Paul W. Barada
A few weeks ago a buddy of mine, whom I sometimes refer to as “the great and powerful Oz,” but who is more commonly known as Norm Voiles, wrote a “Letter to the Editor” in support of Second Amendment gun rights. In his letter he suggested that a real deterrent to household burglaries and robberies is for people to arm themselves with semi-automatic pistols. Personally, I think the concept is fine. Most would-be burglars aren’t interested in getting shot, but in stealing your stuff! The only part of Norm’s letter with which I disagree is the suggestion that a semi-automatic pistol in the nightstand is the best deterrent to crime.
As everybody knows, tons of people have been going to gun shops and gun shows purchasing all sorts of pistols for their own protection. The only problem with that approach is that no instruction is offered to help people use firearms safely. I can’t imagine anything more deadly than a pistol or rifle in the hands of someone untrained to use it. Unless one is trained in marksmanship, gun safety and maintenance, not to mention regular sessions on a firing range, I can’t imagine anything more dangerous than a pistol in the hands of a novice. Someone not trained in the safe use of firearms is as much a danger to himself as he is to any intruder. At a couple of recent gun shows, two people who were there to sell their pistols managed to shoot themselves. The obvious question, however, was what on earth were they doing at a gun show with a loaded pistol? One would think that there would be some security at the door to make sure that all firearms being brought in were unloaded before the owner was allowed to enter.
Nevertheless, Norm suggested that a couple of well-placed shots ought to be enough to finish off an intruder. Unless the person with the pistol in the nightstand knows what he or she is doing and is a genuine marksman, it’s just about as likely the shots will hit the nightstand, the ceiling fan, or the bedroom door, rather than hit an intruder. Why is that? Well, not being trained in the use of firearms is the first problem. Another problem is the very nature of a short-barreled pistol. Pistols are designed for use at close quarters, not for use against targets more than 15 or 20 feet away, and certainly not in the dark. The shorter the barrel, the harder it is to hold a pistol steady and, as a result, the harder it is to hit a target that’s probably moving.
Another problem is target identification. Just because one hears a sound from the hallway or on the stairs doesn’t necessarily mean the noise is being made by an intruder. It could be a family member! It could be the family house pet. It could even be one of the sounds that houses just seem to make in the middle of the night. So, it’s very important to know at what one is firing before squeezing off five or six rounds into the darkness at an indistinguishable target.
On the other hand, if there really is an intruder and if the intruder is also armed, chances are as likely as not that the home owner is the one who’s going to be shot, not the intruder. All the intruder has to do is fire his pistol at the muzzle-flash coming from the bedroom to create a potentially deadly situation (from the homeowner’s point-of-view).
If the homeowner is absolutely sure an intruder has entered the house, I would always choose a shotgun over a pistol. Why’s that, you ask? Well, for one thing, you don’t need to be much of a sharpshooter to hit the target with a shotgun blast. A shotgun sprays out BB-sized pellets, sometimes called birdshot, in the general direction of the target and, more often than not, will hit the target with enough force to knock it down, probably for good! It doesn’t require the shooter to be a very good marksman at all, just to be able to aim in the general direction of the intruder. There is a downside, however, to using a shotgun instead of a pistol. The recoil from a shotgun, the backward momentum of the shotgun when the trigger is pulled, can really hurt one’s shoulder if the shooter isn’t trained to place the stock of the shotgun securely against his shoulder before pulling the trigger. The same sort of thing happens when firing a pistol, however. The natural tendency of a pistol is to kick upward when fired. The problem is that, for an inexperienced shooter, the tendency is to flinch in anticipation of the bullet being fired, which, obviously, throws off the accuracy of the pistol and results in missing the target. The net effect is the inexperienced shooter will tend to jerk the trigger, instead of pulling it back smoothly, thereby increasing the chances of hitting the nightstand, the ceiling fan, or the bedroom door instead of the intruder.
The other danger with either weapon is that some other family member, a child for instance, will get his or her hands on the pistol or shotgun and, thinking it’s a toy, really do unintended damage to someone else, or even kill another person. That further suggests that all weapons should be kept secure and unloaded so that no one but the owner can get to any of them. If anyone is foolish enough to keep a loaded pistol or shotgun in or near the nightstand, then the risk of an accidental shooting increases exponentially. Every person in the household should know gun safety if a loaded weapon is going to be left unsecured. In the year 2000, according to Wikipedia, there were 23,337 accidental shootings in the United States.
Everyone has, and should have, the right to own firearms, but along with that right comes the responsibility not only to know how to properly use that firearm, but also to keep it secure from any other family member. No offense intended, Norm.
That’s –30— for this week.