How far should I go to protect my family?

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Image courtesy Chicks With Guns
One of the weirdest conversations I’ve had as an adult was the time my husband and I talked about safety in our new home. There had been a few home invasions in the area, where men had entered houses at night and demanded money or delivered pistolwhippings. Our conversation wandered from deadbolt locks to mace to, “What if we got a gun?”

We’d never discussed gun ownership before — and I don’t have many opinions on guns, other than I like shooting my dad’s .22 at hay bales. So my head reeled a little bit when hub said, “I’m just not sure I feel comfortable with what owning a gun for self-defense would mean — that I’d have to accept that any time I might pull the trigger I might kill another person.”

The question just rolled around in my head for a few months, until Lindsay McCrum’s book Chicks with Guns came out. It’s a collection of portraits of American women and their firearms, and it’s…diverse.

To have a gun or not to have a gun is a strange conversational space for a woman. Women with firearms are still sort of a novelty — even in the Midwest, I see at least one human interest story a year where a local news crew talks about some lady who likes to hunt. The thought! At the same time, one of the few people I know who owns a gun is my lady housemate (even though she doesn’t keep it here).

In popular culture, the talk about women and guns often centers on how we should use “less-lethal” methods to protect ourselves because our weapons are likely to be turned against us, and that’s sometimes as deep as it goes.

That conversation happened months ago, and I’m still not sure if I’m comfortable with owning a gun. Of course, I know deep down in the heat of a scary moment I might feel differently, but right now I don’t know if I trust myself enough to make the right decisions when adrenaline is pumping and fight or flight decisions are happening. I don’t know if I could own a gun, knowing that I might kill somebody with it, whether they “deserved” it or not.

Image courtesy Chicks With Guns

For now, we’ve decided we’d rather not have a gun in our house because we aren’t ready for that commitment. Have you had this conversation at home? Did you have any weird adult realizations when you did? Dish.

Comments on How far should I go to protect my family?

  1. I don’t have a solution here, just an experience to share. I had a similar conversation with my boyfriend before we moved into an apartment together. Although we had both lived outside of our parents’ homes for years, this felt like a more “permanent” situation, I guess. Unlike our college years, we were starting to have possessions that someone might consider worth breaking in for.

    I grew up on a farm with men and women in my family hunting, target shooting, and collecting antique weapons. Somehow, I turned out to be not only a terrible shot, but pretty uncomfortable firing a gun. It actually, embarrassingly, makes me tear up to even fire a handgun at a target.

    My boyfriend, who hunts occasionally, had mentioned he was considering purchasing a handgun to keep at the apartment. I’d always figured eventually there would be rifles in our house because there always were growing up and how else would you get venison? But never a handgun. I wasn’t totally against the idea, but it did make me uncomfortable. For me it was the difference between the two types of guns, one was for hunting and one was for potentially shooting another person.

    I remember only once growing up seeing my dad grab his rifle to have a conversation with some strangers who had walked into our far-back from the road yard. That was the only defensive thing I’d ever seen my dad do with a gun. And somehow, it was like he could have just been out taking care of a rabid opossum and happened to have his rifle on him.

    I never finished the conversation with the boyfriend. There isn’t currently a gun in our apartment. Might be eventually. I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

  2. You don’t have to kill someone with a gun…you can simply disarm/immobilize them if you take the proper training. You can also get a lazer sight which puts a colored dot exactly where you are aiming. If you get a gun a suggest spending a good deal of time at the local gun range to get used to shooting it. Whatever you do for home safety you should be prepared to use and feel comfortable with because 2 am when a stranger is coming in the window is not the time to learn how to take a trigger guard off or try to find the panic button on your alarm system

    • This was not how I was trained. If I am pointing a gun at someone, I am going to try and kill them. That is what guns are for. “Disarming/imobilizing” them is very unlikely – either they will be injured/enraged but mobile, or they will be dying. There’s not a lot of middle groud.

      For that reason, I won’t keep a gun for self defense. It’s unlikely I could get to a gun, load it, and be prepared for a home invader, and it’s much, much more likely that it will be involved in a accidental shooting or a spur-of-the-moment suicide than to protect my family.

      • Agreed. If you want to just immobilize someone, get a Taser, I guess. You should never shoot anything you aren’t prepared to kill. (You should never POINT your gun at anything you aren’t prepared to kill.)

        • This a billion, billion times. Guns are meant to be lethal. You don’t point one at anyone or anything without the intent to kill them. They are not meant to “disable” and generally, I think people who assume it would be easy to disable someone with a firearm may get the wrong impression from television and/or have never shot a handgun. Even with years of practice, they will still never be “point and click” unless someone is an exceptionally talented shot. You have to be prepared to kill if you point a gun at someone because, even if you’re aiming for their kneecaps, there is the very strong possibility you will miss and hit something more vital. If you’re not prepared for that, you don’t need to own a gun, plain and simple.

          • I have a different perspective on this. Growing up with hunters and guns, I was always taught this lesson:

            “A gun is a tool for killing things. However, if you have the option to seriously injure instead of killing, take it. You shouldn’t pick up a gun at all if you aren’t okay with the idea of killing another living thing, but that does not mean you should always go for a kill shot.”

            There is one thing guns have over tasers: distance. If I have a gun pointed at my face from across the room, how in the world is a taser or pepper spray going to protect me? They are useless. I will probably get shot and killed before I even get halfway there.

            I hope I never have to use a gun for self defense against another human being (I did have to kill a coyote once, though). However, if another person comes into my house with the intention of killing me, it will even out the playing field. Many criminals admit that they will back off if they find out the victim has a gun. I am prepared to shoot should I be in that situation, but I am also prepared to try my best not to take life if I can help it. I will try to hold the fort and wait for police to arrive for as long as I can.

            Just because I have a gun does not mean I have to kill people. It is a last resort weapon only.

      • shoot to kill and be ready to be responsible for whatever you do but if you shoot to maim or incopassitate you yourself could be hurt and honestly with how messed up this country is your burgalar could try to sue you for hurting them and win look it up it blows my mind and ticks me off to high hell but its the truth if your that afraid and KNOW beyond any doubt this person is going to hurt you SHOOT TO KILL im sorry to put it like that but its the cold hard truth it makes me sad but its what you should do to protect your life and your children etc.

        • you would think that, and i would honestly love it to be true, but a man sued (and won!!!) the owners of the house he was breaking into because he fell through the sky light and landed on a kitchen counter that had knives on it and cut himself up…. how he won i have no idea…..

        • I know this isn’t particularly relevant to you, but here in South Africa it is quite common for people to be arrested for protecting themselves. You can CCTV footage of a person breaking into your home, they could have weapon etc etc etc. But if they claim in court that you invited them into your home and made them a victim, the court will entertain the claim. Here, “shoot to kill” is the sad reality with break-ins, because it is very much a case of “dead bodies tell no lies”.
          I don’t know if it is like that in the US (or whereever you are) or not.

  3. We do have a gun in our home. It was not a hard decision. We don’t live in the best of neighborhoods and our house already had bullett holes in it. What we chose was a pistol grip shot gun with the hope of the sound of it being loaded would scare people away without ever firing a shot.

  4. Oh, really interesting! I grew up in a home with lots of guns, a father who loves hunting, and who takes gun safety very seriously. So even though I’ve only fired a gun once in my life (and not because my dad didn’t think it was worth teaching a girl to shoot — he would have LOVED to, but I wasn’t interested), I’ve known Cooper’s rules by heart all my life.

    He wants to get me a gun — for protection, for fun, because he thinks guns make the best presents — but your husband’s description is what I’ve never been able to put into words: I’m just not sure I feel comfortable with what owning a gun for self-defense would mean β€” that I’d have to accept that any time I might pull the trigger I might kill another person.

    I am perfectly comfortable with the idea that sometimes it is OK to kill another person if saving your own life requires it. But it’s a big leap from there to “in that situation, I wouldn’t panic and lose my shit and it would all go to hell.” It’s a leap I haven’t made, yet.

    Also those photos are amazing. I want to look at that book.

  5. I don’t like guns much at all. I’m kind of a pacifist. However, my husband likes collecting guns, so we have about eight in our home. We make an odd pair in that way. I don’t like it, but our compromise is that we are incredibly safe with them. He has taken hunter safety classes (even though he doesn’t hunt) and a concealed carry class (although he never, ever wants to carry). I’ve gone shooting a couple of times to gain a better understanding of the guns. My husband takes a lot of our friends shooting because they are eager to learn more about guns, and I can appreciate that he is sharing a lot of safety lessons along the way.

    Our guns are in a safe in a remote spot in the house, with the ammo stored elsewhere. Every gun has a trigger lock and those keys and the safe key are stored far away from the safe. The guns only leave the safe when he is cleaning them or taking them to the range.

    Because of how we store our guns, they will never be useful for self-defense. Accessing and loading them would take far too long in an emergency. I hope we never feel so unsafe as to need a gun in the nightstand or something like that. We have lots of visitors, including kids (whom we never tell that we have guns, much less where they are). We need to be super vigilant about storage. That’s the challenge with planning to have a gun for defense–for it to be useful, you have to make it accessible. Then it’s far more likely to be used inappropriately or accidentally than it is to be used for protection.

    I wrestle with these ideas a lot, because I hope I never need to use a gun yet I live with someone who sees them as a small hobby. I look forward to reading others’ perspectives!

  6. Never! Never! Never!

    But I have the luxury of living somewhere where I’m statistically safer than I’m guessing many places where other readers live (in Canada). This is also part of the reason I’d never live in the States πŸ™ Sorry if that sounds harsh.

    • I think your view of the States might be a little bit of a generalization. I’ve been passively considering moving to Canada for the last couple years, and one of the first things I did was read a couple Canadian news sites to see what goes on in certain areas in the way of crime. There were just as many murders and acts of violence on those sites as I see on American news sites. The fact of the matter is that crazy people can lurk anywhere, and anyone can be a target. I feel very safe where I live (suburban Chicago), but I still keep my guard up when I go places because it’s the common sense thing to do. At the risk of sounding paranoid, you’re never 100% safe no matter where you are. The world’s a pretty messed up place.

      But I’d still like to move to Canada someday. πŸ™‚

      • I’ll totally agree that it’s a huge generalization to assume Canada is safer: I won’t walk alone at night in downtown Halifax, but my American roommate, from small-town Vermont, is used to safety at night.
        But as a journalist and an editor, I’ll say that checking local media sites is not really the way to go if you want to get a sense of an overall crime rate. The fact is that crime sells papers (although that’s not a discussion I want to get into) and that no matter where you go there will be extensive media coverage of bad news. The media is hugely selective and does not necessarily paint an accurate overall picture of a country, unfortunately.

        • That’s also true. It just seemed like the commenter above me was basing his/her views on the States only on what’s reported in the media — which, as you said, always reports the bad news — so it seemed only fair to point out that Canadian media also report the bad news. There are lots of lovely, super-safe towns in the U.S., just like there are some not-so-safe places in Canada (and every country). Like I said, you’re not 100% safe anywhere. You just have to use common sense and be aware of your surroundings. And maybe learn to kick some ass, as I’m now inspired to do after reading Cat’s link. πŸ™‚

        • Exactly. And, if you look at statistics, overall, Canada is safer than the States. So it may be a generalization, but it’s true. It’s just that statistics at the national level don’t necessarily mean much at a local level.

      • Yep I agree! That was a generalization! I certainly don’t feel safe in some areas of big cities here, like anywhere. I avoid certain streets not too far from my home, mostly to avoid harassment as a woman but partly for a legit fear for my safety.

        I guess I was thinking more about gun culture in general. It’s simply smaller in Canada. It does exist, but not in my (mostly urban) circles. Like the commenter in the UK talked about, the attitude to guns in the US is historical and constitutional (right?), so it’s restricted to the US to a large extent. I do feel generally safer in Canada not necessarily due to statistics of home invasions, etc but because of the lack of gun culture. I NEVER think about if someone I meet in the street or who knocks on my door has a gun on him because it simply doesn’t occur to me. And for good reason.

        It would never ever occur to me or my male or female friends to own a gun unless we were on a farm, so the fact that this issue is coming up on this site says something about the US-base of this site. Which is fine! It’s just interesting to me. I do however have one American friend from Wisconsin who misses her rifles! I was (naively) shocked when I heard about that! And I judged her on it.. I’m rethinking that now after reading all this cause it seems more normal than I thought.

        • Well now that you’ve clarified, I agree completely. I forget sometimes that the whole gun culture is largely an American thing, and it’s definitely something that makes me nervous as well.

        • I’m American and it would never occur to me or any of my friends to own a gun, either. But that wasn’t true when I lived in a rural area–plenty of people had guns there. I wouldn’t be surprised if someday you meet someone from rural Saskatchewan who also misses her rifles…

      • I lived blocks from one of the most dangerous cities in the US (Camden, NJ) for a few years. Not to make light of the crime that does happen, but it’s not like you walk around and there are murders and muggings going on all over the place. I left my windows open (not unlocked, but OPEN) regularly, and nobody ever broke in (not the smartest thing, I know). No matter where you live, there’s a certain amount of common sense safety precaution everyone should abide by. Be aware of your surroundings, don’t make yourself a target, and stay out of the worst neighborhoods.

    • To an extent, I agree. I am a Canadian too. However, I live in the 4th or 7th (I forget which) highest murder rate cities in the country! But our gun violence is extremely low (while stabbings are the “preferred” method of violence). And whenever you do hear about gun violence, it’s always with illegally obtained weapons.

      The thing that would make me second guess moving to the US (even though I love parts of it), is how EASY it is to get guns. In Canada, it’s a huge process, which I like. I also like that many weapons are illegal here, and that US travellers and immigrants cannot bring their weapons in.

      So while Canada can still be violent, it’s the gun culture of America that I don’t like.

      • It’s easy to get guns in some places, but not all. Every state has its own laws. My home state of New Jersey has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. From Wikipedia:

        In New Jersey, firearm owners are required to get a lifetime Firearm Purchaser card for the purchase of rifles, shotguns or handguns. To purchase a handgun, a separate permit is needed from the local police department for each handgun to be purchased and expires after 90 days. These, like the initial Firearms Identification card (FID), are provided to applicants on a shall-issue basis. They require in-depth application questioning, multiple references and background checks via the State Bureau of Identification and New Jersey State Police; however, authorities do not have discretion and must issue permits to applicants who satisfy the criteria described in the statutes. NJ law states that Firearms Identification approval and/or handgun purchase permit(s) must be issued within 30 days; however, this rule is frequently ignored and permits and/or ID cards often take several months to be issued. Applicants are able to appeal the denial of permits.

        Looks pretty stringent to me. And while there is certainly a “gun culture” in America, it’s definitely regional. I wouldn’t say there’s much of a gun culture where I live. I’ve known people who hunt, but I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen a gun with my own eyes in the 33 years I’ve lived here (not including police officers).

        • I don’t know much about Canada but I live in Virginia close to Washington, DC. DC which has very strict gun laws but has A LOT of gun violence. This is likely because its nestled in between 2 states that aren’t as strict. Despite being in close proximity to DC and the fact that its easier to obtain guns in Virginia, there aren’t that many places I truly feel uncomfortable in while in Virginia at least.

          • I don’t know if I’d blame the intensity of gun laws (and their variance from state to state) as much as the huge black market. I bet if you were looking for a gun and asked the “right” (read: wrong! very bad!) people, you wouldn’t have to deal with any red tape, so long as you could manage to get to someone’s car trunk with a couple of bucks.

        • Totally agree that it’s regional. I’ve known a couple of hunters (friends’ dads), but have never actually SEEN a gun in someone’s home, including when I lived in Iowa. In the Northern coastal cities I’ve lived in for most of my life, I think gun ownership pretty uncommon and (to counter one of the comments from Canada) whether or not someone has a gun is certainly not something I ever feel I have to think about.

          Though, to be fair, I did know one Wall St guy in Manhattan who collected all kinds of ridiculous weapons (including things like Uzis), but he was a fucking psycho and apparently acquired them illegally.

  7. We have guns in our house. For protection, for fun (.22), and for hunting. I don’t have any issues with that.

    What would be awesome would be a roundup of “how to have a gun safe in your house without looking ridiculous/like you live in Cabellas.” Def. offbeat.

    • We had a gun safe in our house growing up. It totally looked like we lived in Cabella’s. I think the thing may have been purchased as Cabella’s! It had a really complicated combination, which would have made it impossible to open quickly in an emergency, and it just screamed “I CONTAIN ALL THE GUNS AND JEWELRY AND IMPORTANT PAPERS IN THE HOUSE! IT’S ALL RIGHT HERE!!!” Fortunately, it was wayyy too big to be carried off by robbers. But if I had a gun safe these days, I’d want it to be more inconspicuous.

    • My parents have a gun safe for my dad’s hunting rifles. It’s in a closet in their bedrooom. No one knows that behind the closet door there aren’t more clothes but a big ass safe. I realize this isn’t a solution for most people.

    • We have our giant gun/other stuff safe bolted to the concrete floor in our basement. It’s not going anywhere and very few people ever go to our basement. We have smaller handgun safes in our bedrooms, but they’re just inside drawers or behind books.

  8. My husband is a veteran and loves to target shoot. It’s turned into a hobby since he did so much of it in the Army. We have what is essentially an assault rifle in our home (and he’s getting another one for Christmas from yours truly).

    For my part, guns scare the living sh!t out of me because I didn’t grow up with them, and my father is pretty terrified of them too. But when Rob bought his gun, despite my tears and panic attacks, he had me fire it at the range and understand the safety concerns that go into gun ownership. Gun safety is extremely important to him. He told me that if we were going to have such a powerful object in the house, I best know how it works and how to respect it. He has said many times that when we have children we will (1) have locks on it and (2) teach them the importance of gun safety and respect.

    So while I hardly ever touch the thing (and when I do I clear it about 17 times) the idea of its existence in my home does make me feel somewhat safer, as we live in a rural area that has a lot of drug-related robberies. My husband has said many times, however, that one should not confront a burglar with it unless one is prepared to shoot them, because once you hold a gun up to someone they are at that point threatened, and may use any weapons against you to protect their own skin. I think that if I were alone and a burglar came into the house I’d hide under the bed and hope for the best, quite honestly, haha!

    I think if neither of you are 110% comfortable with holding a gun, you shouldn’t own one, period. They require a lot of respect and knowledge and there are a lot of things at stake should you ever find yourself needing to use it. I’m sure there are gun safety classes you can take where you can hold guns and practice shooting to see if it’s something you’re comfortable with.

  9. i went from a gun hater to a collector in a few short years. owning a firearm in Baltimore, to me, is a no-brainer. i live in a “nice” part of town, but break-ins are a daily occurrence in my area. going for nonlethal options ONLY works if you’re able to actively escape your attacker – in your home, you should NOT have to escape.

    i’ve talked about this at length in my blog
    here and here, and my SO wrote a post about it here.

    there are things you can do to secure your home from an invader, but those are mostly deterrents. if someone wants in, they’re coming in, and if you happen to be there when they are your life is at risk. the police are not there to protect you, and please remember, if you DO call them and they DO actually come out, they will always be too late. when seconds count, the police are minutes away.

    overall…please, be careful. have exterior lights on your home that light up all doorways. lock all doors and windows, and make sure you have windows that cannot be jimmied open.

    • I respectfully disagree with everything you just implied about my police family. I do agree, though, that the best plan for self defense is to have a plan to defend yourself rather than leaving it to others.

      • I have a friend whose ex-husband is a police officer. He has stated that the job of the police is to catch criminals, not prevent crime. “To ‘protect and serve’ is just PR.” Now there are, no doubt, plenty of officers who will risk their necks to stop a crime in process, but I doubt he is alone in his view that that is not actually his job.

      • This was NOT meant as an insult, but what is now considered legal precedent. Individual officers are a different matter completely. On the whole, the police exist to keep the peace, NOT to help individuals, and in my little microcosm it’s rare to encounter an officer who’s actually worth his meager salary. I met one when I lived in an apartment, and I wish I’d bothered to get his name…he really cared about his job and cared about keeping people safe. When we had a break-in in our building he made a point to check on me since I was the only single lady in the building, and he wanted to make sure I felt safe.

        I fully respect officers who do their jobs, do them well, and actually treat people properly. I do not respect officers/entire police forces who refuse to investigate whole categories of crime. Last year, Baltimore police refused to investigate rapes, and frequently refused to fill out paperwork after victims reported it. For every good cop, there’s a crapload of bad.

    • While I am fully prepared to shoot an intruder if it came to that I did purchase a pump action shot gun so that hopefully the noise would scare the person off before it came to that. Even the gun store owner said that the sound of a pump action shotgun being cocked is usually enough to scare anyone away!

  10. it just occurred to me that my previous comment breaks the rules. i seem to be on a roll with that. πŸ™ my whole point, in a nutshell: the cops don’t have to protect you. there is now legal precedent showing this (look up Warren v. District of Columbia for more info). even if the cops do come out, they’re always minutes away when seconds count the most. if you’re in an area where you’re questioning your safety, decide how far you’re willing to go to protect a loved one who may be staring down the barrel of a gun. would you kill to protect them? if so, get trained – yes, both of you – and carefully shop for a firearm. if not, do your best to seem less enticing. secure all windows and doors. have lights outside all entryways, and keep them on all night long. light up the whole dang street if you must. if you buy expensive items, break down the boxes into smaller pieces, and keep them in the trash rather than putting them out for recycling. putting them on the curb is like a neon sign saying PLEASE BREAK INTO MY HOME AND STEAL MY STUFF.

    also, consider a safe for particularly precious items. or consider moving.

    all in all, please be careful.

  11. I own a gun. My dad trades, sells and restores guns and he gave me a little .22 pistol. I don’t have it with my in my apartment because I don’t have a permit, but I would. Would I shoot someone and kill/injure them for entering my apartment? I’ll let you know if (God forbid) I find out.
    My roommate was possibly almost carjacked once (we weren’t sure what the person’s motive was, but they reached inside her cracked window.) That’s really the closest we’ve ever come to a situation in which a gun might be handy, aside from occasional poisonous snakes in/around my parents’ property.

        • again, this is a state-specific thing. in most states one does not need a permit to own a firearm of any kind. to my knowledge (i am not a lawyer, nor am i up on the laws of other states), New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey are the only states that require a permit to own a firearm, but those permits act as concealed carry permits as well. the District of Columbia also requires a permit to own a pistol, but not to own a long gun (and one cannot carry in the District).

          if dootsiebug doesn’t live in one of the aforementioned locations, i’d like to know mostly to update my own list of information.

          • Illinois also has extremely strict laws on who is allowed to own a gun/rifle (old anti-mob laws ala Chicago) and I believe California has strict laws on who is allowed to own a handgun though I don’t recall details since I haven’t been there in years. Illinois requires police/military affiliation I believe. Also, some states like Florida limit where a resident can purchase handguns/rifles and the other 49 states restrict sales to those residents. My husband and I travel extensively so we are constantly having to check gun laws across states and they are annoyingly inconsistent.

      • It’s considered concealed carry to have a firearm in your home within reach here, and it’s against the law without a permit. No one’s going to arrest me for that, but there can be fines if you discharge the gun. I live in an apartment, so a lot of complexes have clauses about firearms in their leases. In a couple of leases I’ve looked at, having one at all in the apartment without a license is grounds for eviction.

        • …whoa. seriously? now i’m dying to know what part of the country/world you live in, because i have only heard that in relation to D.C.

          though i totally understand not sharing, you’ve piqued my curiosity. i think i’ll be googling the answer.

          • Oh, no, more than fine. I’m in Kentucky!
            Quick Guide to the Law
            Kentucky’s law is actually pretty in line with a lot of other states (as far as I’m aware) with concealed carry, though most people just don’t know that it’s like this. They think because they bought it by proper channels and don’t have it under a trench coat, that they’re free and clear under the law. And that’s not quite so! Like I said before… who’s going to get you in trouble for doing what TONS of other people are doing? Probably no one. But in the event of an accidental or intentional discharge, it’s just a bit safer to have a permit!

        • The form won’t allow me to respond to your last comment, but thanks for the information. You’re the first person I’ve encountered who owns a firearm in Kentucky, so I honestly had no idea!

  12. We have two handguns in our apartment and our rifles and shotguns are in a safe at my in-laws. We do go hunting (well more the hubby then me) and we do a lot of target practice. It is fun for us. But the handguns are for protection, both in the home and for when we go camping. Where we live, has one of the lowest crime rates but I wasn’t raised in this area. I was raised in areas where you always locked your doors and did everything you can to keep your self safe (sad to say my father was in the military and military families are not always placed in safe areas). So my hubby and I had the conversation once we had kids. We decided guns provide a good piece of mind. The kids cannot get to them and in a miracle if they could get to them, no way their fingers could undo the trigger lock.

    A little story to show that you need to be comfortable with your gun and what you can do with it: My hubby was out hunting and I was home alone with the kids (including my 16 yo bother). Around 2AM, I was woken up hearing someone in the front of the apartment (by the front door). Once I had the gun in hand and unlocked, I slipped to the kids room and shut/locked the door. I could hear someone moving around between the door and living room/kitchen. I waited until they where by the front door to kick on the light while aiming the gun at the door. The look on my brother and his friend’s face was terrifying. They were getting snacks before they were sneaking out for the evening. I had the 5 boys sit at my dinning room table while we called their parents. The whole time they could not take their eyes off the gun. I told the parents what happen and some can never come over again while others live at my house every other weekend. For me it was terrifying, but I know in my heart if they would of posed a threat to my and my kids, I would of shoot them. No matter what. I did not get any sleep that night and I don’t think any of those boys did too.

    So the point of my story is if you plan on having a gun in your home and plan on using it, make sure you are comfortable with your self in those situations. Split second decisions have to be made and be lived by.

    And in my opinion, this topic is very much a preference thing.

  13. Can I just point out that in the UK we can’t have tasers legally, nor can we arm ourselves with hand-guns. Guns for sport require licensing and proper locked storage, with the exception of air rifles and air pistols. This is a very different question for anyone without such power! It’s been in the news a lot over the past few years, victims of home intrusions in the UK being imprisoned for murder or at least manslaughter for killing the intruders without firearms.

    Seems to me if someone is in your house without permission to commit crimes against you or your family they should be fair game. If you have a gun, your intention must be to kill, or else you wont use it. Guns kill, it’s quite simple.

    • I always forget this! Even though I didn’t grow up around guns, the US has its 2nd Amendment so the idea of not being allowed to have guns seems odd. So odd.

      • See to me, the kind of guns you are talking about are for killing, to want one in your family home seems so odd to me! I do understand the concern about your safety (and the safety of your loved ones) but if it wasn’t so normal for people to have guns maybe there would be less of a threat in the first place. It’s a logical assumption that a western country that allows guns so freely versus those countries that don’t is going to have a higher prevalence of gun related death. Just to add some figures, fire-arm related death rate per 100,000 people per year for United States = 15.22, for Canada = 4.78, and for Wales = 0.38.

        I’d like to add that my dad is a very good marksman who shoots for sport, so I’m used to some form of weapon in the house. I shoot inanimate targets only, and actually feel comfortable with a gun myself, but terrified when your average person ‘has a go’ as they often have no respect for the weapons, no fear, no concept of the consequences if they make a mistake. The thought of those people being able to ‘have a go’ of a hand gun as they can in the US is absurd, and for them to have one they never fire in their home waiting for the day they face an intruder is terrifying.

        • It’s not usually the people that get guns legally that are the problem. Usually the people you are defending yourself against are the note so legal folks. They would get them if they want them anyway.

          • Yes. England has the advantage of being an Island, which gives it far more easily secured borders. Guns are illegal and, as a result, both law abiding citizens and criminals can find them hard to get a hold of. By contrast, as long as guns are legal and prevalent in Mexico, you aren’t going to get them out of the hands of American criminals – just law abiding citizens. This seems counter productive.

            That said, I think getting a gun license should require the same proof of competency as getting a driver’s license. We would have a lot fewer accidental deaths if people were required to know gun safety and maintenance before purchasing a weapon.

          • I realise it’s crazy-impractical but personally I’d like to see people have to prove their compentacy before getting anything that could be easily misused.

            Like for example pass a test to prove you know you have to feed a dog and can’t keep them chained outside 24/7 when it’s below freezing (even if they have fur!) before you’re allowed to buy one.

            Or understand that a mobility scooter is not a weapon and you can’t ram it into closed doors, other people, or strollers to get where you want to be.

            But I’d definately say anything that was actually made as a weapon should be top of the list.

          • Sometimes it is the law-abiding people who are the problem. It seems like, in many mass-shootings, the shooter had no prior criminal record. In many cases, they had the gun legally.

            Not such a problem if you can’t go out and buy a gun.

        • One thing to consider in the “does US gun culture make the US inherently more dangerous” is that although our *firearms* death rates are noticably higher, reports I’ve seen on the BBC have suggested to me that many of the deliberate killings that would use a gun in the US happen with weirder things in the UK. (We’re also perfectly fine with most knives and swords in the US, and don’t have any kind of killing-spree problem with them; that has happened elsewhere, because some loon wanted to kill and found them handy.) And I suspect a non-trivial number of gun suicides would turn into suicides by some other method, although by no means all.

          I’m not suggesting that the gun culture here is perfect, and there are a really heartbreaking number of deaths from accidental firearms discharge here. But a simple head-to-head statistic in firearms deaths isn’t going to get the data that one really needs to judge the effects of gun policy.

          • I know many people don’t agree with Micheal Moore, but his film “Bowling for Columbine” was pretty enlightening. I actually wrote a paper on it in college.

          • Since the UK is considering banning knives, I’d say you’re correct in that assumption. I’d like to see a comparison of all violent crime involving weapons in the US and UK.

            I grew up with guns in the house. My father is a collector as well. I have a couple of guns myself, and feel much safer out here in the country. Our nearest neighbor is a mile away on a twisting gravel road, and drug crime is a factor in our area. Could I shoot to kill someone? You bet. My kids lives come before any home invader.

        • The important measure is TOTAL crime, not gun crime. If guns are absent so people kill each other with baseball bats instead, you haven’t gained anything.

      • Ha! It’s totally the opposite for people who have grown up in countries where you are not allowed to have guns. In Norway, not even the police carry guns (but they sometimes have them locked up in their car).
        I remember the first time I went to London and saw some guards at the airport who were actually carrying huge firearms. That kinda terrified me.

        • Even though I’m from the US, I know exactly what you mean. I lived in New York City before and after 9/11/01, and afterwards seeing police in the subways armed with big automatic weapons was really scary (and made me feel far less safe — especially since some of them appeared to be only like 19 years old). It really creates an (IMO unnecessary) atmosphere of fear.

  14. Wow. (also a uk person) but wow. This whole debate is pretty scary! I have to admit I’ve never looked into home invasion stats (and I’ve grown up in/now live in 2 major uk cities) but from my perspective it seems you’re much more likely to be threatened with a gun if people are allowed to own them. I target shoot with a bow and arrow – not a particularly useful weapon to anyone I hope these days! – but the idea of ever intending to kill someone is pretty abhorrent to me. I guess it must be a cultural thing though – after all guns here have been illegal since I was 10 so that’s all I’ve ever known (and it’s going the same way with carrying knives etc). This debate just highlights how different places can be I guess!

    • Sadly, most people doing the threatening with guns around the US are people who’ve obtained them illegally.

      Some places around the world have had success with banning (whether it be guns, drugs, whatever), but most of the time in the US it either a)has little effect, since where there’s a will there’s a way, or b)creates a bigger problem (ex: underage drinking!).

      To me, the scary part isn’t that people can legally own guns in the US — it’s that so many people feel like they need one for protection.

      • From

        A 1982 survey of male felons in 11 state prisons dispersed across the U.S. found:[21]

        β€’ 34% had been “scared off, shot at, wounded, or captured by an armed victim”

        β€’ 40% had decided not to commit a crime because they “knew or believed that the victim was carrying a gun”

        β€’ 69% personally knew other criminals who had been “scared off, shot at, wounded, or captured by an armed victim”[22]

    • Debs – totally agree. This conversation is kind of freaking me out a little! Like you, I was little when hand-guns were banned. (Trivia fact: the UK Olympic shooting team has to train in Switzerland, that’s how illegal guns are.) Although I do remember when policemen started carrying machine guns in Whitehall – I think that was post-9/11 – that still freaks me out.

      Rifles etc are legal, but have to be kept in a certain way (special locked cabinet, checked by the police once a year, etc, etc). To get a licence you basically have to be a farmer / go hunting, as far as I know.

      Most hand-guns in the UK are (a) converted from replicas, and (b) passed round so many gangs over time that whenever one is found the gun is usually connected with a number of crimes. There are very, very few guns.

      Also, THIS: “To me, the scary part isn’t that people can legally own guns in the US β€” it’s that so many people feel like they need one for protection.” Absolutely, Krista.

  15. we have guns it was never a debate for us though. if someone is willing to break into my home and rob me, they are most likely willing to kill me or my family for what they want and i’m not willing to “hope” that my mace will scare them away. we have guns, plenty of them. my only advice is, get one and get comfortable using it. for us, when it comes down to deciding weather im ok with killing someone who “deserved” it, we have to remember, my family and yours didn’t deserve, what they were planning to do to us/you. rape, murder, kidnaping your children and worse. not worth the risk in my opinion.

  16. I would never in a million years keep a gun in the house. I just wouldn’t feel comfortable doing so. I live in Florida and the area I’m in is pretty safe (and we have a security system). If I felt like I had to have a gun to feel safe, I wouldn’t feel safe, haha.

    We do have some weapon replicas, though. Maybe seeing the Buffy Scythe hanging on the wall would deter some invaders =P

  17. We have quite a few firearms. We’re pretty lax with our gun storage now, as it’s just the two of us and we’re BOTH experienced in firearms and BOTH have the shoot to kill mentality in regards to someone breaking into our house. That will change once baby comes.

    Something that struck me as interesting was the bit about killing someone and whether they will deserve it or not. The bottom line, in my eyes of course, is if someone is breaking into your house, they deserve anything they have coming to them.

    As far as deterrents, we have gun brand stickers on our windows, specifically HK and Remington. People generally know what a Remington is, and anyone breaking into houses better know what an HK is (handgun), their life depends on it. It’s a subtle way of letting people know you’re armed and hopefully deterring them from attempting a breakin, forcing you to use your weapon.

    Also, I’m of the belief that children should be taught gun safety as well. I’m not saying allow your children to play with guns, but the guns should definitely be introduced to them and explained. A lot of gun accidents with children are the direct result of parents saying, “Don’t touch these,” and nothing else, instead of explaining the purposes and dangers and reiterating that they are not toys. There are safe ways to introduce your kids to firearms and the people at gun stores or indoor ranges can help you with that.

    All that said, guns really aren’t for everyone and you do have to be 100% before you own one. Make sure you read all firearm laws for your state. Some states are extremely strict as far as who you can shoot and when. For instance, here in New Mexico, I can shoot a home invader -no problem. In California, I believe I have to fire a warning shot before I can be justified in shooting a home invader.

    Hope I helped!

    • I very much agree with the “don’t touch” approach with kids being dangerous. They need to understand gun safety and the gravity of what happens when a bullet hits it’s target. This is why we use something that reacts, like a watermelon, for target shooting.
      I am a concealed carry permit holder and I do carry openly and concealed. I am also active in our community for maintaining and expanding our gun rights.
      I hope no one that is on the fence about gun ownership ever ends up in the situation where they really wish they had one.
      When I was 15 a neighbor tried to break into our home (single mom with two daughters at home) on three separate occasions. He finally got caught on the third. There is no feeling more terrifying than standing in my hallway with a Louisville Slugger wondering wtf is about to happen or if he is armed? I was really wishing I had something a little more powerful than a baseball bat. This was not nearly the only situation like this in my life.
      Now I have a rapid access handgun safe that I keep in my nightstand and I sleep a whole lot better for it.

  18. While some day I would like to own a gun, I currently don’t. I don’t own one now because it’s a lot of investment. Having a NRA dad, I know I would need the gun, the permit, the safe, the respect and room to clean it (alone), and then if I wanted to have it for home protection I wouldn’t feel safe until I went through concealed carry AND defense classes that teach you to use the gun in scary situations. All of THAT would have to happen after I took it to a range and learned to shoot with it very well.
    It’s a lot of time and money for me to currently give up, because if I’m going to have a gun, I’m going to do it right.
    And yes, you never shoot to disarm, you shoot to kill. Besides giving the person the ability to come after you, they can speak against you in court. It’s a nasty truth that if you’re going to shoot a person, you don’t leave them with the ability to speak against you. You have to live with the idea that not only will you have to kill them, you’ll have to do it to save yourself some legal hurtles.

      • Depending on the state, yes…simply injuring a person in self defense can open a massive legal can of worms, because it becomes a he said/she said game. When the attacker is dead, there’s only one story to worry about.

  19. We just got a big ass dog. We live way out in the country and so it makes me feel VERY secure to have dogs. I also remember watching a few shows on TV where they say the #1 crime prevention idea is a dog. I heard a story on this American Life where the murderers specifically avoided a house because they had a big dog. Just my 2 cents… I would never live without a dog.

    • My house was broken into when I was a kid, and the cop told us that in virtually all the home invasions he responded to, not a single one had a dog. It was VERY rare that he had a home invasion where a dog was present. Most burglars won’t f–k with a dog because of the potential for noise, let alone the potential of the dog attacking them. I have a friend who is a former petty criminal (used to break into houses of people he knew…long story, it’s behind him now) who said that you didn’t want to mess with people who had dogs or guns. That’s one reason I’m very happy to have our little 70-pounder πŸ™‚

      • We had a daytime break-in at our old house (all indications pointed to a neighborhood kid — they mostly just stole alcohol), and the first thing I noticed that something was amiss was the dog pee on the floor. My 12-pounder had greeted the intruder at back door, piddled herself in excitement, and then run to hide.

        I love my little dog, but she is not useful in this particular matter. πŸ™‚

      • I read a statement from a cop that in the city a noisy small dog was preferred to deter housebreakers. But in the country with no close neighbors to alert with barking, a BIG dog was a better deterrent for home invaders. I keep both…and guns in case the meth heads just shoot my dog.

      • I used to have a pitbull who was 55 pounds of lick-you-to-death, and it always cracked me up to see the thuggish looking kids in the neighborhood cross to the other side of the street when they saw us approaching.

        I had to break into my own apartment once when I locked myself out. Dog didn’t even bark, let alone get off the couch. Worst guard dog ever.

        • We have a 90 pound shepherd wolf-looking dog. She is, however, afraid of snakes and only hunts bugs. She is also completely silent. So, when our house was broken into, I don’t think that the person saw or heard her until they had my laptop in hand. Then they ran back out the window with it, without taking the guitars, music production equipment, jewelry, or the other computer. Later, just as the police officer said “who would rob a house with a dog that looks like this?” she walked over, laid down on her back at his feet and started pawing at him to pet her belly. She may have protected our stuff just with her presence, but she’s too sweet to hurt anyone and I wouldn’t want her to get hurt to protect any of our possessions. There is nothing I own that is worth more to me than she is, though I know she would protect me or my husband if it came down to it.

    • We also have large dogs, they sleep in our room and they’re the first people out of our bedroom door if we hear a noise downstairs or if someone starts knocking on our door at 2am. They’re loud and protective, but well-trained. I’d love a gun, but with our gun laws (Aussie) it wouldn’t ever be the first line of defense.

    • Our dogs have honestly been our best home defense as well. We had a rash of break-ins a few months ago, several on our street alone. None of the houses with dogs were broken into. Our dogs aren’t super big (they’re both about the size of large beagle), but they *sound* big and are very vocal when they think something is amiss. Plus our female dog is super territorial and, unless I or my partner greet someone personally when they enter the house, she *will* lunge at them because they haven’t been deemed as “safe.”

  20. Oh, also, for the record, not all gun owners are trigger happy murderers. In fact, legitimate gun owners are the most law abiding citizens you will probably ever meet. It is criminals that give guns a bad rap. Legit gun owners go through a background check etc. Criminal gun owners buy guns illegally.

    Be sure when/if you do purchase your first firearm that you do so through a legitimate dealer and not your brother’s cousin’s uncle. Private sales aren’t illegal, but I think the peace of mind you get from buying from a dealer, all the paperwork, is rather calming and reassuring, especially for your first time.

  21. My fiance and I both have small collections of guns. They always ALL used to be locked up in the gun safe at all times because they are only for target shooting and hunting.

    Well one day I was home alone sitting on our couch cleaning my tiny Sig .22 when a man BARGED into our house yelling about how someone owed him money. My first instinct was to point the unloaded, partially disassembled gun at him. He was too high to realize there was no way this gun would fire. I held him at (useless) gunpoint in my own living room while I called 911, and kept him there until the cops showed up. He had a taser and a knife on him. Turns out he was looking for our next door neighbor who had scammed him in a drug deal (we live in what is considered a fairly safe neighborhood so finding this out was terrifying.)

    I can say two things I learned from that experience. 1) When I am home alone at night (which is often as my fiance works nights) I lock the front door and have one of my hand guns in the same room as me. 2) As a victim of sexual assault I definitely could have shot him. I know that sounds terrible, but I will NEVER go through something like that again and this breaking and entering was close enough to that to make me have nightmares every night for a good while after.

  22. I’m another UK resident so it’s pretty much a non-issue for me.

    But if it was an option I think I’d be put off by a story my friend told me. She’s American and did own a gun. I don’t know the specifics but it was a pistol she bought for protection. She’d grown up around guns, took all the relevant classes, practiced regularly at the range and felt totally confident with it. She was told she was a great marksman too.

    The one time she used it outside the range was as a last resort to try and get rid of a possum that kept getting into her house. She waited in the kitchen for it and when it showed she….panicked, missed, the bullet ricocheted and the doctor at ER told her she was lucky not to lose an eye.

    That was a possum. A possum she was fully expecting to see. Luckily a possum can’t take a gun off you and use it against you after you’ve frozen up or missed.

    To me owning a gun for self defense is in the same catergory as planning to run like hell or go for the eyes if you’re attacked in a dark street. You can have all the good intentions and plans in the world but until you’re actually in that situation you can’t know how you will really react and I’d rather not introduce factors that could make it infinately worse.

    If someone breaks into my home intending to kill me and I’m just hoping I’ll be able to do whatever is neccesary to defend myself they already have a major advantage. I don’t want to give them an extra incentive or the tools to finish the job.

    If they’re not intending harm, if they’re a burglar or whatever I’d rather consider home insurance my protection.

  23. I have no interest in owning a gun only because I don’t trust myself with the practical precautions of storing it. We have a two-year-old, and intend to have another child. My in-laws own guns both for military collection purposes and protection and for shooting off the back porch (they own a farm in the country, turned it into a range), and they’re very serious about gun safety. They have a vault in the basement. Guns are never left loaded, and they’re always in safe places.

    I can barely keep my medication out of reach in bathroom.

    We made an impromptu visit this past week, and the child has spent all day running in circles through their bedroom. When my father in law got home, he remembered that there was a pistol (unloaded) in the bedroom. The child didn’t get into it, and it was quickly moved to a safe location — but the fear that he might have found it, that even if it was unloaded he might make the association of gun as toy is a real concern in our family. I don’t trust myself to treat a gun with the gravity it requires.

    That said, I do think it’s a valid home safety measure if everyone is trained and prepared to do everything necessary to make it safe.

  24. I grew up in a home where my dad had several rifles in a locked gun cabinet. He didn’t have any ammo, and I don’t know if they’d even work (Most were antiques). I do know they weren’t part of the plan for defending ourselves from an intruder.

    I enjoy shooting guns…at the gun range, in a controlled environment…but I would not be comfortable having one in my home, especially a handgun. My husband does have a rifle, but it’s kept hidden and we don’t have ammo for it. This is literally the only issue my husband and I have fought about during our 3 year marriage. He wants to have a gun for protection, and I do not. He says we’ll keep the gun locked in a safe with the ammo hidden in another location. I say, what good is that going to do us if I have to run from room to room trying to load a gun and keep hidden from an intruder?! Plus, my husband is an EXTREMELY heavy sleeper, and he is groggy and disoriented when he wakes up. That’s not the state of mind I want him to be in when handling a firearm.

    I keep a replica sword in between the bedframe and the mattress. It’s not sharp, but it’s heavy and could deal a pretty painful thwack if needed. There’s also a bat in the closet. But honestly, if someone is in my house, I’m going to be trying to get OUT of the house–not thinking of what weapon to use to hit the person.

  25. If you plan on using a handgun for personal protection in the home, please remember that bullets can go through drywall and still be deadly (try not to fire in the direction of otherpeople in your house like children’s or roommate’s rooms). Something a lot of people don’t think about.

    • THIS. A gun was fired in my sister’s neighbor’s apartment. The bullet when through the wall between the apartments, through a door, across the kitchen, and lodged in the ceiling. Very lucky neither my sister nor her roommate were home at the time.

      • A friend of mine (who is admittedly a bit of a gun nut) keeps her “nightstand gun” loaded with something similar to bird shot for just this reason.

        At close range, the shot is still enough to do a heaping amount of damage, but unlike a bullet it’s a lot less likely to hurt someone through drywall.

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