then, from the real world, of a person being deliberately shot through their peephole.  Now are you convinced?

So what to do instead of having a peephole in your door – and what to do if you already have one?

Let’s answer the questions in reverse order.  If you already have a peephole, cement some blocking material over the inside end of it so that it is completely inoperable and that no light or anything else passes from inside to outside the door.

So how to communicate with the person at your door before opening it?

In an earlier article, we recommended a Logitech (or any other) video surveillance system – ideally with infra-red assist for night vision.  Supplement that with a low tech intercom, with your control unit being away from the door, and you have all you need to speak to and see the person calling on you.

Remember – do not open your door unless you know who is outside the door and who else is in the general vicinity, and you are satisfied there is no way they can be a threat to you.

And now that you’ve read this, please do two more things.  First, act on it.  Put in place a system that allows you to safely monitor your entranceway area.  Second, impress upon everyone else in your household that they must follow the same steps you do.

Sep 092011

It may not be who you see, it may who you don't see that poses the bigger threat

We’ve written before about home invasions – click the link to go to our earlier article on the same topic.  It is a topic that needs to be repeated and reinforced in your awareness, because most of us are instinctively friendly, welcoming and trusting.

Here’s a story of how a 17 year old boy had two women knock on his door and ask if they could go in to retrieve a cell phone they’d allegedly left there during a party the previous night.  As soon as he assented, three masked and armed men appeared and forced their way into the house.

The learning point on this occasion is that the threat was not visible.  The two girls probably looked harmless, and what 17 yr old boy wouldn’t be charmed by a couple of girls wanting to come into his house!  But the distraction of the two girls allowed three men, previously obscured from view, to overpower him, to strike him over the head with a pistol, and to rob his house.

Even if the boy had been armed and had his firearm in his hand, the sudden appearance of three masked men probably would have resulted in them overpowering him before he had a chance to react, respond, and decide on a course of action.

Vital learning point – just because you have a gun on your belt or even in your hand, you are not invulnerable to threats.  You need to retain a defensive mindset, no matter what type of weapons you have on you or close to you.

If your front door area is designed so that there are corners or other things that would allow for someone to hide, unseen, very close to the front door, you will need to have some type of security so that you are not risking yourself to these potentially unseen dangers every time you open your door.

Either do not open your door until you’ve established the bona fides of the person outside, and/or have security cameras that allow you to see, from inside, everything and everyone in the proximity of your front door.

One more thing.  What happens if, as in this situation, you are suddenly forced to defend yourself against three attackers?  Tell me again how you’re going to do that with a five or six shot revolver?  Like it or not, the higher magazine capacity of a semi-auto pistol makes it almost mandatory that you choose a semi-auto, not a revolver.  Because bad guys, just like rats and wolves, hunt in packs.

You need to prepare to defend yourself not against a single attacker, but against multiple attackers, and five or six rounds is barely enough to hopefully take care of one bad guy, a struggle with two, and definitely insufficient for three or more.

May 182011

The Logitech surveillance system secures your house

I keep seeing accounts in the news about people who answer a knock on the door only to have an intruder (or possibly multiple intruders) use surprise and violent force to immediately rush through the door and overwhelm the person who innocently and unpreparedly opened the door.  Here’s a very typical story here.

This is a risk that is both surprisingly commonplace and hard to defend against.  Say you have a concealed weapon somewhere on your person when you answer the door.  Now think through what happens.  You go to the door, unlock it (you do keep it locked, don’t you!) and open it.  Maybe you get as far as to half open the door before – Wham!  The person on the other side kicks into the door with all their force, pushing it hard into you and knocking you off balance.  Before you’ve even caught your breath, they are through the door, and on top of you (quite literally, by this stage, you’ve been pushed backward onto the floor and may be mildly concussed) and have a knife at your throat.

What use is your concealed weapon in its holster now?

Now, so let’s notch the preparedness (or is it paranoia) up a further degree.  You go to answer the door and you have a pistol in your hand, held inconspicuously behind your back.  Only think about this if this is something you can promise yourself you’ll always do – and think it through.  If you’ll always have a gun in your hand when you open the door, which hand will it be in?  Which hand will open the door?  What happens if you then need to accept a package from a delivery man?  What happens if you then need to shake someone’s hand?  Or hold a clip-board and sign a petition?  Or maybe it is a friend who you invite in.  And where will the gun live when it is not in your hand at the door?

Okay, so you have answers for all these questions.  You open the door, weapon in a hand behind your back, and all of a sudden, the men outside grab you and pin your arms to your sides.  What good is the gun in your hand now?

The sad reality is that we’re usually in Condition White or at the most, Condition Yellow when we’re in the deceptive seeming safety of our own home, in our familiar neighborhood, with no threats perceived nearby.  We are not prepared for sudden and very violent attacks.  But – just as you may commute some distance to work each day, so too do the bad guys commute to their ‘work’ – which in this case might mean to your house.  When answering a knock on our front door, the physical proximity of us to an unknown person or persons (remember the 21 foot rule), and our natural politeness, optimism and hospitality, all work against us and for the other guy.

So what is to be done?

My suggestion is simple and affordable.  Forget about the peephole in the door.  It doesn’t show you enough.  Doubly forget about a ‘safety’ chain which is seldom sufficiently securely mounted to prevent a forcible entry.

Instead, get a camera system.  I’ve got a system that has two exterior cameras.  One is some distance away from my entry area, and shows me the entire entry area, including around the corners that I can’t see from inside the doorway, and the driveway.  So I can see who is at the door, if there are other people anywhere nearby, and if there are any vehicles on my property.

The other is close in to the door, giving me a closeup of whoever is out there, so I can see and hear them.  I know all about the person or persons outside my door before I even get close to the door.

I can monitor the system realtime from a phone or computer, and when I’m not at home, it – together with other cameras inside the house – do double duty as an intruder detection system.  It is a Logitech Alert system, and is affordable, excellent, and easy to install.  Here’s a good review of it.

I’m considering also adding an intercom to allow me to communicate with the person on the other side in what is comparatively normal a manner (through an intercom) rather than by calling out through the locked door, which seems much less normal.  But generally the advantage of knowing who is out there and how many people there are is all the edge I need.

May 182011
A Ruger LCR revolver is hidden inside this innocuous looking book

Looks like a book on the outside, but has a surprise on the inside

A woman was having a shower, and upon stepping out of the shower – naked and defenseless – she discovered an intruder with a knife in her bathroom.

No, this story isn’t going to suggest you should keep a ‘waterproof’ gun in your shower next to your soap (although you’ll have my respect it you do!).  But it will make two very important suggestions.  First, let’s complete the story.

The man started beating the woman in a struggle, and she told him she had money in her bedroom – a place the intruder was doubtless keen to take her, anyway.  Upon getting to the bedroom, she managed to get a gun she had somewhere there and shot him.  The guy stumbled out of her house, collapsed in the yard, and subsequently died.

As for the woman, local police said she won’t be charged with any crime.  More details here.

So, the two morals of this story?

First, it isn’t paranoia.  It is good common sense to always keep your house secure, day and night.  Many times you might not hear someone at your door, and might not hear someone come in to your house; indeed, if you don’t answer their first trial knocking on the door, they might think you are out and so be encouraged to take advantage of an unlocked door.

Second, while the most common hiding place in a house for a self defense gun is the bedroom, that’s no reason not to have a gun somewhere close at hand in your bedroom.  Also, imagine what would have happened if the woman’s gun had a gun-lock on it, or if it was in a gun safe, or if it was unloaded?  You need to have a gun not only conveniently at hand, but ready to go immediately you seize it.

It isn’t just your bedroom where a hidden pistol might be a good idea.  Think through scenarios of where/when/how you might be surprised by a home intruder in your house.  Where else would it be a good idea to have a gun readily available?

A related issue is how to hide guns around the house.  Here are three ideas, I’m sure you can think of more.

(a)  In a picture frame.  This Google page links to various different picture frames which have an obscured secret compartment in the frame.  If you go this route, choose a frame that is as thin as possible so it isn’t too unusually thick and draws attention to itself in your house; and/or place it in a location so its thickness isn’t immediately obvious – ie, on a wall where you see it primarily from the front rather than from the side.

(b)  In a book.  Here’s a Google page to some ‘books’ that contain not pages but rather guns.  Note that not all the books offered for sale look 100% realistic, so consider also following the very helpful process on this page (read the comments too) and make your own books storage units, and be sure to have them located in places where books already can be found and in such a manner that casual visitors might not pick up your ‘book’ and get a surprise.

(c)  In a clock.  See this product and this related product.  This is one of my favorite strategies, because clocks are of a natural shape/size to allow a gun to be hidden, and whereas people might look at and touch your books, who ever looks too carefully at or plays with a clock?

You can also hide guns in just about any other place you choose, even under tables and in cupboards and drawers (by mounting a holster inside the hiding place and slipping the gun inside).  But the key thing is not to get carried away with ingenuity.  The key thing is to have a gun or guns in convenient locations where you can quickly reach them in an extreme situation.

Could I also suggest you consider having revolvers as your emergency guns in such places.  I say this for the simple reason that you can leave a revolver loaded and ready to fire without stressing any parts, and without needing to do anything to it, for year after year at a time.  But if you’re using a semi-auto, you’ll want to swap magazines from time to time to avoid spring fatigue, and you may or may not choose to have it already cocked and with the safety off.

Remember – if you’ve got the bad guy(s) breathing down your neck, you’ll probably only have one hand free to grab your gun, and there’s no way of telling if it will be your left or right hand, so go easy on any tricky mounting devices.  You will need it to be instantly ready to start working.  Choose your concealment system, its location, and the pistol inside it, accordingly.

And of course, if you have curious children at home, you’ll need to temper these considerations with the need to keep your guns where they won’t be chanced upon by your children.

Apr 142011

Jim and Charlene Sanders, a couple in their mid 40s, advertised a diamond ring for sale.  Nothing too unique about that. Among other people who called to express interest in the ring were Kiyoshi Higashi and Amanda Knight, who arranged to visit and view the ring.  Still a perfectly normal event.

But, upon being admitted to the Sanders’ home, Higashi pulled out a gun, let two more cohorts into the house, tied up the Sanders and also their two sons and proceeded to ransack the house, while beating Mr & Mrs Sanders and threatening to kill them.

Jim Sanders managed to break free, only to be shot dead when struggling with the four attackers.  The attackers then fled, sparing Mrs Sanders and their two sons.  Here is one report of the incident.

Now ask yourself – how often have you advertised something for sale?  Maybe not jewelry – maybe a car, a boat, sports equipment, even a gun.  How often have you had people come to look at whatever you were selling?  And – most of all – how prepared have you been to defend yourself if the potential buyers turn out to be bad guys?

Even if you are just having a garage sale, some people might use the garage sale as a chance to case your property and your preparedness.  And some people might visit you normally one day while pretending an interest in something you are selling, then return the next day to burgle your property.

There’s a moral in this story.  Be wary any time you allow any strangers into your home.  Don’t be paranoid, but there is just as much reason to be concealed carrying while relaxing at home as there is when out in public.  Sometimes the most threatening types of danger occur in the safest seeming situations (which is of course what makes them such major threats).

Additionally, home invasions have the benefit – to the bad guy – of being out of public view.  This empowers and enables them to do nastier things, over a longer time period, than they could in public.  Your house, rather than being your castle, could potentially become your deathtrap.

Most of all, remember the color code of situational awareness.  It applies just as much when your front door bell rings as it does when in a strange part of town.

Don’t let Jim Sanders’ death be for nothing.  Learn from it, so you don’t repeat his mistakes and suffer the same consequences.

Mar 082011

So, what do most burglars do when breaking into a house?  Yes, they start stealing things, right?

And if they become aware of the home owner returning home, what do they do?  Hopefully, they leave quickly!

But that’s not what happened when a man in Portland, OR, broke into a home there.  Instead of going for the family silver, he went for – the shower!  And in the process of showering, he somehow became aware of the woman who lived there returning home.  So, what did he do next?

Well, you’ve probably already figured out this guy is not your normal type of home invader.  Instead of hiding, or running away, he – yes, he dialled 911 and asked the police to help, for fear of what the woman might do if she discovered him, dripping wet and buck naked, in her shower.  For whatever reason (and hopefully correctly) he feared she might have a gun, and apparently, whether armed or not, she had one or possibly two angry German Shepherds with her.

For full details of this puzzling crime, read this report.  You might want to listen to the audio transcript of the various 911 calls placed by both the burglar and the home owner, too, for extra laughs.

But if you do listen to the audio – and you should – you’ll notice one other thing.  Here’s the scene :  Inside the house is the burglar, perhaps still in the shower.  Outside the house, on the porch by the front door, is the woman, her youngish daughter, and a growing number of neighbors.

The woman wants to go in the house to get a coat, because she is cold standing outside on her porch.  The 911 operator sensibly manages to persuade her not to go back inside.

And then the first police car arrives.  But what does the policeman do?  Get this :  He waits in his car for backup to arrive, waiting until it is ‘safe’ for him to go up to the porch.  The 911 operator is quite happy to have the woman, her daughter, and various neighbors standing on the porch, but the police officer will not approach them or the house until he has backup.

Does that sound right to you?

Let’s think in general terms about this as well.  What would you do if you returned home to encounter a burglary in process?

The correct thing to do is – assuming no-one else near or dear to you is inside the house – to immediately leave your premises, and retreat to a safe location where you can observe, and call the police.  But if you have loved ones inside and at risk, you’ve got some hard decisions to make; hard decisions we’ll talk about another time.

If the burglar leaves, don’t intercept him, and have no contact with him.  Keep your distance and allow him to safely depart the scene.

Still stay out of your property though – no so much because the police don’t want you disturbing ‘the evidence’ (sadly, and depending on where you live and what happened, the police may not do much at all in terms of fingerprinting or in any other way doing ‘detective’ stuff) but rather for fear that there may still be other burglars inside.  Have the police check out your property for you before going back inside yourself.

Remember – you don’t want to corner a wild animal, and neither do you want to corner a criminal.  You’re not paid to do these things.  Leave such dangerous actions to those who are.  And even they won’t do it without backup.