Almost two years ago, in December of 2010, I addressed this very issue in my blog entry, titled: Carrying in Your Home. In that entry, I outlined some very graphic examples of what could happen should you be taken by surprise in your house. Just having a loaded firearm in your home is not good enough. You need to have sufficient means to access your weapon quickly. The quickest method, by far, is to have one in a holster, on your person. Whether you carry a concealed weapon in the house, or practice open carry, your chances of surviving an encounter, like the one in the news story (linked above) and the dramatic scenario I laid out in my entry, are much higher than if you are unarmed.
I'll be the first to admit that I've been taken by surprise myself. I don't always carry a gun in the house. There are times, when I'm getting out of the shower, or haven't yet gotten dressed in the morning, that I'm unarmed, or perhaps I just got home from work (where I'm not allowed to carry). The odd thing is, it seems these are the times when people decide to knock on my door. People never seem to knock when I'm armed, of course. But that is beside the point. In any event, I exercise extreme caution when answering an unannounced knock at the door.
There have been times when I've heard a surprise knock at the door, and I was armed. As above, I still exercise caution when answering the door. Many times, I will just sit where I can see the person and wait for them to leave. This is especially useful if the person looks a little shady. I have encouraged my wife to NEVER answer the door to a stranger. Just let them leave. Hopefully, if they come back, I will be there to address them.
In the instance above, where the burglars posed as police officers, the homeowner's believed that a public safety officer was at the door. That's a reasonable assumption, but even then I'd be leery of a cop just showing up at my house without warning. I don't even roll my window down but a few inches when I get pulled over. It's far too easy to fool people by pretending to be something you are not. In this case, the attack was well coordinated, and will probably happen again to some other unlucky soul who didn't get the memo. In fact, in another new story (here), the police are chomping at the bit to find these bastards before they can strike again. And why not? Aside from a couple of ethnic descriptions, a boring cargo van, and a well thought-out coordinated attack, it's highly conceivable that these people might strike again.
You want to know what else is disturbing about this, for me? It happened 2 1/2 miles from my house! Yeah buddy! You know I'm watching my back! And this just reaffirms my belief that you should always carry a gun, even in your own house. I made sure to tell my wife about this so she is aware of what could happen on our block. Just today, I decided to carry a little bit more firepower than the LC9, so I broke out the SR9c with my 17rd spare and strapped it on. Mowing the lawn with a concealed weapon on your hip and the 100 lb attack dog watching the back yard gives a sense of security knowing that you can't just be rushed by someone while you're completely unaware.
Now, of course, the best defense is a good offense, and the moment you have to pull your gun, you are not on the offensive anymore. You are playing catch up, and that sucks! Here's some tips to help keep you safe in your home and on your property.
1. LOCK YOUR DOORS! Even if you are home, or working in the yard, it is highly recommended that you lock your doors if you're not going in and out of the house. While it may seem unlikely, it is possible that a burglar could sneak into your home right through your front door when you're screwing around in the garage totally unaware of what's going on outside. Walking into an ambush in your own home is no fun.
2. DON'T GET COMPLACENT! Even when you're doing yard work, or cleaning up the house, or just relaxing, keep your eyes up and your ears open. Be aware of your surroundings. Watch the cars that go up and down the road. Memorize your neighbor's cars and watch for their patterns as they come and go. Be thoughtful of their friend's cars that come and go. Note any suspicious vehicles that go up and down the street or park, especially if the people inside don't get out.
3. NEVER ANSWER A DOOR IF YOU DON'T HAVE TO! Even if the person looks official, you can always call dispatch and ask them to verify that a police officer is in your area. Chances are, if you don't see a police car parked outside, the person isn't legit. Always ask for Identification and deny access if they look shady. Remember, unless a police officer is serving a warrant, they have no right to enter your home uninvited!
4. CARRY YOUR GUN! It would seem appropriate to make this my first recommendation; after all, the message here is about carrying a gun in your house. But your gun is only as effective as you are, and as I said before, the need to draw your weapon means you've already made critical errors in the first place. But as they say, the first rule of getting into a gun fight is to have a gun.
5. WATCH THE SIGHT LINES AND ACCESS POINTS! What I mean is you control access onto your property and into your home. Putting up sturdy fences, locked gates and sturdy doors increases your odds of a favorable outcome, while at the same time decreasing a burglar's chances. If it looks too hard, they will move one. If you make yourself an inviting target, then you're done. Now, some of these things are difficult if you are renting a home, as I am now. But installing gate locks and making barricades can be cheap and easy to do. In my case, sturdy locks are just part of the price you pay for security, whether you rent or own. If you can work it out with your landlord, you might be able to have him or her deduct it from the rent! Or you can just do what I do and put them on because if you're like me, you don't need permission to protect yourself.
6. KEEP YOUR YARD NEAT! Yes, yard work not only makes a man feel good about the home he keeps, but it also gives you the opportunity to walk your property and pay attention to inadequacies in security as well as repair damage from mother nature, stupid kids, or the weaknesses your big-ass dog finds in the back yard perimeter. Yep, my dog's a digger. No doubt!
7. GET A DOG! Seriously, get a dog that would scare the bejeezus out of a fully grown man. My (almost) 1 year old American Akita male does just that. His bark will wake the dead. Every time the pizza guy shows up, I know when he gets here because my dog lets out this big WOOOOOOF!!! He doesn't go berserk. He just lets out a big enough bark to get everyone's attention. And no, do not scold your dog for barking at strangers. Now, of course, if you have a dog that barks all the damn time, he's no good. Fortunately, the American Akita does not bark unless it needs to. Thank god. Otherwise, I'd probably shoot him myself. When we leave the house, we put the dog out in the back yard. Heaven have mercy on whatever person thinks it is a good idea to jump my fence when I'm not home. As for the front, well, when I get my wireless fence installed, then my big boy can be on guard out front too, but only if I'm out there with him because big dogs attract attention, especially big beautiful pure bred American Akita dogs!
8. HIDE YOUR CAR! If your garage can accommodate your car, or cars, then use it. One of the best ways for criminals to know you are, or aren't home, is to see when your cars are there or not. I keep both my cars parked in the garage so anyone driving by doesn't know whether I'm home or not.
9. DON'T TURN ON EVERY LIGHT WHEN YOU LEAVE! I know this sounds kind of counter-intuitive, but turning on every light when you leave is a sure fire way of telling everyone "Hey, I'm gone. Come rob my house!" Seriously, who leaves their bedroom light on all night? I use timer switches for my lights when I'm gone for any length of time, and I tell a neighbor I can trust to watch the property for me. Also, if you have someone in your church or circle of friends that can stop by and check the mail as well as feed your cats, then that's an asset too.
10. LASTLY, TRAIN YOUR KIDS! Kids can be the worst when it comes to answering the door, or the phone, or when someone comes up to them. My parents used to play this old VHS Winnie the Pooh movie called "Too Smart for Strangers" for me when I was 5-6 years old, and I still remember that really dumb song that they sing every time Christopher Robin would snub a stranger offering him a ride or candy or some other thing. But the lessons are valid even as an adult. Never let your kid answer a door without you present, and train them NOT say you're in the shower or at the store or some other damn thing. When they get old enough, teach them to use a gun and know where they are. I can hear the protectionists screaming at their computer screen now! But when I was a kid, Dad told me where the guns where, how to use them, load them, and if need be, shoot a burglar. There was a report of a 12 year old doing just that. He grabbed Daddy's AR15 and went to work on a burglar that invaded his home when he and his younger brother were there alone.
Okay, enough ranting. Be safe, and pay attention to what's out there. This world isn't safe!