Lessons from Negative Defensive Gun Use Outcomes and How to Train to Avoid Them

“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”
Edmund Burke

It appears that we as citizen gun owners have a bit of a flaw when it comes to learning from defensive gun uses. Everyone likes to read a happy outcome to a defensive gun use. We cheer for a righteous shoot and are certain we would and could do the same thing if the situation demanded it. It becomes a sort of confirmation bias, where we believe our fight will look the same, and result in the same positive outcome and everything will but cut and dry. We also tend to pass judgement or ignore all of the negative outcomes of defensive gun uses. Specifically the legal outcomes. We have to learn from others’ mistakes and do our best to keep ourselves out of those situations, or enable us to not fall into the same pitfalls that others have.For instance, I’ve caught myself saying, “How did that guy not know it was his daughter and her boyfriend in the garage?, I would never do that…” Well, friend, unless you figure out what went wrong, there’s no guarantee you won’t make that very same mistake. Then it could be you with your loved one’s blood on your hands, or a life sentence in prison.

In fact, I think the best thing we can spend our time researching is bad defensive gun uses. The FBI documents this very well for police in the LEOKA. I personally credit The Tactical Professor for getting me thinking about the large number of bad citizen DGUs that occur.

Learn where the situations took wrong turns, where the laws were broken, and what the laws are in your area. You will be held to these laws if you ever need to go to court over a shooting. Brainstorm and war-game with these laws in mind. I look for gun usages that end up in a conviction and then go back to read about the situation that developed which put the shooter in the position that allowed them to make a bad decision. I also try to uncover, as best I can, what their mental process was when they decided to bring the gun into play (if provided by the news). I’m going to go through some recent bad shootings and we’ll briefly look at the situations and the outcomes, and then see if we can find trends and how we can train ourselves to not make the same mistakes.

Mission: Learn from Bad Defensive Gun Uses and integrate the lessons into our personal shooting programs and training.

First Example:

From http://www.thestarpress.com/story/news/local/2014/09/04/man-found-guilty-in-intruders-shooting/15084223/

[M]an who shot an intruder outside his Dunkirk home was found guilty of a felony charge Thursday by a Jay County jury.

“I yelled for him to stop and freeze,” McLaughlin said. “He did not. … It was so fast I really didn’t know what was going on.”

“Were you in fear for your life?” defense attorney Jill Gonzalez asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” her client responded. “That’s why I fired. … I know I didn’t do anything wrong.”

The defendant said his gunshots were in response to arm movements that made him believe the fleeing trespasser was preparing to open fire with a gun of his own.

“I thought he was aiming back to shoot at me,” McLaughlin said.

Jay County Prosecutor Wesley Schemenaur maintained McLaughlin had made no such claims in interviews with police.

Schemenaur asked McLaughlin what immediate threat to his family’s safety had been posed by an intruder in a detached garage.

“What’s to say they’ll not try to get into my house next, sir?” the defendant responded.

I don’t pretend to know what was actually going through this man’s head. However, going to investigate a bump in the night in a detached garage was clearly his first error. Shooting without identifying what was in the man’s hands was another mistake. Being untrained and thinking it was OK to shoot at the time might have been another, if that’s indeed the case.

Second Example:

From http://newsok.com/former-pharmacist-jerome-ersland-loses-appeal/article/3854619

Inside the drugstore, Ersland shot Parker in the head, knocking Parker to the floor. Surveillance videos show he then chased after a fleeing Ingram, came back inside the drugstore, got a second gun and shot Parker five more times.

This is an older story, but Ersland made his mistake when he came back into the store after the initial good shoot and delivered the coup de grâce to the already injured Parker. He now is in Prison. Federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison. You must shoot when you need to shoot, and stop shooting when you need to stop.

 

Third Example: http://www.wftv.com/news/news/local/woman-shoots-7-year-old-grandson-after-mistaking-h/ng5Lt/

When she heard the chair sliding against the floor, she assumed it was an intruder and grabbed a loaded .22-caliber revolver she kept by the bed and fired one shot in the dark toward the door.

She assumed it was an intruder, and then proceeded to fire into the dark.

Fourth Example: http://www.kktv.com/home/headlines/Man-Fires-Shots-at-Carjacker-271167041.html

A man popped into a store Wednesday evening–and when he returned to the parking lot, someone was driving away in his car.

The victim fired a few shots at his own vehicle, but the suspect was able to get away.

He fired at his moving car, defending property as it drove away. Don’t go to prison or get charged over a car or a TV set.

Fifth example: http://www.whsv.com/news/headlines/Police-Man-Shot-Daughter-Returning-to-House-270954461.html

During further investigation, police determined that just before the original 911 call, the homeowner was preparing to get ready for work and heard his interior alarm sound indicating the garage door had been opened.

Police said as the homeowner was approaching the interior garage, he heard a bang and sounds coming from inside the garage, grabbed a firearm and approached the garage door. As he opened the door, police say he observed a person coming towards him, raised his gun and shot the person. The homeowner determined that he had just shot his 16-year-old daughter who was attempting the sneak back into the residence after sneaking out earlier that morning without him knowing, according to police.

This poor guy failed to identify targets and had no way to see in low light. I’ll go on a limb and say that this man had previously made up his mind that, ‘if that garage alarm goes off, some scumbag is in my garage, and I’m going to go out there with my gun and…’ He already had brainstormed his solution. He failed to war-game the scenario where it was his teenager sneaking back in after a night out.

Sixth Example: http://www.newswest9.com/story/26253637/howard-county-explains-why-car-theft-shooting-was-not-justified

“When the vehicle was stolen, it was parked at the TA truck stop. It was unlocked, unoccupied, the keys were in the vehicle and it was running. At no point was no force used to take this vehicle,” …Keck told dispatch the car belonged to his mother and he was chasing the thief … [the] vehicle Bricker was driving came to a stop and that’s when Keck shot Bricker in the face and killed him. Officials said the shooting was not justified…The deceased never fired a shot, he was not armed at any time during the incident,” Parker said.

Again we have a pursuit over property, murder, and no weapon in the victim’s possession. Also, like in the other car theft story above, we have keys left in a running car.

Seventh Example: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/08/12/kansas-man-shoots-wife-in-the-head-after-mistaking-her-for-a-burglar/

Authorities said that the man shot his wife in the head because he thought someone was breaking into their house.

Lack of identification of target, possibly related to low light conditions (5:15am).

Eighth Example: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/cop-shot-in-case-of-mistaken-identity/

police shot and critically wounded an off-duty officer as he pointed a gun at a suspect outside a fast food restaurant early Saturday, authorities said.

Coming up to a scene where you have no frame of reference and deciding to shoot the person who has a gun out or is on top of someone else and punching them is a terrible idea. If you don’t know the whole story, don’t ride in on your white horse with guns blazing. It’s time to just be a good witness. There can be counter-examples of this, but they are rare indeed.

Let Us Boil It Down:

We have a cross section of BAD defensive gun uses. These weren’t cherry picked, they were literally the eight most recent articles I could find on bad gun uses. You can feel free to dig for more. You’ll see the same mistakes being made over and over. Here’s the top 5 I see:

  1. Lack of identification of target and decisional shooting (training/gear issue)
  2. Unnecessary pursuit (training issue)
  3. Lack of ability to identify target (gear issue)
  4. Defense of property, where there was no intent, ability, or opportunity to do bodily harm to the good guy (training/ignorance of law)
  5. Lack of ability or desire to present gun and hold someone at gunpoint, rather than just immediately start shooting (training issue)
  6. Intervening in someone else’s fight (training issue)

Some ideas to avoid these pitfalls:

  • Carry A Flashlight!!!!!!!!!!! Have a damn flashlight in your pocket, and on your gun if possible. This is not up for debate. If you have a home defense rifle or shotgun, you must have a flashlight on it. If you have a home defense pistol, you must have a handheld light sitting next to it. Purchasing this simple (and highly useful) tool can save lives. It also lets you see where you dropped your remote under the couch, which is nice. If you can afford it, get a flashlight that uses lithium batteries CR123A Lithium Batteries, because they have tremendous shelf life and higher energy capacity. You can also get a Rechargeable Kit which will save money in the long run. Invest in a quality flashlight and it will treat you well and could keep you out of prison. Here’s a nice list of flashlights in the G.U.G. Amazon store that either I or people who I trust have owned and carried. Much like your gun, it only works when you’re carrying it, so chose one that you don’t mind having in a pocket or purse all the time. You can’t go wrong with any of them. Please get yourself a flashlight, and take a low-light shooting course.
  • Practice Decision Shooting. I encourage you to take courses in this, or you can find drills that you can shoot at the range which force you think before you shoot (in future post will list drills I like for this). The shooting part is easy, it’s the decisions that have to be made in the moment that will bog you down and could force a bad choice. Thinking with a gun in your hand is not natural and requires training.
  • Don’t shoot people for stealing stuff. It just doesn’t work out. Even if you are legally justified to do so, you still have to live the rest of your life knowing you blasted some guy for driving away in your truck. You might be really mad, but let it go man. It’s just stuff.
  • Practice ‘draw to hold’ in your shooting. Sometimes when you draw, draw to a low ready or compressed ready instead of immediately putting one in the target’s heart. You need to know what it feels like to draw and stop at a low ready. Often (usually) just the presentation of a gun is enough to diffuse a dangerous situation. Opportunistic predators don’t want a fight, they want the easy lunch. Be prepared to show them you have the intent to shoot them, but have the restraint to hold. Don’t invite The Man into your life by shooting someone when you don’t need to.
  • Practice Verbalization. When you’re dryfiring and practicing your ‘draw to hold’, begin planning what you’re going to say as a challenge. Something as simple as “Stop!” or “Stop! Don’t come any closer!” or “Get away, I have a gun!”. You have to get used to talking with a gun in your hands. This is harder than it might sound. It feels funny to yell and project your voice in an aggressive way (it is for me). If you don’t practice, anything could come out of your mouth. Having a verbalization ‘tape recorder’ in your head is crucial, because without one, you’re bound to say whatever you make up on the spot. Which would you rather a witness hear? “Stop, don’t come any closer” or “Die Mothafucka!”. You get the idea. In some cases, which will probably be very clear to you at the time, no speaking will be necessary. Just the shooting.
  • Sometimes it’s best to do nothing, be a good witness, and keep the gun holstered. Don’t invite yourself into someone else’s troubles. You will draw your own line in the sand here. Just make sure you understand what can happen if you’re wrong.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I plan on compiling a nice list of drills that will help us work on some of the above issues at the range. As you can see though, a lot of these problems are not shooting problems, but thinking ones. Reflect on that well.

 

Until next time, Protect your brood.

Defensive Daddy.

The Babysitter Home Invader Plan!

I get it, you and your wife (or hubby) haven’t been anywhere together in a year. You need to go see a movie and grab some dinner. Time to hire a baby sitter. I’m sure there are hundreds of blogs and websites dedicated to picking a good babysitter. I won’t touch that one. However, I will add an extra step you should take with them when they arrive and you’re discussing logistics for different emergencies that might arise. The home invasion plan discussion.

Defining the Mission: “Enable and prepare an untrained teenager to get your child to a point of safety, bunker in place, and have the time to contact police in the event of a home invasion”

“I wonder if this babysitter knows how to run the Mossberg?” is probably what this mom is thinking.

The first step in developing a home invasion plan for the babysitter is developing one for yourself. As my mentor Claude Werner points out, brainstorming about how to achieve the desired outcome isn’t enough. You need to war-game the various scenarios, shake out possible hitches in your plan, and work through solutions. It helps to have an opposing will in war-gaming to help us see other options and keep us from buying our own hype. If you don’t have an opposing will, use the great trick that Claude developed and make flashcards with the various decisions that the bad guy could make and work through your plan based on what ‘he’ does. Make it a game. You will quickly see the holes in your plan when you start the ‘what if’ game.

Like ogres and onions, good home defense plans have layers.

The second step is evaluating the caretaker to make sure they have wrapped their head around the possibility of an invasion. To paraphrase the brilliant William Aprill, you need to reserve a ‘parking space’ in your mind for the possibility of an unexpected and unprecedented event for which you have no previous frame of reference. Well, in this case, you have to evaluate the babysitter for this ability. I’m approaching this problem from the point of view that your babysitter won’t have access to a firearm (yours or their own), but if you find someone who is trained and trustworthy then that is just a great bonus. You can alter your plan to account for this as needed.

Teaching a fifteen year old babysitter the proper mindset on protecting your child if someone kicks in the front door is probably something that can’t be done in the hurried discussion that happens before you rush out of the house with your spouse. It would be good to have the sitter over for a test run to discuss all of the logistics ahead of time. When discussing the ideas pay attention to their body language and attitude during the discussion of the need for this sort of plan.  If they glaze over or roll their eyes, it might be worth considering hiring someone with a higher maturity level. If you see their eyes sharpen, you know they’re likely to be able to keep it together and enact the plan. So just make sure the sitter understands that bad people might try to come into the house while they’re watching the baby and that it will be their job to enact the plan you’re about to cover with them.  You’ll also be drilling the plan with them, so you can watch it happen.

Let’s make a quick and dirty list of items that you might need to buy in order to accomplish the mission I wrote above. The best home defense plans are layered. This post isn’t about beefing up the security of your house, which we can talk about later. So let’s assume you already have all of the peep holes, alarms, motion sensing lights, properly trimmed hedges, extended screws in the doors, the strike plates, the dog (or outward appearance of a dog), and a safe room with a solid core door and reinforced hinges and deadbolt.

The Shopping List:

The safe room doesn’t have to be a bunker. It just needs to be a room that, at a minimum, you change the door and locks to and external door setup and some simple gear to slow the advance of a dedicated attacker. Also it would ideally have at least one piece of cover that could stop pistol caliber projectiles (the usual home invader weapon). You don’t have to spend a fortune to make a room ‘safe’. Don’t get a divorce by wasting $2,000 pouring concrete into the walls of your bedroom or anything silly. Here’s a nice overview of some more high points of safe rooms. Google around for some more ideas.

Cool, but not necessary.

Formulating The Plan:

This plan will grow and evolve based on your living circumstances, home layout, existing home reinforcements, pets, etc. I’ll lay out the general idea based off of the tools I mentioned above, as I think a similar outline is a good jumping point for your own plan.

The easiest tactic to relay is for the babysitter to not open the door. Period. (Men Pose as Delivery Men – Home Invasion) If someone is scheduled to come by, this can be relayed to the sitter, but otherwise keep the house on lock-down. Here is an excellent post from Greg Ellifritz about how to handle the front door.

So let us assume the action starts when there is the sound of breaking glass, or the alarm sounding, or the dogs losing their minds, or a door being kicked, or the sound of several men yelling…. and GO!

  1. Pick up the baby and quickly move to the designated safe room. Leave the dogs OUTSIDE of the safe room as extra deterrent.
  2. Take the OC off of the wall mount and flood the hallway with a good 10 seconds of eye-watery goodness.
  3. Close and Lock the door, and jam the floor wedge under the door.
  4. Lay the towel at the bottom of the door to keep as much OC out of the room as possible.
  5. Take baby and phone behind the best piece of cover in the room (you’ll have to decide and tell them this).
  6. Use the house phone to call the police and tell them what is happening. Stay on the line with police.
  7. Yell out “Leave Now! I have a GUN! The Police are on their way!” or similar. Even without a firearm in the room, posturing can be effective.

You get the idea. At this point, the bad guys have to run through a cloud of pepper spray, kick down a reinforced door, and possibly be facing someone bunkered in place with a rifle pointed at their chest. It’s about as much as we can hope for given the circumstances. The plan shouldn’t be too complicated, but it should be as robust and well thought as you can make it.

Practicing the Plan:

The willingness of a babysitter to dry run this plan a time or two will be a good gauge of how serious they take the possibility that bad people might try to come and hurt them or the baby.

  • Make them physically pick the baby up, and move to the room.
  • Pantomime spraying the fog (make sure they know how the safeties work), lock the door and jam the door wedge, stuff the towel,
  • Physically pick up the phone, have them say the words into the phone, “Someone has broken into the house and is still inside, the address is (read from label on phone), send the police”
  • For the coup de grâce have them actually YELL the challenge through the door. This will probably make them feel silly. That’s fine. Even a single repetition of this reserves the space in their brain to pull this off when time is of the essence.

In summary: Plan the work, and work the plan.

I hope you found some value in this post. Please share it if you found it helpful or thought provoking.

Protect the Brood, they are your legacy.

Defensive Daddy

 

Securing Your Guns from Unauthorized Access

  1. All guns are always loaded.

  2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.

  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.

  4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

    —Jeff Cooper[2]

Reciting the four universal firearms safety rules should be part of your subconscious routine every time you see or handle a gun. No exceptions. I personally like to throw in two extra rules when I’m teaching people.

  1. Never try to catch a falling gun. (heard from James Yeager at Tactical Response)
  2. Prevent access to your guns by unauthorized persons. (heard from Claude Werner at The Tactical Professor)

Let’s concentrate on the last rule there. Who are we trying to prevent from accessing our guns and how do we prevent unauthorized people from accessing them? Obviously, we want to keep criminals away from our guns. But there are a few other groups of people that we want to deny access to guns that you should consider. How about our children, nosy neighbors, or our nosy neighbors’ children?

CNN Study – Kids access to guns is a preventable problem and 2 year old shoots himself

The easiest and most robust solution there is getting a large gun safe and anchoring it into the cement in the basement. This works wonderfully for storing guns for which you have no immediate need (i.e. not our go-to home defense weapons). But how do we keep home defense guns quickly accessible to us and not to them? I’ll list several options, some better and some way worse than others.

  • Elevated position. This is the worst of the bunch, by a long shot. If children are your only concern, it’s still the worst. The problem is that, yeah, they might not be able to climb up there and reach your gun yet, but when they can, it could be too late. Don’t do it once the kid can walk. I had a scary three seconds about ten months ago when my little guy was pulling himself up to standing that made me realize that if he can see the gun, he’ll find a way to try to touch it. Never again. Here’s some footage to demonstrate the point (thanks Chuck H. of the Topeka Police for posting this)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fnsf6i9FzA?rel=0&w=420&h=315]

This is probably high enough to keep him away for another year. But I don’t count on it.
  • Stack-On PS-520 Super-Sized Personal Safe with Electronic Lock
    This has been a very workable option for me for the last 2 years. I have an easy to remember code (different from the PINs that my son might watch us type at the grocery store) and I currently store this safe near the bed. I have also stored it in the coat closet near the entry of our previous home. I don’t have this lagged down, as I’m not as concerned with a thief breaking in and running away with this safe. It only contains my home defense setup (upcoming post on this). I can quickly roll out of bed and get my gear and enact my home defense plans. I preventatively change the batteries once a year and remind myself with a google calendar reminder.
IMG_4490
The only addition I need to make is a battery powered dome light on the outside of this safe so that I can fully see the keypad in the dark. I’m pleased with this safe.(key code version).

Gunvault SpeedVault SV500 gun safe
(key code version). This is my next purchase. I’d like to secure it on the first floor in a place that myself or my wife can access as we answer the door. I don’t own this yet, but I’ve been told that you can easily defeat the biometric version with some simple tools, so avoid that one.

I think this is a brilliant safe. Securing against a wall in a closet, or on the back of a cabinet, it should be a real winner.
  • GunVault NV300 NanoVault with Combination Lock
    This is the best $30 you can spend. You can use this as a travel safe when you visit hotels, in your car, or even in a drawer if you only need to secure a pistol. I programmed a palindromic number (same forward as backwards) so that under stress I could open the safe regardless of orientation. It has been a great all around value.

IMG_4487

  • On your person!!! This is what I do until I go to sleep at night. My ‘house gun’ is a Ruger LCP with a crimson trace laser, clip-draw , and a Hogue Handall. I don’t like the idea of having to request that a home invader standby while I open my safe, so I just carry a gun at home. Makes sense to me. If you read lots of defensive gun use stories online, you’ll see many examples of when a man has to engage a home invader empty handed and his wife runs to get the gun and has to make a near contact shot on the bad guy. There’s lots of considerations in this scenario that we can talk about soon.

That’s it for now. If you have any suggestions on securing long guns from kids, and keeping them quick to access, please let me know. I’ve been toying with some design ideas that I am considering building since no good solution seems to exist.

Edit To Add: Found this on Amazon. ShotLock Shotgun Solo-Vault This looks like it might be the ticket for a quick access shotgun if that’s the direction you want to go.