Have You Gotten Around To It?

Home Security

I sent an email to a friend regarding a class I took on armed defense in the home.  First, let me say it was a well-prepared course with a machine gun proportion of great information to consider on how to make my home into my palace fortress, uninviting to intruders and safe for my family and I.  I was left a little intimidated by the class and no doubt I expressed my concerns to my friend in the email I wrote after midnight when I could not get to sleep.

“How in the hell does a person know when an intruder comes in what their intent is?” she asked in her response. “Do we ask them, “Hey are you here to kill me, or just rob me? And do you have a weapon on you??”

It made me smile as I conjured an image in my mind of a computer screen at the front door with a 4-question Survey Monkey link for the intruder to complete prior to entry.

 

      1. Please select from the following with regard to your intent:

A.  Rob only;

B.  Rape only;

C.  Kill only; or,

D.  A combination of the above.

Should you select A or B or C or D, I respectfully offer these dates and times as potential options for your intrusion as I would prefer to not be at home.

2.  Please select from the following with regard to your weaponry:

A.  No weapons, just shear brute force;

B.  Blunt instruments, for example the baseball bat you won your high ­­­­­­­school championship with;

C.  Sharp instruments, anything from a pocket knife to a machete, no Game of Thrones memorabilia, please; or,

D.  A Firearm.

If you select D, please indicate in the field below your level of mastery with your weapon and where you were trained.

        1. Please describe your body type in the field below, comparisons to popular celebrities will help us determine the response level we need to prepare for your anticipated forcible entry into our home.  (For example, does your body type more remind people of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson or the teen that he was portraying in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle?)

  4.  Please describe in the field below exactly what you might be looking for so that we can accumulate these items and leave them just outside the front door for your convenience.

Thank you for taking the time to complete our survey.

 

This is a serious issue.

There is a lot to consider in the split seconds after you’ve awakened from a deep sleep and realize it was not one of the people who belong in your home or your pets that made the noises that not only woke you but seem to be continuing.  Where is my phone? Where is my gun?  Is it loaded?  Did I mount that flashlight on it?  Can I go pee first? Oh wait….nevermind.

I love shooting a gun.  Seriously, I do–at a paper target, in a gun range with professional instructors on hand where little to nothing can possibly go wrong. I’ve contemplated the concealed carry option for which I am licensed, but at my weight, I don’t really need something else on my hips bulging out underneath my clothing.  I know, there are alternatives – shoulder holsters, something strapped to a leg. I don’t really get much farther in the contemplation than the extra weight that I fear will be in no way completely concealed.  So, I return to the calming semi-private booth in a lane at the range and my paper target enemies.

The idea of a reasonable use of force to protect my home raises a lot of questions not the least of which is could I make all the necessary split-second decisions? Would they be the right decisions?  There is a lot of criteria required to justify the use of lethal force.  A gun is lethal force.  Ability, Opportunity and Jeopardy are the three key factors.  I was taking notes in class, I was.

Another image pops in my head of me trying to find my notes from the class in the dark at the moment I feel there is an intruder in order to refresh my memory on the definitions.  “Can you wait just another minute, Mr. Intruder?  I have to reread this.  Oh, my handwriting! You know how hard it is to read your own handwriting sometimes, right? Why don’t you go get yourself a drink out of the fridge while I do this?”

When all this is said and done and the smoke clears, I am going to have to explain my perceptions of the situation, the attacker, what I perceive about their ability, opportunity and the sense of jeopardy in which they put me and my family in a way that will make sense when I am later being arrested or even sued for protecting my life or someone else’s.

In my notes it says, “Communicate that you are not a victim.”  Hmmm….sounds empowering.  I was once watching my brother’s dog, an Australian Blue Cattle Dog with a chest like a small tank and I had no control over him whatsoever.  My brother said, “You need to use more authority in your voice.  Confidence.”  It did not work with that dog…are humans easier to fool? Not so sure.

Keypads may be easier to use than bio-metrics.

In my notes is says, “You have a Duty to retreat or exhaust all other means, if safe to do so, prior to using deadly force.”  Basically, RUN! RETREAT!  Oh, but don’t retreat so far that it puts you in more danger….WTF?  I agree the best way to deal with conflict is to avoid it all together.  I’ve been doing that my entire life in most of my human interactions all of which I tend to see as conflict.

Oh wait, it says inside your home you have NO Duty to retreat. My handwriting! In the home, outside the home.  Being safe is so complicated. Be aware!

I have not purchased a gun.  You heard the implied “yet”?  I am not even sure there is still a yet.  It gets softer every time I think that sentence. At the class where I thought the right answer to the question “what is the best weapon to select for home defense?” was the gun with which you are most comfortable and trained to use, a pistol, no doubt, I learned otherwise. It is a long gun or rifle.  I’ve never even tried one of those. I have admired them on the wall at the range where they are securely locked up in the hall across from the cushy leather sofa where I have waited for my instructor.  The instructor has offered several times to let me shoot one.  I have repeatedly declined.  Not yet, I said.  Yet, yet, yet.  I’ve done well with the pistol shooting.  I am not so sure this larger longer animal is going to be my friend. And if I got one of those for home defense where in the hell am I going to put it?  I am certain it cannot hang decoratively over my bed as inviting as that might be to some men.

Guns and discussions of lethal force aside, the class offered a lot of good advice on avoidance.  It is very important to make your home the least appealing home on your street to a potential intruder. Be the “Hard Target” on your street, not the soft inviting one.  Most break-ins occur between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when people are at work.

A visible exterior camera is more of a deterrent than a hidden camera.

Don’t leave your doors unlocked. Check.  Don’t leave your windows open, even on the second floor.  Check.  Use a 2×4 or a heavy-duty bar to lodge your sliders as well as locking them. Check.  Use lights to show occupancy.  Check.  Don’t use those hide-a-key fake rocks for a spare key.  They aren’t fooling anyone.  Check.  Use exterior lighting, with motion sensors if possible, to discourage potential intrusion.  Partial check.  Visible Security cameras, even if fake, are a great deterrent. Visible is the key word there. No check.  I’ve considered these or rather one of those doorbell cams that report to my phone.

Just haven’t gotten around to it.  Just haven’t gotten around to it.  You don’t want that on your headstone, I suppose.

Did you know there is a filmy substance you can use on your windows that makes them shatterproof?  And there are rods that can make it only possible to open your windows just so far?  That your front door is a solid core but most or all of your interior doors may not be? Did you know that most door jambs are put on with tiny little screws and can pop out with slight force? For want of a few screws costing less than a dollar, your front door can be relieved of all its perceived security and expose you.

Did you know that at least once a year a drunk college student comes home in the middle of the night to a cookie-cutter neighborhood and enters the wrong home only to be shot in the dark having awakened the homeowner not his parents?  (Okay that was a shameless plug against cookie-cutter neighborhoods, but it is true, the instructor said so.)

“A gun is a tool, not a plan.”  A home security plan is very important. Can you retreat and to where would you retreat? Can you account for everyone? Where do you gather your family if you think there is an intruder? Where do you keep your weapon?  Biometric locks or keypad?  (By the way, keypad in an emergency is recommended.) How quickly do you call 911? (That’s a no-brainer – REALLY QUICKLY!) Where is the deep corner in the rooms in your home?  What is a deep corner? It’s that part of the room where a bullet shot from the door cannot hit you.

I recently wrote a blog for a friend on the importance of having a plan in case of emergencies and disasters – meet-up locations, contacts, etc.  Do I have one? Not really.  It was a great blog.  I should read it.  I should develop a plan.  (you can find it click here.)  That’s a lot of plans we need.  And then tell others about them and practice them.  Your plan is only as good as the effort put into use it in case of an emergency.  We all hope for no emergencies.

I have an appointment to try a long gun next week.  Then I have a lot of heavy thinking to do.  I want to move to a little house in the woods.  Maybe I am safer here tucked into this condo?  I suspect the threat is equal but I can make my odds better by really examining my fortress and looking for the cracks in the walls.  Do you have any cracks in your walls?  Are there any homes out there with moats and drawbridges?

 

 

Look What I Made

Do you remember coming home from school as a child having drawn a pretty picture that you wanted to show your Mom or Dad? Let’s say you got a good grade on a test that was very difficult or brought home that much-improved report card?  Do you remember having a smile on your face that you couldn’t wipe off?  It was having a sense of excitement to share this accomplishment with your people at home and hopefully receive further accolades from them.

“Look what I made!”

“Look what I did!”

I had a similar feeling this week.  No, not a pretty picture, not a much-improved report card, but close.  I was on my way home from the gun range where I was taking my second private instruction in shooting pistols and I had several paper targets with beautifully (in my mind) clustered bullet holes.  I excitedly wanted to show them to people.

I was just as excited at the end of this second lesson as I was after the first.  I had worried that I might not be.  On the way there, I remember thinking, what if the novelty wears off?  What if it isn’t fun anymore? It was a lot of fun the first week – repeatedly firing the 22mm revolver and the same size semi-automatic pistol.  Fun?  Yes, Fun! And doubts aside, it did continue to be fun this second week as well.

I suppose when I say, “It’s fun,” it may sound a bit juvenile for a woman my age.  It’s empowering.  It’s confidence building. It’s interesting.  It’s exciting. It’s fun.  If it weren’t fun the other “It’s” wouldn’t really matter.  I don’t need something outside of me to be empowered or to build confidence.  I am fairly self-entertaining most times.  But this is just fun.  And I am good at it.  Eighty percent, by the way, better than most beginners, my instructor said at one point.  Then later after he gave me his larger caliber sidearm to shoot, he shifted it to 90%, in spite of the fact that the larger caliber gun was a bit daunting for me.

I can’t explain it, really.  I couldn’t hit a target in college with an arrow during archery for my physical education requirement. I have trouble hitting the pins in Wii bowling – or real bowling for that matter.  I often walk into walls and doors.  For some reason, when I hold up a gun in my hands at the ends of my outstretched arms and I close my left eye, the sites just line up and bullet flies directly into that square in the middle of the target.  During my first instruction, the young man asked me towards the end to hit the center of the target at the top.  Did he think hitting it in the middle was a fluke?  Was he testing me? I raised my sites a little higher and hit it where he had requested.

I heard him behind me exclaim, “Wow!”

I had never picked up a gun before taking the Massachusetts Basic Fire Arms Safety Course two months earlier.  This is the course that you need to take in order to begin the lengthy process of applying for a License to Carry Certification in Massachusetts. I had never touched a gun before.  I wanted to know, in very controlled circumstances, with professionals on hand, how I might react to holding a gun and even shooting a gun.  Initially it was not about the license so much as this experience.  The first time I took the class at a police department in a town near me a couple of guns were passed around the room as we watched a very quick PowerPoint presentation and took a test as a group.  Needless to say, we all passed and were handed our certificates on the way out just two hours after beginning.

I don’t think I was the only one in the class surprised by the lack of hands-on experience included in the course.  Most people were relieved to be dismissed so quickly so that they could get on with their weekend.  I felt like my big “Why” for being there was completely unaddressed.  This was all I needed to apply for a license and purchase a weapon that can kill?  I was surprised, but it was true.  This was all that was required prior to the application process.  I did not feel I knew enough about myself in this situation to apply for a license based solely on this class.

A friend directed me to the Fire Arms School where I am currently taking instruction.  I retook the same class there.  It was quite a bit more involved.  There was a sense of the gravity established immediately as the instructor spoke to those of us embarking on the path to gun ownership.  Midway through the course we learned how to load each a revolver and a semi-automatic pistol.  That was considerably more “real” to me than passing an unloaded gun around the room.  Everyone, except those who had experience, had some shakiness to their hands as we took great pains to keep the barrels pointed away from us.

At the end of four hours, we were ushered in small groups to the indoor range where we put on safety goggles and headsets to protect our eyes and hearing.  It was oddly important to me to be one of the first.  I did not want anyone to see when I completely missed the target or worse yet, freaked out by the explosive sound of a bullet leaving the barrel, started to cry.  To my surprise, neither of those things happened.  The last slide on the presentation was an image of the sites you would see on a gun and how to aim so it was fresh in my mind.  In case I forget, this is also the logo of the school and it is prominently displayed on the chest of every instructor.

I stepped into the private cubicle with one of the assistant instructors.  There were two guns waiting on the counter and a target out in front of me.  We had six shots with each gun. I picked up the revolver first.  I copied the stance I remembered from the class earlier and took aim.

It is surprising how much squeeze you need to put on the trigger (unless you cock it manually first, then it is nothing, I learned much later on).  Pop! I saw that first one hit the paper target within the square in the middle.  Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!

Most of the shots that followed were clustered around the first in the upper right corner of the square with a couple straying outside the square. Wow! I thought.  Wow!  I handed the revolver to the instructor supervising me.  Then I started to wonder if someone else had hit my target and I actually might have missed?  Was that possible?  I picked up the semi-automatic.  My hand was shaking, but I felt oddly calm.  I apologized repeatedly for shaking.

“Don’t worry about it. It happens to everyone,” he said.

Five shots again clustered just near the others, with one stray off to the side.  I knew from somewhere in my reading or television watching that clustering was good.  I was oblivious to the couple not in the center.

“Good job!”  The instructor said and pointed towards the door.  They had nearly forty people to get through this part of the class.  “Now, go wash your hands, cold water, remember.”   I nodded.  Cold water washes off the gun powder on your hands.  Hot water might open up the pores and lead could get into your system.  I left through the double doors and entered the hallway carrying my paper trophy.  I took off my glasses and headset and hung them back on the rack.

Another set of students was waiting in the hall for their turn.

“How did you do?” One asked.  I held up the paper target.

“Wow! Killer!”  someone said.  I smiled and headed for the restrooms.

Back in the classroom where even more were waiting, there were more complimentary sounds and another “Killer!”

I gathered up my things and carrying that first paper target as carefully as possible made my way to the car.  Like a picture I had colored as a six-year-old, I did not want it to get creased or damaged in any way before I could share it.  I photographed it after I got home, a drive filled with alternating doubt and excitement.  Had I really hit the target every time?  Had I really clustered those shots myself?  I shared the image on social media and the responses were similar to those from the class members.

“Killa Kim.”

Each hour of private instruction that followed that initial course ends the same.  I carefully take the targets with me proud of the accomplishment.  It’s exciting to learn something new and to discover new talents.