Of all the skills necessary to the successful defense of life, the will to live is the first and most important.
On Dec. 7, 2022, a female stranger broke into a woman’s home in Chicago. The two women apparently did not know one another. The homeowner, identified by news outlets only as a 22-year-old licensed concealed carry permit holder, retrieved her gun. The stranger wrestled it away from the resident and shot her in the chest. Despite medical intervention, the homeowner died from her wound.1
The facts in this case are sketchy, as news accounts rarely reveal the full story. But three things are inferable: First, while the homeowner had a concealed carry license, she may have lacked sufficient will to fire her gun at the intruder. Second, she may not have had sufficient home-defense training to give her time and allow her to deploy her weapon. Third, she likely had never given any thought to how she might defend her living space from an attacker and thus, having failed to plan, failed. Let’s investigate each of these inferences.
The Right Training
A homeowner experiencing a home invasion is trained to retreat to a defensible area (such as a bedroom or behind a locked door), place objects in the intruder’s path, issue verbal commands to leave, and call the police. Training emphasizes the use of home alarms, doorbell cameras and other security measures that decrease the likelihood a person will need to deploy his or her weapon. Had that happened in the Chicago home-invasion incident, while the homeowner may have lost valuable items in a snatch-and-grab robbery while she waited behind a locked door for the police to arrive, she would still be alive to mourn that loss.
In a situation where an intruder continues the assault past a locked door, training demands that you shoot to stop the threat, if permitted by law. Here, had the intruder continued her assault past a locked door, it is inferable that the use of force would have been lawful even in heavily anti-gun Illinois. Illinois permits the use of deadly force to defend against a home invasion if, but only if, two conditions are met.
A person is “justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if:
- The entry is made or attempted in a violent, riotous or tumultuous manner, and he [or she] reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent an assault upon, or offer of personal violence to, him [or her] or another then in the dwelling, or
- He [or she] reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent the commission of a felony in the dwelling.”
Home invasion is a felony in Illinois, as is aggravated assault. In the above case, our defender would have been privileged to use deadly force. This is another area in which training and force-on-force practice could have altered the outcome.
Hardening the entrances to the home through the application of better deadbolts and strike plates, the replacement of easily broken glass in doors with harder materials, and similar steps are also part of training for home defense. Good training maximizes the protective value of the homestead in addition to increasing the chances that video is captured that may be used later to exonerate you.
Plan in Advance
Of equal importance to having a firearm in the home, even beyond its safe storage, is having a plan about how to use that firearm against an intruder. What areas of the home offer the best lines of sight to the doors where an attacker might enter? What furniture or fixture (such as a kitchen island) might offer cover or concealment? What if one attacker gets through the hardened door? What if two attackers get through? What if you have attackers at both entrances?
The ability to imagine different possible encounters and plan for them is important. This is because the body cannot go where the mind has not been. The less familiarity a person has with a situation, the less likely he or she is to respond appropriately. This is why every aircraft flight is prefaced with a safety briefing.
Imagining these scenarios is not enough. Walking through them with a blue gun or your firearm (after you’ve rendered it ammunition-free and double-checked it as such) is similarly important. In an emergency, this familiarity will provide both comfort and faster reaction times. And it certainly seems as if our homeowner here did not have the benefit of having a pre-planned response to a home invasion.
Not a Security Blanket
Most people are rational, and rational people evaluate risk prudently. But predators are not rational people. Predators make risk-reward determinations in favor of risk every time they crash through someone’s door intent on violence. A rational person seeing a gun in another person’s hand recognizes the risk; a predator charges the gun and bets he or she can win the struggle. That is why unless a person has the will and mindset necessary to press the trigger when attacked, a gun increases rather than decreases the danger. Here it would appear that the homeowner allowed the attacker to get way too close and get hands on the gun, and, as a result, she lost the contest for the firearm.
A firearm is not a security blanket. It won’t make bad people run away in terror. If a predator senses ambivalence, especially any unwillingness to press the trigger, he or she will capitalize on the victim’s ambivalence and unwillingness and often return the favor by taking the life that saved his or hers.
A firearm is a tool you bring out when there is no other safe way to defend yourself from a deadly threat. Once it’s deployed, there are only two options: Either the attacker runs away, eliminating the defender’s need to shoot, or the attacker moves forward, requiring the defender to place rounds into that attacker. It is not the opening round of negotiations, because a firearm is not a negotiation tool. Warning shots will not stop a predator; they will encourage him or her. It isn’t a means through which you can get a predator to listen to reason because reasonable people do not invade homes. It is a deadly instrument that you do not wish to see turned on you.
What We Can Learn
Part of developing good firearms habits is understanding that possession of a gun makes it more likely you will need to use it. Therefore, your will to prevail — indeed your will to live — has to be sufficient to persevere in any deadly situation. Will to live and a combat mindset — as in “it’s you or your attacker” — are the two keys to survival in a deadly confrontation.
The main takeaway is that the homeowner’s training was either deficient or she disregarded it. Either training did not equip this woman to deal with a deadly threat or she lacked the will to pull the trigger. Either way, the result was tragic.
(1) “Chicago police: Woman with concealed carry license fatally shot with own gun on South Side,” ABC7 Chicago, Dec. 7, 2022, ABC7Chicago.com/chicago-shooting-concealedcarry-woman-shot-with-own-gun-license/12537823/.