Last week I wrote about the priorities of training, with ongoing situational awareness and realistic analysis of your individual risk factors as potentially even more important than your gun handling skills, vital as those are. This week I’d like to start with one of the specific risk factors and some of the things that can be done to avoid problems and improve one’s overall readiness to respond appropriately if and when the trouble you don’t want comes along anyway.
Do you live alone, or spend a good part of your time at home alone? Do you travel alone, staying in motel or hotel rooms and eating out alone? Do you find yourself alone at night in strange neighborhoods and parking lots because of your work or other obligations? Do you ride a bus or take a commuter train, subway or other public transportation?
It used to be quite safe to go out, even in the city. Children used to be safe playing on the street in town until almost dark, and we keep hearing that the total crime rate in the country has decreased, but always remember that if YOU or your children are attacked, that “rate,” for YOU, just went to 100%. If there is any significant gang activity where you live, work or travel, the “rate” for the whole country is meaningless. The risk is relative to the actual conditions in the area, not the statistics used by police. Remember that not all crime is even reported, especially in urban areas.
Take some significant time to think about it, and the serious advantage any of that might give to someone who wants to rob or harm you. And this goes for some men as well, though they will not be nearly as vulnerable as women and elder or disabled people generally.
Can you visualize your own potential points of vulnerability? Can you truly maintain awareness all around you, all the time? Can you split your attention and watch your back when you are bent over taking the mail out of the box on the corner, or unloading groceries from the car in the driveway? Do you have a cat, and have you ever wandered in the ally at night, looking and calling for it? Ever rush out to the trash can in the evening, thinking only about getting supper on the table before your husband or the kids get home? Even if you carry during the day… are you still armed at that point? Why not?
A well lighted parking lot is a whole lot better than a dark and deserted one, for sure, but it is not therefore automatically “safe.” Especially in a city, it is not at all unusual for people to be mugged or otherwise attacked in broad daylight in such places. If you are distracted loading purchases or unloading luggage, you may present an inviting target if you are all alone and there are no other people nearby. In some cities, even the presence of other people is no deterrent. Remember those who have been raped and murdered with the bystanders merely looking on, maybe not even caring enough to call police.
Being armed won’t help you much if you are surprised and overwhelmed before you are aware of the danger. The attacker isn’t going to give you any warning if he can help it.
When you are inside the house, do you faithfully lock your doors and lower floor windows? Many stories about home invasions indicate that the aggressors walked right in or climbed in an open window. Even worse are the incidents where the ultimate victim answered the door and let the perpetrator in themselves. Yes, being armed and trained to respond is a big help in that case, but I think anyone can see that the resulting confrontation might never have happened if some basic precautions had been taken.
Locked doors and other physical barriers, alarms, are most important when you are in the shower, sleeping or otherwise occupied in some way that limits your ability to respond to the sounds and signs of an intrusion.
So, what CAN you do?
First, the most important rule of avoiding trouble is not to be there in the first place. Plan your work, your trips and other activities so that you are not out alone – at night especially – and likely to find yourself in vulnerable situations to start with. This is particularly true for women, the elderly and those with disabilities. It might well be very inconvenient or more costly, but it might save your life. If you must go, you might get a friend, family member or co-worker to go along with you. Just be sure to take someone who is also willing and able to be situationally aware, and preferably also armed!
Get a dog, or even several. Not a yappy lapdog, and probably not a giant bruiser, but a decent size dog that will bark at people who come up the sidewalk or ring the door bell. Don’t get one that barks at every car on the road or passing butterflies… you’ll soon ignore it. And if you think you want an attack dog, I’d advise you to look at the cost of liability insurance first. Most of us just need that little bit of warning, and the understanding that a barking dog may well send a potential robber on his way unseen and unknown to us. I take my dog with me most of the time when I leave home as well, and he is very good at discouraging anyone from thinking about opening the car door. While I seriously doubt he’d bite anyone even then, he simply gives them a good reason not to chance it. He’s also alert to the presence of strangers when I’m busy loading groceries or buying gas. You don’t always need another human to watch your back!
Electronic distraction is a growing modern problem. The other day I watched in utter astonishment as a young lady walking down the sidewalk in town bumped into a light pole and nearly fell off the curb into traffic, simply because she was so busy talking on her little phone that she forgot to watch where she was going! Just imagine a mugger seeing her like that. He would see an ideal potential victim.
The better you think about these things, the better you plan and arrange your life to avoid potential problems, the less likely you will ever need to use lethal force to defend yourself. And, for me, that is the ideal. I hope and pray that I never have to shoot someone in self defense again.