A big welcome back to LTC Dan, from whom we have not received a message in far, far too long. We appreciate the Colonel’s presence here at the Castle, and are most interested in his question:
I found “Reading the Second Amendment Fully” quite interesting. Thank you.
In all the fuss over loonies shooting kids, I have yet to hear anyone on either side discuss the role of the police in public safety. I find this discouraging.
There has never been a court case in our country that found any police agency liable for failing to protect a citizen. This leads me to believe that our courts do not consider it a police agency’s responsibility to protect citizens. If this is so, it should reasonably follow that it is my responsibility to protect me and mine. As I am old, slow, and a partially-disabled Army retiree, I think(!) I need a tool to help with this job. The tool I choose is the handgun. Seems simple enough….
I had hoped to sway some with this argument; now I see that this is but one more fact that will not fit some’s conclusion and therefore it is but one more fact to be ignored.
So…How ’bout them Falcons? Finally won a playoff game!
Thanks for the very important question, but the Czar regrets his answer will disappoint millions of people on either side of the fence on gun control.
Police—indeed, firemen and paramedics as well—have no requirement to put themselves in harm’s way.
That they do so with such frequency is a testament to their bravery. But the reality is quite simple: if a police officer believes his or her life is in danger, he or she legally has no requirement or responsibility to intervene.
So when the gun control fan wakes up in the dead of night hearing the explosive sound of the front door being kicked open, he or she might be able to grab the phone if they are upstairs in a dark bedroom. Let’s say they can—they dial 911.
The phone rings at the other end, and the sounds of glass breaking and objects being smashed comes up from the first floor. An operator answers after the second or third ring and asks for the emergency.
As calmly as possible, the home owner gives his or her name and states that someone has just forced their way in; it sounds like two or more individuals based on the voices coming up. The dispatcher says an officer is en route. The home owner asks to stay on the line.
There happens to be a police officer sixteen blocks away. He receives the call about a possible break-in, and hits his rollers. He floors it, and covers that distance in under two minutes. He slows to a crawl and kills his lights—there, he can just make out the house in the dark. A large black SUV sits in the driveway, backed into the driveway.
As the burglars make their way upstairs, finding little of value, the cop in the car catches a glint of a shotgun from inside the house—one of the burglars is cradling it as they move upstairs, and the officer could see it from the window outside. He immediately backs his car up to get it a bit more out of sight and radios in that he needs backup: suspects are sighted and are armed.
He’s not going in there with his Glock 17 in one hand and a flashlight in the other. And no one is going to make him: he’s awaiting a more trained tactical response. Based on the location, this could be several minutes away or even an hour or more: the better strategy at this point is to wait until the burglars emerge from the house and perhaps the officer can quietly tail them or even better identify how serious the situation is. He might be able to draw his sidearm and hold the triggerman at bay, provided only one of them is armed and he stays out of the shotgun’s range.
But until he knows for sure, he isn’t going in there. And no one is going to make him. But he will pray, earnestly, that whoever is in that house will be all right. Or better yet, be armed.
Would you go? The Czar sure wouldn’t, and neither would any of the many police officers he has known over the years.
So when gun control advocates suggest that the home owner simply call 911 rather than go all Rambo on a burglar, it shows incredible ignorance of actual police procedure. The police are not Marines: they will not take on an unknown force against all odds: they have no requirement to do so, and many times common sense police procedures will tell them to hold off and wait. As you observe, every court in the country will back that up as well.
Of course, this example was colorful and dramatic. Statistics show that most home invasions are not violent—the intruder will almost always leave when they hear someone is home. But the problem is that they do so almost always: watch ID Discovery for an hour to get a feel for what happens when they don’t.
One last anecdote: police response time will never be fast enough; there is horrific truth in the saying “When seconds count, the police are minutes away.” The Czar has found himself calling 911 here in Muscovy a couple of times, and even though the station is half the town away, the cops responded in under 90 seconds. A lot can happen in 90 seconds.
In fact, you can never be certain of police responsiveness. Many years ago, the Czar was a juror on a murder case. The victim was a teenage kid visiting his cousin: he did not know the area and got off the bus at the wrong stop. A street gang, hearing word that shots were fired at a local school, roamed the streets hoping to find the alleged shooter. They came across this kid and obviously could not recognize him. They swarmed him and began punching him. The kid somehow climbed out of the pile and scrambled for safety. He ran a full block before they caught him and stomped on him…on the front steps of the police station. By they time an officer exited the front door and found him, he was dead.
Of course, the gun control advocates would have advised he simply call 911 on a cell phone. But he did everything right and was seconds away from dashing into the police station itself. And even still, that wasn’t sufficient time. A gun control advocate would concede that, yes, well, perhaps this was one case where the police could not have helped in time.
But that’s one case too many.
Yes, you should call 911 when you hear the front door being kicked in. It’s the second thing you should do, Colonel. The first you already know: make sure your family and you are safe.
- Get into a position of relative cover—not just concealment—where you can best see everyone’s bedroom door.
- Dial 911 by holding the phone alongside your weapon—if anything moves into your sight picture, drop the phone. If not, dial and hold the phone with your left hand so that your right hand is by the trigger guard.
- Quickly give the dispatcher your full name and address. Indicate an unknown number of individuals have entered your house and that you are armed but in a position of safety.
- With the dispatcher still on the phone, loudly announce that you have called the police and that you are armed. Say it loud enough for the burglars to hear it; definitely say it loud enough so the dispatcher’s recording catches it.
- If the burglars continue, or even if they flee out the door, stay put. Notify the dispatcher what is happening.
- When he or she confirms that vehicles are on their way, give them a description of yourself and what type of weapon you have—this will be transmitted to the officer so that he knows you’re one of the good guys.
- When the police arrive, stay put until they enter the house. Call down to them with your location in the house and that you will wait for further instructions. Stay on the line with the dispatcher.
- Raise your weapon, muzzle up so that the officer—when he comes around the corner—sees you will not fire at him by mistake. When he sees you, immediately raise your hands in a surrender fashion. This is only to tell him you are not to be shot at. Remember: he is as nervous as you are.
- Follow instructions at this point forward. Let the officer know how many people are upstairs and where they are located.
- Say nothing more to them except small talk until they have explained the situation to you and you are comfortable that the house is safe.
- Notify your insurance agent at this point in the event there is property damage. You do not want your family in the house if the locks have been damaged.
What happens if you need to fire? This varies a bit from locality to locality. In some cases, if in doubt, drop the phone and shoot. Any second of hesitation will indicate to a gun-hostile prosecutor that you had doubts in your mind about the use of lethal force. In other locations, you could be serious trouble for shooting someone unarmed near the doorway. Generally, of course, you have less than a second to make up your mind and that’s an argument for shooting.
If you shoot, adrenaline will win. In all likelihood, you will begin firing and firing and firing until the gun is empty. Your heart will pound, you will hear the shots distantly and the intruder only a few feet away will seem like he is half a world away.
After shooting, catch your breath. If you can calm down enough, quickly retrieve the phone and let the dispatcher know you have fired but appear to be all right. Check the family members: bullets travel through several walls before stopping.
When police arrive, say very little besides identifying yourself. Respond with small talk until you calm down: people say stupid things under the effects of adrenaline. If you feel yourself being questioned a little abruptly—if you have any concerns about where this is going—stop and ask for an ambulance. Say you don’t feel very well (which is almost certainly true) and won’t answer any more questions. Have the paramedics check you out, and for God’s sake have the number to a good lawyer in your area. Your lawyer should do most of the talking at this point.
In all probability, the police will very quickly and correctly assess what occurred and will be willing to stay as long as you want to keep you company. They understand how stressed you and your family are, and how weird the house will feel for the next day or two. Over the next two days, the post-adrenaline dump (PAD) will be rough on your system: you will feel angry, annoyed, and usually physically sore. These are normal reactions which will pass.
Doubtless someone will write in to us with more or better information, and please do.
Your action items: know where your cell phone is even at 0200 hours, each night and every night. Have your weapon ready, and not locked away where you cannot get it in less than 1 minute. Have an attorney’s phone number stored on your phone and/or where you can find it. Do the same with your insurance company’s 24-hour number.
Plenty of experts will offer you lots more information on whether you should use interior lighting, flashlights, or other tools. These are the basics; for more, readers can do their own research from a variety of sources to get the best, most sensible plan for their specific needs.
The point is this: you will either resolve the situation peacefully or not long before the police arrive. Gun control advocates are welcome to prove us otherwise, but they never do.
It is quite a thrill to respond to someone as distinguished as LTC Dan! We hope we were worthy of the task.