Armed Self-Defense is More Effective When You Have Thought About it and Practiced it in Advance

Woman with gun alone dark night

Every situation is different. This week we reported on several violent attacks and each had their own motivation. One was a robbery of personal jewelry. One was drug-related. This story was an ex-boyfriend who was hunting for the victim in her home.

Domestic abuse is common enough, but it becomes particularly dangerous when the victim ends the relationship. This story took place last week in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The single woman was home alone on a Monday night. She heard her ex-boyfriend at the back door of her apartment. Fortunately, her doors and windows were locked. She armed herself and shouted for him to go away. The ex-boyfriend responded by kicking down first the back door and then kicking down the apartment front door as he was looking for the victim. Fortunately, the victim stayed inside her apartment and shot her attacker when he approached her inside.

The defender stopped shooting when her attacker ran away. She stayed inside inside her apartment and called 911 for help rather than chase her attacker down the street. She put her gun away and met the arriving officers with empty hands before she gave a preliminary statement to the officers.

Police arrested her attacker at the hospital where he was treated for a gunshot wound to the abdomen. He was also arrested for an outstanding warrant.

That’s a lot for a defender to have done correctly at about 10:30 at night. While there’s no way to know, it seems likely she’d thought about and practiced defending herself before her ex tried to break in.

We make much better decisions if we’ve thought about what to do before we hear our back door being kicked in. The defender here chose to own a firearm for self-defense. She recognized that her ex-boyfriend put her at an increased risk of violent attack. She kept her doors and windows locked. That forced her boyfriend to break into her home to get to her.

The area where this happened is full of small homes and duplexes when you look on Google Street View. That means there were probably a number of earwitnesses who heard the attacker breaking down the doors. Some of the neighbors might have heard the victim shout for the attacker to stop and go away.

It looks like the defender stayed inside her home and out of sight, even after the attacker broke through the back door. Here ex then broke through the defender’s front door as he searched for her. The defender then shot the attacker rather than let him get close to her. She also stayed inside her apartment as her ex left.

There are several things we can do to be safer, but they are seldom covered in news reports. It’s relatively cheap to add some motion-activated lights at our front and back doors. Motion-activated security cameras will now link directly to our phones. Either of these are considerably less expensive than buying a firearm.

While they’re only paper and frequently do nothing to stop a determined ex, it’s also a good idea to get a restraining order so it’s clear that the ex was supposed to keep their distance. The process of getting an order varies from state to state, but in Pennsylvania it appears to be relatively simple. If you can afford an attorney to advise you, that makes it even easier. If you don’t know where to start, most police officers can advise you on how the process works in your area.

Again, a restraining order won’t stop an assault, but it helps establish who was the aggressor. In most cases, the judge’s order requires that the attacker be jailed if he is found near the victim.

If you can, it’s best practice to lock yourself in a safe room even though your attacker may have broken down your door. Ideally you have a panic button on your phone so you can quickly call the police.

Doorways and stairways are easy areas to defend. Crouching behind your bed with your gun pointed at the locked bedroom door makes it very hard for an attacker to get to you. As simple as that defense sounds, it’s easy to overlook it after you’ve heard someone break down your door. That’s the huge advantage of walking through a plan in your home before something bad happens.

Creating a plan and practicing it results in habits. You’ve gone through those motions before so they’re familiar in the middle of the night when time is short and your adrenaline is pumping. You already know where to go and what doors to lock. You know who to call. You also know when to shoot because you’ve made that decision ahead of time.

Facing an attacker is hard enough that we want every possible advantage on our side.


This article originally appeared at Slow Facts Blog and is reprinted here with permission. 

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