Last week, Nevada Carry had the pleasure of speaking with the residents of the Siena Community Association in the southwest of the Las Vegas Valley. Instructor Mac McAllister of Blue and Gold Firearms Training and I went on a little bit about gun rights and self-defense in and outside the home. Well, Mac went on for a little bit. Me on the other hand…I went on a lot. Let’s just say there is a reason I prefer to write. Anyhow, the crowd was very polite and receptive. Plus the lovely Activities Manager, Chelsee, didn’t cut off my microphone.
Siena residents have been concerned lately with a spike in burglaries and home invasions in the areas. Prefacing our discussion of firearms, Officer Bella Scholes of the LVMPD discussed some very important tips to keep intruders out to begin with. Sadly, I felt a palpable sensation of fear from the crowd. Some residents quite frankly seemed terrified at the prospects of crime. What I tried to relate was that while wariness is appropriate, fear is not. I reminded everyone that for the most part, life in an upper middle class neighborhood is pretty safe. Officer Scholes pointed out that the vast majority of violent home invasions are targeted to homes known to have large amounts of cash or drugs. Gang violence, not a direct threat to most citizens, is also another driver of crime.
Too often, we fear the unknown. Most of us like predictable outcomes. Uncertainty bothers us. The thought of an empty house being cased by burglars is unsettling, when in reality, no one is watching, not even your neighbors staring absent-mindedly out the window. Stories in newspapers and especially on TV (the latter often being sensationalized) paint an inaccurate picture. The same goes for pins on a crime map. What house was targeted? Why?
Most of us have had pretty sedate lives. In my private life, the only time I’ve been a victim of a violent crime was when I was robbed at gun point when the fast food joint I worked at in high school was held up. For most Americans, violence is an exception, not the norm. That isn’t always the same in rural or impoverished communities. Elderly folks tend to be weaker, due to age, and viewed as ‘easy prey’ by criminals. That’s why a firearm in the hands of a trained and confident senior citizen is an equalizing force. While a young man such as myself could take a beating, I know my grandmother could not survive what would likely be a non-fatal battery to me.
Buying guns and taking physical security measures aren’t acts of desperation or a harbinger of a future needs for those things. Having a gun the home won’t cause a burglary any more than owning a fire extinguisher and smoke alarms will cause your house to burst into flames. Guns are for the worst-case scenario; it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Along with that is confidence. A gun in your closet doesn’t magically keep burglars away. A good example is sticking a fake security camera or an alarm system sign in your front yard; let’s hope no one calls your bluff.
Physical security measures do work. Lighting your perimeter denies criminals a place to hide and allows for easier identification. Security cameras can alert you or document evidence for the police. Planting cactus and other painful plants keep people from coming over the wall or at least making them regret they jumped. A hard-target home isn’t going to necessarily make you invincible. The same goes for open carry; “I’m not an easy target. Go elsewhere.” It sounds cruel, as I told one woman, but you really do want them to go to the neighbor’s house.
Despite all these measures, someone can still get in, if they are determined or stupid enough. At that point, all you can do is fight back. We discussed running into another room, shouting “I have a gun,” and firing warning shots. Nevada has no duty to retreat or to give a warning before using deadly force. If someone is breaking into your house for the purpose of offering you or your loved ones physical violence, you can legally shoot them. Read the actual laws on the Self-Defense page and talk to an instructor for more details.
Of course, the whole idea is to avoid the encounter in the first place. Call 911 at the first sign of trouble. Keep your doors or cars locked. Generally, it’s preferable to get your family to a locked room and arm yourself. Let the police clear the house, but you have the right to do it yourself and the right to shoot instead of run away. What do to in a given set of circumstances is impossible to predict beforehand, but if you can reasonably mitigate the outcome away from a shooting, try it, but not at the risk of your life. While civil immunity exists for true self-defense shootings, if you made a mistake, the legal process is a nightmare. Plus, good people tend to feel guilty for taking a life, even when justified.
Las Vegas Metro PD has community policing units that will perform home security evaluations as do most large law enforcement agencies. Even the smaller departments will likely have an officer or a deputy who is happy to talk to you about what you can improve and what is going on in your community. Take advantage of police outreach programs and citizen academies. It’s a wonderful chance to see through the eyes of a cop and really see what goes on in your neighborhood that you don’t see.
To Nevadans and the residents of Siena, don’t be afraid. Be smart, be watchful, and be confident because you took the steps to harden your home and defend yourself. Make it easier on the police by helping them before and after the fact. If they don’t have to show up at all, ever, that’s great!