Saturday, December 23, 2006

Self-defense and Firearms

Over the last few months I've been asked about this topic by increasing numbers of folks, so I'm going to address it for the uninitiated, people who do not have any meaningful information. I am not going to write a treatise on this nor advocate it, I'll simply provide some information.

I'll start off with the most basic concept, a firearm is a weapon, it is not a threat, it is only ever pointed in a direction with the full intent to fire it or that it may fire. This is absolutely basic to safe handling and to an understanding of the meaning of owning one for self-defense. It is an absolute disqualifier to own a firearm for self-defense if taking a life is impossible, firearms are lethal, if you point a firearm at someone you intend to shoot them. Circumstances may intervene, the person may surrender or flee, in which case it is no longer necessary to fire, but there is no such thing as a standoff or negotiation, what you are holding is just as lethal for you if it is taken away from you. Shooting to wound is nonsense, no one is able to do such a thing, in a life threatening situation pointing at body center you would be doing well to actually hit the body. If that is something you could not do, do not have a firearm for self-defense, figure out a different strategy.

It is important to know the laws regarding ownership and use of a firearm. Do not think you have a general understanding, know them. These laws vary from state to state and in some places from city to city. The NRA offers self-defense courses to the public, this is an important resource for anyone thinking of self-defense ownership. You neither have to join NRA nor subscribe to their politics to take advantage of a course which is recognized by most law enforcement who frequently participate.

It is very important to know safe handling of a firearm, it is not rocket science, but it can save a life and avoid property damage. It is also important to be competent with a firearm, this does not mean trying for a competitive shooting level, it does mean knowing precisely how the firearm works and being able to shoot what you intend to in adverse conditions. No self-defense situation is conducive to accurate effortless shooting, in almost all cases it would involve conditions detrimental to good shooting. Heart rate, breathing control, light, target are all not in favor of shooting and worst of all, judgement is impaired. A person's own senses conspire against them, time, spatial orientation, tunnel vision, visual acuity are all affected by high stress levels. The high miss ratio police officers experience is instructive for a layman.

Television, movies, and urban myths about firearms abound. Knock down power is one. No, a pistol, rifle, or shotgun will not knock down a full grown man. People do not fly through the air, a bullet exerts less force on its target than the firearm exerts on the shooter. It is simple physics, for each action there is an equal and opposite reaction. A big gun is not better simply because it is big, if a person cannot handle the recoil it is too much gun. Because guns don't knock people around or kill them instantly in most cases, the ability to fire again is more important than the size of the bullet, and this assumes you hit your target with the first shot. A fatal injury will not cause a person to "drop in their tracks," many a deer shot through the heart has run hundreds of yards, the same is true of humans, the body is a very durable thing. How far into or through something a bullet will go is dependent on many factors, primarily how fast it travels and how much it weighs and its construction. A .32 ACP hollow point has been known to be almost stopped by heavy clothing. A person buying a firearm for self-defense should consult with someone who knows about the subject, forget about movie magic.

The most usual scenario for firing a weapon in self defense involves shooting indoors in bad light. There are two guaranteed results of firing a gun indoors in bad light, you will be deafened and blinded. The impact of the sound waves on your ears in an enclosed space is huge, your ears will ring and hiss for hours, immediately after firing you would be unable to hear someone stomping their feet. The muzzle flash in darkened conditions will be similar to a flashbulb going off in front of your face, you are looking directly at the flash when you fire.

The decision to own a firearm for self-defense is a very personal one, I have tried to point out some of the factors involved, each person is the best judge. It is important to note that small children, mysteries, and firearms are not a good combination, there are good strategies for dealing with this, but it must be dealt with. It is absolutely necessary to deal with firearms from the stand point of reality and not myth. No one who is afraid of a gun should ever handle one without supervision and if the fear persists, it should be left alone by that person. Finally, the quality of the outcome of using a firearm in self-defense is entirely questionable, the very best is if the offender surrenders or runs away, from there it starts to get bad. The decision to own a self-defense firearm is a very serious one and should be made with good information and a solid self-awareness.

4 comments:

Scott Hughes said...

Great post! A firearm (or any weapon) is just a tool. Tools can be used for good or bad. Tools can be used to victimize people. Tools can also be used to help people, such as defending them. Let people have their tools. Make victimization illegal, no matter what tools are used.

Thanks,
Scott Hughes
Self-Defense, Safety, & Security Blog

convicted in oregon said...

You may want to point out that in oregon although the law states that you have a right to defend yourself and your property that in Polk County Oregon that law does not apply. You will be convicted if you attempt to protect yourself on your own property from a criminal that is trespassing and attempting to assault you. It does not matter that it is on your own property, that the person is threatening to kill you or that you are disabled you are told to run from any assailant and that you do not have a write to self defense under any circumstances.

mark said...

These laws vary from state to state and in some places from city to city. The NRA offers self-defense courses to the public, this is an important resource for anyone thinking of self-defense ownership. You neither have to join NRA nor subscribe to their politics to take advantage of a course which is recognized by most law enforcement who frequently participate.to know self defense training. and weapons training. to the following web site
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Ralph Charlton said...

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