By now, pretty much everyone in America has seen this disturbing video of a home invasion in New Jersey. It happened during broad daylight in a good neighborhood, where a young mom was at home with her two young children.
The video is upsetting, but not graphic. The details are mercifully blurred out so you cannot clearly see the victim or her 3-year-old daughter, who was sitting on the couch throughout the entire ordeal. Even so, watching it is not for the faint of heart.
As others have observed, a situation like this is an argument for being armed at home, even during daylight hours with the doors locked. But it happened in New Jersey, so of course she was not carrying a firearm. Not going to get into the politics of that, but let me point out that the entire reason I personally began carrying a firearm in the first place was so I would never be in such a position in front of my own small children. It hurts my heart to see such an attack against an unarmed and apparently defenseless woman, and even more to see it happen in front of a small child who will undoubtedly carry the memory with her for a long time.
But as violent and disturbing as the video is, it does not hold a candle to the potential violence that could easily have happened here. That the woman is alive and her children unharmed is nothing short of a miracle, given the privacy of the setting and the violence of the attack. Home invasions offer criminals extreme privacy for extended periods of time, which is not a recipe for a pleasant ending to anyone’s day. Those who would avoid fighting back because “the worst he can do is kill me” have rarely researched the topic.
Along those lines, there’s an exceedingly excellent article from Tim at Gun Nuts about this. Tim writes,
When a criminal kicks in your door you do not have the luxury of assuming they’ll go away and leave you unhurt if you just give them what they want. You don’t have the luxury of waiting for 911 or the alarm company to send help. There are too many examples that prove those strategies as ineffective to have any faith in them. If you don’t have a home defense plan, get one together. If your existing home defense plan doesn’t include the ability to rapidly employ significant force, fix it.
Home defense isn’t about DVD players. It isn’t about jewelry. It’s about protecting the people you love from men like this.
There is not a single word I would disagree with in those paragraphs.
What the law will ask
Now let’s take this in a slightly different direction, and talk about making the decision to shoot a violent home invader. Here are some questions that the criminal justice system might ask after such an encounter.
1) Was the element of Ability present? Did the intruder have the power to kill or cripple this young woman?
Yes. Although this criminal was technically “unarmed,” the young mom’s life is clearly in danger. Regardless of what the intruder had or did not have in his hands — they were apparently empty throughout the savage beating on the video — he could have killed her at any time. Any one of those blows could have killed her. So could being thrown, half-conscious, down a flight of stairs. Any reasonable person could see that.
As we know, the element of Ability does not require the presence of a weapon. It can be represented by a severe imbalance of power between victim and assailant (sometimes called Disparity of Force). In this case, the intruder had a great deal of power: a large, strong, young male attacked a small female who was distracted by the presence of her children. Ability was present.
2) Was the element of Opportunity present? Did circumstances allow the assailant to attack the victim in an effective way?
Yes. As we see on the video, he was able to make physical contact with his intended victim using his bare hands.
Furthermore — as with most or all home invasions — her circumstances were particularly deadly, because there was no hope whatsoever that anyone else would see what was happening and stop it. There were no bystanders to pull him off the victim or to call for help on her behalf. She was entirely alone in an isolated area, invisible to anyone walking past the house.
3) Was the element of Jeopardy present? Would a reasonable person in her same situation have concluded that the attacker intended to cripple or kill her?
Yes. Given his violent entry (he kicked the door down) and his immediate physical attack against the woman, it would be absolutely unreasonable to come to any other conclusion. He had no scruples about beating her senseless in front of her little girl. Anyone with a lick of sense would agree that he meant to do her harm.
The immediate choice
So those are the questions the courts might ask, after the event. Are they questions you need to ask during the event? Yes and no.
Yes, you have to absolutely know that you’re on the right side of the law when you act. Knowing the law frees you to act quickly, decisively, without hesitation. It frees your mind from entangling concerns and lets you get straight to work.
No. The flip side of the “yes” above is that if you haven’t hammered these core ideas into your brain ahead of time with good training and good visualizations, you won’t have time to laboriously run through a slow, rusty mental checklist when sudden violence happens. To save your life from sudden violence, you must act immediately!
This means your best bet is to do your homework ahead of time. Learn the law. Steel yourself to watch videos like this and to think through their implications. When you have done your homework ahead of time, you won’t need to run through the questions at the time. You will simply know that it is time to act.
Now some food for thought provoked by watching this event. These aren’t the only questions you could (and should!) ask yourself. They’re just a sampling to get you started. As I’ve said elsewhere, crime videos provide excellent lessons for self defense, when we watch them in the right way.
- Would you be willing to abandon your child in the same room as an intruder, in order to retrieve your firearm from inside a locked gun safe in another room?
- Or would you be willing to put up with the inconvenience and discomfort of remaining armed while relaxing at home?
- Or would you prefer the possibly-illegal risk of hiding an unsecured firearm in every room of your home?
- Would you be willing to shoot and possibly kill a living human being in front of your 3-year-old child?
- If you are not willing to be armed with a gun at home, or not willing to shoot an attacker in front of your child, what are you willing to do? Are you willing to spend three or more hours a week learning an effective martial art? Are you willing to learn how to use improvised weapons, such as a vase or a picture frame, to defend yourself? Are you willing to simply surrender to an attacker like this, and hope for the best? What’s your plan?
- Would you be willing to shoot without hesitation, without giving the intruder time to react, without waiting to see what would happen if you held fire?
- Would you be just as willing to shoot, and shoot just as quickly, if you knew your every action was caught on camera — and that all your friends and neighbors would probably see what you did?
These are not pleasant choices, but they are the ones such situations present to us. If we want to be prepared to save our own lives, we must unblinkingly confront such questions ahead of time. We must carefully think through what we are willing to do and we must be honest about what we are not willing to do.
Think it through. Make a plan. Be prepared to act without hesitation or doubt when the time comes. Meanwhile, live joyfully and purposefully — because life is good, and worth defending.