I’ve always wondered why the gun lobby seems to keep sending us the message that a gun is the best way to ensure personal and home safety. Strike that– I know why they send the message: the gun lobby sells guns. Despite the fact that having a gun in your home increases your risk of gun-death, somehow we buy into the belief that being safe = gun ownership. However, this idea that your two options are (a) own a gun or (b) be unsafe, is a case of false binary options (or the fallacy of an excluded middle).
The truth is, you can live relatively safely without owning a defensive firearm– millions of us find a way to do so.
Here’s 5 things to keep in mind:
1. Invest in a home security system.
What’s the best way to be safe from a potential attacker inside your home? Um… make sure that a potential attacker can’t get in.
Basic steps like locking doors and windows and having a decent security system serve as a strong deterrent for a break-in. Like water, they want to take the path of least resistance– if it’s a random break-in they’ll likely move along when they realize that getting into your house is too much trouble.
Of course, if someone is set on murdering your entire family specifically, they’ll probably find a way around it. But seriously, who have you pissed off that they’d want to purposely murder your whole family? Unless you’re in the mob or are responsible for having someone in the mob sent up the river, the likelihood that someone is plotting to kill your family is probably slightly lower than the chances of you winning the lottery.
2. Use situational awareness and trust your instinct.
In the military we constantly had the concept of “situational awareness” drilled into our heads, and I still use it on a daily basis– especially since random, mass shootings are part of the every day news. In essence, situational awareness is just developing the habit of paying attention to what is happening around you, and trusting your instinct if something feels wrong.
In a store and see someone who is acting really suspicious? Trust your instinct and remove yourself from the situation– there’s no harm done in walking away from a scenario that has raised red flags in your mind, even if you’re just being abundantly cautious. The worst that could happen would be that you were slightly inconvenienced, but being situationally aware and trusting your gut could in fact help you get out of a bad situation before it happens. In fact, one study suggested that carrying a gun makes you more prone to being the victim of violence because one gets over confident and doesn’t listen to their instinct when it says “flee this situation.”
3. If you are ever mugged/robbed, stay calm and quickly comply.
Let’s say the ultimate happens– you’re walking down the street and someone stops you and demands your wallet. Realize chances are good it’s just a simple robbery, and that at the end of the day they have the same goal as you: go home alive. They probably don’t want to skip from 5 years for armed robbery right up to life without parole, unless you give them a reason to do so. It’s just like having a bee land on your arm– chances are, their intention is to fly away and leave you unharmed, but if you try to go on the attack first, they’ll feel forced to respond.
Remember: there’s nothing inside your wallet that can’t be replaced. It’s just money and plastic, so whatever you do, be cool.
4. Consider non-lethal measures to stop an attacker.
So let’s say they’re not there for your money, but intend to harm you. First things first: a gun wouldn’t be a sure bet anyway. I was an expert marksman in the military (qualified marksman in both US military and German army), and shooting a moving target while you’re in a state of panic, being attacked, and can’t think clearly anyway is far from a sure thing. Even with all of my training and firearm competency, I would be hesitant to trust myself to shoot accurately in a panic situation. Also, a recent article in the Journal of Preventative Medicine concluded that defensive gun ownership offered no real statistical benefit compared fleeing or calling the police.
But if you must, consider something like pepper spray. A blast of pepper spray is more likely to hit the target, will often give you enough time to escape, and will not cause long-term harm to your attacker or innocent bystanders (love your neighbor, love your enemy). However, non-lethal physical force should be a last resort, and done realizing it might further escalate the scenario. Your best bet is to always look for a way to physically flee the situation or to put physical barriers between yourself and an attacker.
5. Never escalate an argument with a stranger (or anyone, really).
We live in a world of hot-heads. Thanks to America’s plethora of guns, a wise assumption is to consider the hot-head you’ve encountered has a gun on them. Many deadly situations aren’t robberies or intended murders, but arguments that escalate until one law abiding citizen pulls out their legally purchased firearm, and shoots someone dead. The best way to win a gun fight is to completely avoid one— so avoid any provocation or escalation with others.
Someone cut you off in traffic? Don’t tailgate them for six miles and then give them the finger. This is America, which means there’s a good chance they might shoot you. Someone bumps into you while you’re walking through a crowd? Don’t get in their face and start yelling at them. Or, if you’re on the other end of those scenarios: don’t argue back. When a situation becomes escalated, the risk for it to turn deadly can increase by the second. If you want to live relatively safe without packing a gun, flee from any sort of conflict that could quickly get out of hand. NEVER add fuel to the fire. It’s just not worth it– walk away.
Gun or no gun, there’s never a guarantee to our safety. However, there’s plenty of simple things you can do to live safely and wisely, without hauling around a defensive firearm. It simply requires thinking a bit more creatively.