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The people who are most absolute
in their beliefs are those who don't
have to live or kill by their decisions.
 Those who do are a lot more moderate.
                        Marc MacYoung

Home Defense

On this page:
A childhood story | Home Security | Gun control | Most important question | A weapon is not for bluffing | Having a gun in the home | Judicious use of Lethal Force seminar

There is an old challenge to those who take pride in their refusal to have a gun in their home. The idea is that they should put up a sign for all passersby to read that says "No gun in this home."

For some strange reason, there aren't many takers.

Apparently the conviction against possessing a firearm isn't so strong that people are willing to advertise it at the risk of their own safety.

While it may seem from that first blurb that we are pro-gun, that's not exactly the case. We are not pro or anti-gun. What we are is pro-personal responsibility.

Before you even consider getting a weapon for "home defense," there are a few issues you must take into consideration.

A childhood story
Many agenda-driven sites would start this section with an inspirational story. Depending on the bias, the story would be to inspire either horror at a young, innocent life cut short or inspire faith by telling how a young boy or woman defended themselves against homicidal attackers with the valiant use of a handgun.

Our story is neither.

Marc grew up in the streets of Los Angeles. His first stepfather was a Mexican who survived growing up in East LA. In both the barrio where his stepfather had grown up and the ethnically mixed neighborhood where Marc was raised weapons were a part of life. You had them, you carried them, and you used them. Amazingly enough one of the first lessons Marc was taught by his stepfather had to do with responsibility of your actions:

"Don't carry a knife unless you are willing to pull it. Don't pull it unless you are willing to use it. Don't use it unless you are willing to kill with it. And don't kill unless you are willing to spend the rest of your life in prison -- or die."

This philosophy was ingrained in him. From the second you picked up that weapon and put it in your pocket, you knew this was not a game. It was life and death. And you made that decision calmly and rationally. With a weapon, you were operating to a higher standard because the repercussions were far worse. When you have the ability to take a life, you cannot give into to momentary impulses and whims of ego. Now, granted, in the heat and passion of youth, that standard was not always met. With age, maturity and professional experience, the wisdom of that saying proved true to Marc again and again.

If you have a weapon you have to abide by higher standards. And meeting that standard is pretty much the crux of the whole gun-control debate.

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Home Security
Any discussion about having a firearm in your home has to start with the security and burglary-proofing measures you have taken to prevent having to use the weapon in the first place. A weapon needs to be the last line of your security systems.

Gun control
When you pick up a weapon, you are taking on an awesome -- and deadly -- responsibility. Some might think of it as power. As we defined the difference between power and force elsewhere, we don't. A weapon is force, not power. And force only works in very limited circumstances and only for a moment. That makes it very ineffective in the long run.

Any weapon is a tool, and just a tool. If that is the case, why is there such a major uproar, stigma and fascination with weapons? In this light, the gun control debate -- and how savage it can become -- makes no sense.

When you look at it in a little differently, such a conflict suddenly begins to make far more sense. And that is in the sense of trust and reliability. Admittedly, what follows is a gross simplification, but it does give you an idea of the two camps.

As stated, much of the gun control issue boils down to just one thing. And that is: Do you trust someone to meet and adhere to these higher standards?

One side categorically says 'no;' the other a qualified 'yes and no.'

The anti-gun stance revolves strongly around the idea that the proponents literally don't trust anybody to have the common sense to keep a weapon safely or have enough emotional control not to go berserk and start shooting people.

A major rallying cry for these people is "save the children." And the truth is, many shootings are by children getting a hold of guns, whether younger children playing with loaded guns or teenagers shooting other teenagers. When it comes to this point, there is a solid basis for some of their contentions.

"Saving the children" is a noble and acceptable agenda. However, their unvoiced agenda isn't quite as noble. You don't get too far in your campaign by coming out and saying, "We think you are too immature, irresponsible and stupid to own a gun." It often postulated by such advocates that the only people who should have guns are ones that 'they' -- as citizens -- control, i.e., police and military (a debate which is an entirely different can of worms and beyond the scope of this page). There is a deep and abiding distrust in this camp over people's self-control and common sense.

The problem with this idea is that not everyone in the world is a teenager or has the same lack of emotional self-control. And, not all teenagers are so emotionally immature and unbalanced that they go around shooting people. There are many extremists in this camp. After talking to some of them you get the impression that they think everyone has as much extreme emotional violence and lack of verbal impulse control as they. (Quite honestly, such people have very good reason to fear someone who might decide to react to their unacceptable behavior with physical violence. But such is often the case with "true believers.")

The other side of the argument has a "qualified" answer about the standards of behavior question. Their stand revolves around the idea that they trust some people (citizen gun owners) and don't trust others (criminals and violent people). The later is who they need guns to protect themselves against. Unfortunately, this side also attracts its fair share of nut cases and the terminally paranoid. When someone starts babbling about "the gub'ment," "black helicopters" and "The New World Order" it does nothing to assuage anybody's belief that such a person could meet these "higher standards."

And yet, every year, millions of "gun nuts" do not climb up clock towers and open fire. So no matter how convinced they are that there are intentional plots designed to strip them of their constitutional rights, they are still not so far gone as to be unable to hold down jobs and exercise at least some basic emotional control. And even larger number of responsible gunowners don't go postal either. As such, they are grievously upset when someone comes by and claims that they are all potential psycho-killers.

At a drop of a hat, both sides will pull up seriously "spin-doctored" and "juggled" statistics to prove their points. Bottom line is however, both sides are equally neurotic and insulted by the "wrong-headed" opinions of the other. The feud has become so ingrained that it is part of the culture for both parties.

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Most important question
So here is the real question you need to ask yourself before you even consider buying a weapon for home defense:

Are you -- and anybody who will have access to the weapon -- emotionally mature enough not to misuse it?

No other question so cuts to the chase of the issue. Are you hot-tempered? Do you feel that whatever you say or do is justified because someone hurt your feelings? Do you insist on having the last word in an argument? Do you regularly drink to excess or take drugs? Are you involved with selfish and violent people? Do these questions apply to anyone you live with?

If the answer to any of these is yes, it is probably best not to have a gun in your home.

Quite simply, there is more chance of a firearm doing harm than of it doing any good. People who do not have emotional control are more likely -- in a fit of anger or intoxication -- to make stupid, life-altering whim decisions. And these can happen faster and more permanently if there is a gun present. What makes perfect sense in the middle of an emotional argument, suddenly is revealed as a deadly act of stupidity and selfishness.

And guns are really good at exposing these carefully hidden and self-rationalized flaws.

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A weapon is not for bluffing
It's not about winning, it's about surviving. And before you pick up a weapon you need to know the difference.

Can you, in a moment of calm reflection, decide that you are willing to take another human life in order to protect your life or those of your loved ones. And live with the consequences for the rest of your life?

Can you make this decision, knowing full well that if you pull the trigger it would destroy life as you know it?

Because that is what we are talking about.

Unfortunately, most people don't know the difference between winning and surviving. "Winning" is an emotional, ego-based impulse that you have to "prove something to someone else" (i.e., that they are wrong, or that they messed with the wrong person, or that they don't have 'power' over you, etc., etc.). In short, "winning" is about fighting to prove you are right(1).

Whereas "surviving" isn't about being right, it's about being alive. It is knowing that when you pull that trigger, everything you might have thought you would "win" will be destroyed. It is the willingness to throw aside all emotional motivation for the fight, every rule and standard you normally live your life by and do whatever is necessary in order to see the sun rise tomorrow.

Most people don't realize this difference and end up trying to "win" by displaying a weapon in order to "scare away" danger. Unfortunately, this is "bluffing." And as in poker, your bluff can be called.

Lt. Colonel David Grossman in his book, On Killing, postulates that the old "fight or flight" model is flawed for same-species interaction in that it doesn't include two other important alternatives. These other options are "posturing" and "submission." The relevance of these cannot be understated as it fills in a serious hole in the old model.

It is most often through posturing (threat display) that we hope to drive away or cause others to submit (so we "win"). Now whether this is to gain self-esteem by intimidating others or because we are desperately hoping that our display will frighten another off so we don't have to physically fight doesn't really matter. Posturing plays an important role in many, if not most, conflicts.

Posturing can either be a legitimate display of danger (like a rattlesnake's buzz or a dog's hackles going up before a fight) or it can be a bluff to make the bluffer look too big to attack (like a cockatoo's crest or a cat fluffing and arching).

The problem is most people can't bluff worth a damn.

It is not uncommon for a person who does not feel their display is working to increase the level and degree of posturing. When you have two like-minded people engaged in conflict, posturing behavior can escalate out of control. It is literally like two people in a poker game locked into an endless round of bluffing by raising the ante, hoping that the other person will decide to fold. They become so enmeshed in this spiral, they feel they cannot "back down."

Unfortunately, it is also extremely common for people feeling threatened to pull a weapon and display it to show exactly how dangerous they are. It is almost as if the person were saying, "See how dangerous I am!?! Now, quit threatening me and go away!"

This is flawed thinking in both cases, especially if it is in the middle of a heated and emotional argument. It is common in emotional situations for the person, whom the display is supposed to scare away, to instead to increase his threat display. This causes the other person to escalate as well.

Quite literally, if the person the bluffer is trying to scare away doesn't scare, the bluffer will try to escalate it further. And in this mindset, there is only one way to go from brandishing a weapon if the other the person doesn't back off. This is quite literally why the most common -- and stupidest -- last words of people shot in these circumstances is "You ain't got the guts (to pull the trigger)." Don't laugh and don't think we're making it up. It is true.

From an outside perspective, it may seem incredible. But for people caught up in having to "win," this is a common response to the increased posturing via a weapon by the other party. It happens -- a lot. It is equally unbelievable that someone waving a gun around threatening to kill someone a second before is now standing there in shock because he just shot someone. But that too happens -- a lot. In the heat of the moment all sorts of stupid things make sense to the participants, it's only afterwards that reality comes crashing back in, but by then it is too late.

Furthermore, if someone is brandishing a weapon in hopes of scaring a violent person away, her body language is going to be significantly different than someone who will, without hesitation, pull the trigger to stop an attacker.

Here's the problem: A violent person knows the difference. While the latter will usually convince him not to try anything, the former often will enrage him so much that he attacks. And unfortunately, there is often hesitation to pull the trigger when the bluff, doesn't work which is all it takes for an attacker to overwhelm someone.

Which brings us back to the "childhood lesson:" Don't pull a weapon if you aren't willing to use it. If you are relying on it to scare someone away so you don't have to use it, you shouldn't have one.

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Keeping a gun in the house
We honestly do feel that the greatest danger of gun ownership is ignorance. Ignorance, however, is a multidirectional problem. A significant part of that problem are children and teens. Children because they don't know the danger of guns, and teens because of the danger of lack of emotional control.

A bigger problem is adult ignorance about the danger of guns and children. Telling your children not to touch a gun is simply not enough.

Since you must hold yourself to higher standards of conduct when you have a firearm, it behooves you to know exactly what these standards are. Training will show you exactly how complicated this subject is and destroy many of the myths about guns that you have. More importantly, it will show you potential problems that you never would have thought about on your own, but are legitimate firearm issues.

What follows are a few suggestions about keeping guns in the house.

Doing it right will cost you money. Including the cost of the gun, expect to pay between $1500 and $2000 for what we are recommending. That is because we do not treat using a gun as a "what if" , but a "when it happens" issue. This is not to say that if you buy a gun you will automatically shoot someone -- in fact, we pray that never happens.

As we have stressed, owning a gun is a matter of responsibility. If you have the power, you must also understand the consequences of its use. That is why buying a gun should never be an "if I have to use it, I'd..." mindset, but rather a "since I now have the ability, I better know what is involved and protect myself against possible mistakes and the aftermath of its legitimate use."

Prepare, over and above the cost of the gun, to pay for training, equipment and storage.

Hiding a gun is not enough
Some people honestly believe that their children do not go through their rooms and that hiding a gun would be enough. Unfortunately, the number of children who shoot themselves or others every year disproves this idea. Kids go through their parents room, accept that as a fact of life. And by accepting that fact, you can save a child's life, possibly your own child's.

Do not think that by simply hiding a gun, or keeping the clip out of it you ensure your child's safety or that teenagers won't find it or, when emotionally upset, won't get and use it. That is a high price to pay for an assumption.

Home defense vs. collections
A gun for home defense needs to be immediately accessible. Hunting and sport shooting collections do not.

Safes, locking cabinets and trigger guards are recommended for firearms that are not specifically purchased for home defense. Not only will they protect your collection from theft by burglars, but it will restrict access by emotional teens. (And BTW, keep the key on your keychain and with you. Hide a spare if you must, but don't tell the kids where.)

Unfortunately, these safety measures, totally undermine a gun's usefulness for home defense.

For home defense
Until some of the high tech safety measures gun manufacturers are working on become readily available, we recommend electronic gun safes. They are rare and require some searching in order to find, but they are well worth it. These safes are keypad-controlled (on the better ones, the keypad is illuminated for night). When the combination is punched in, they swing open.

There is no fumbling with safety guard locks or searching desperately for your keys in the middle of a crisis. They are wall mounted next to your bed and unobtrusive. On the better ones, they will automatically lock down if three attempts to hack in are made. Thereby preventing a teen from sitting there punching in numbers to find the combo.

These safes allow the fully loaded and functional gun is accessible within seconds to someone who knows the combination and safely protected from teenagers, children and burglars.

Note for the paranoid: If you are the sort who feels that you must have guns scattered around the house and be accessible no matter where you are, we have only one bit of advice: Quit doing whatever you are doing that makes it likely someone would come 'gunning' for you. It's amazing how far that will go to lessening the chances of someone kicking in your door and charging in with guns blazing. If it's that bad of a neighborhood, move.

Train your children in firearm safety. Guns have a mystery about them. They are exciting and forbidden. They have an ambiance of danger and excitement.

That is until you are subjected to drawn-out, mind-numbing, repetitive training and lectures on gun safety. There is nothing so exciting and interesting to a teenager that having to go to school won't bore them to tears over. Send them to a professional course on firearm safety and procedures. It's not mom and dad lecturing it is school. And that means having to sit through a class.

A further advantage to this strategy is they know how to handle a gun safely. Also if a legitimate situation does arise, they know when they are legally justified in using it.

You get training in firearm safety, shooting tactics *and* the legal issues regarding use of lethal force. We cannot stress enough the need for this multipronged training. The reasons are legion. Although they are all under the umbrella of shooting, each of these are separate -- and equally important -- issues. Basically you're going to need to go to a specialist. There are professionals in this field, and those are the people you need to learn from.

While they are great for gun safety courses and getting your concealed carry permits, we recommend you forgo the local gunshop and firing range classes and look into firearm institutes -- especially for legal and tactical training. Although expensive, they are fully worth it.

While you may have the luck to live next to one of these national experts, odds are you're going to have to travel. The problems with the local classes is that, while they are cheap and convenient, they also tend to be less professional, more oriented on the mechanical aspects of shooting, more agenda-driven and less well informed about legal trends. Nor are they particularly well trained in the tactical aspects of home defense. Yes, you can buy a DVD for both shotgun and pistol home defense from us, but that does NOT replace scenario training. If nothing else, consider the DVD a patch until you can get the hands on training.

By seeking varied training, you will not only be working to save your life, prevent your loved ones from accidentally being killed, prevent yourself from going to prison, you also will be indemnifying yourself from losing everything in court to the person you had to defend yourself against.

Is all this expensive training now looking like it is worth it?

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Judicious Use of Lethal Force
Once again, we break our habit of not recommending one specific product or service over others in suggesting the reader take Massad Ayoob's Judicious Use of Lethal Force seminar. Yes, you can buy the DVD, but we strongly advocate you take the course. The program is dual in nature, either the two day lecture only or the five day lecture plus firearm training. Furthermore, although based in New Hampshire, this program travels nationwide and will probably be in your area in the near future.

It is also strongly advised that you take a trip over to the Legal section this Web site.

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1 "Right" in this case doesn't mean the entire world sees that you are obviously correct in your cause, points and logic. In this case, "right" means you feel justified and correct in what you are doing because it maintains your ego's point of view. It isn't what is "right in general," it is what is "right within your own self-image." This can include extreme emotions (especially anger), self-justification, hatred, revenge and preserving your self-image. If you can recognize the functional difference between being right and being self-righteous -- and see how most people don't differentiate between the two -- the motivation for most violence and conflict becomes clear.Return to text.

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