You are arriving home after work on a weekday. You work the second shift so it is after midnight when you drive up to your house. You’re almost at your door when a stranger runs up to you. The stranger is wearing a ski mask and he has a gun in his hands. He tells you to hand over your money and he orders you inside. You open the door and run inside your home to grab your gun. The attacker shoots at you several times. You shoot back. Now, your attacker runs away.
You’re shaking but not injured. You lock your front door and call 911. You give a brief statement to the police when they arrive. You show the police the security video from your front door camera.
You are not charged with a crime.
Let’s start with the simple things our defender did to save his life. He recognized that the world is not safe and that living in a Detroit neighborhood is particularly dangerous. Our defender bought a gun and kept it at home. He stored his firearm so that he could reach it quickly. It was stored his gun in a condition so that it could be pressed into use without delay. As ordinary as it sounds, our defender’s doors were locked. That means our defender met his attacker in public rather than being surprised by an armed robber inside his dark home. Those small defensive elements were in place well before our defender left work that night.
Our defender was caught unaware and held at gunpoint when he reached his front door. Fortunately, he did not give up. He unlocked his door and ran into what I assume was a dark home. He knew the arrangement of furniture and doors while his attacker did not. I assume he ran to his bedroom and got his gun from the closet shelf or from the nightstand drawer. The attacker shot into the dark. The defender then returned fire. That convinced the attacker to stop shooting and flee.
Our defender did not chase after the bad guy. The homeowner did not rush into the lighted doorway and become a target. He did not shoot as the bad guy ran down the street. Instead, our good guy closed and locked the door to his home. He called the cops and gave them video evidence of the attack.
Our defender thought that the world was dangerous enough to justify buying a gun and a video security system.
As simple as this story sounds so far, there are a number of things we don’t know. For one thing, the attacker should have been visible in silhouette as he stood in the doorway of the home. We want to avoid that position. The attacker is lit from behind and outlined. The attacker may be seen by any of the defenders in the dark room, yet the attacker can’t see any of the defenders who may be waiting for him in the dark. That could have given the defender a huge advantage, yet the defender’s shots missed. You have to shoot accurately in the dark if you want to take advantage of that defensive opportunity. If you don’t have that skill then you are depending on luck.
We don’t have to depend on luck since we know when most crimes happen. Most violent crimes, including aggravated assaults like this one, are more likely at night. It shouldn’t be your first class, but you can take a class that teaches armed defense in low light. You can practice shooting at night, but you may have to look for a range that offers that opportunity. You can certainly dry-practice in the dim and dark almost at will.
There may be more important things to do before you shoot back no matter how large an advantage the outlined attacker represents.
Why didn’t the defender shoot while the attacker was lit from behind? We’re not sure, but the defender may have been doing more important things at that moment. The defender may have been running to get his gun and was not able to shoot back. Also, the defender may have been moving to a position of cover or concealment.
Not getting shot is a high priority. Not getting shot might mean shooting back, but usually it means moving to cover so you are a harder target to hit and therefore harder to kill. We want to avoid a gunfight where bullets are going both ways. We certainly want to avoid a fair fight. Becoming a harder target and having an unfair advantage is exactly what our defender did when he ran into a darkened room.
It is usually a good idea to make yourself a harder target before you shoot back.
What else could we do to stay safe? Almost half of violent attacks happen in or near our home. That means we’re more vulnerable in the transition area as we leave our car and arrive at our front door. One solution is to install a sensor that lights up the area near our door when it detects movement. As a bonus, that same sensor lights your way home each night as you arrive in the dark. It may also deter a criminal who keeps setting off the sensor as he moves near the dark corner of your house.
We’d like to be armed in general, and particularly as we leave or enter our home. Michigan is not a constitutional carry state, but it is a shall issue state. That means the local county clerk is required to process and issue a concealed pistol license if you have a clean criminal record and meet the other requirements. One of the additional requirements is that you take a class that includes life-fire training. I support constitutional carry, but I also encourage people to take classes early and often. When else will you learn that you need empty hands to defend yourself as you arrive home? Unfortunately, some county clerks in Michigan have slow-walked the application process.
Being armed as you arrive home is another situation where firearms storage laws can present a problem. Most states used to allow an employer to say no-guns at work and also no-guns in your private vehicle if you parked on company property. That meant you had to park off-site, be disarmed, or violate your employer’s policy. Now, many states allow you to keep your firearm in your car in a gun-safe even when you’re disarmed at work and parking on company property. If you’re not sure about your state laws, then ask your firearms instructor, check at https://www.handgunlaw.us/, or e-mail your state’s attorney general.
There is one last thing I want to highlight about this story. Let’s think about the grainy video of the night-time attack. It did not clearly identify the attacker, but it decisively showed that the homeowner was the innocent victim. That evidence is priceless for your legal defense. Solid evidence like that may save your lawyer days of work, and save you thousands of dollars in legal bills.
You do have a lawyer to call, don’t you? Yes, you want one of those too.
Rob Morse highlights the latest self-defense and other shootings of the week. See what went wrong, what went right, and what we can learn from real-life self-defense with a gun. Even the most justified self-defense shooting can go wrong, especially after the shot. Get the education, the training, and the liability coverage you and your family deserve, join USCCA.
About Rob Morse
Rob writes about gun rights at Ammoland, at Clash Daily, at Second Call Defense, and on his SlowFacts blog. He hosts the Self Defense Gun Stories Podcast and co-hosts the Polite Society Podcast. Rob was an NRA pistol instructor and combat handgun competitor.