Self-defense against burglars

I recently got this link sent to me. It covers ten self-defense tips to handle a situation where burglars target your house. Some of the information (like having a cell phone on you) is pretty good. Other things, I disagree with. My biggest issue is with tip #9: never carry a weapon. Here’s why:

I understand the reasoning: don’t carry a weapon because the criminal can use it against you. It’s a fair statement. If I recall correctly, the statistics say that in a large number of self-defense situation, people have their weapon taken away and then used against them. So a logical conclusion seems to be: don’t carry a weapon.

It may be logical but that still doesn’t make it right.

My guess is, and it is just a guess, that a truckload of those people became a victim of their own weapon because they lacked the training and/or commitment to use it. I’ve met a lot of people who have a weapon in the house. “For self-protection” they claim. But when I ask them how often they train with it, I usually get a blank stare. And then they don’t understand why a criminal takes their precious weapon away from them…

Tip #7, “Cooperate” also irks me a bit. This may be because where I live, there has been an immense increase in home invasions and tiger kidnapping. You can obviously never predict which way these things go, but depending on the goodwill of a criminal to keep you alive doesn’t seem all that smart to me. Simply because you have no way of knowing what his intentions are when you come across him.

Picture this:

You come home one day and walk into your living room. There’s a man you don’t know there. He startles when he sees you and the look in his eyes is anything but friendly.

What do you do?

  • Drop to the floor and tell him he can do anything he wants?
  • Talk and try to negotiate?
  • Start yelling at him?
  • Charge him and try to put him down?

Regardless of which course of action you take, you only have a split second to make the decision. The thing is, you’ll have to make it with incomplete information. Because all you know is that there’s a stranger in your house. Is he a professional burglar? Is he a junkie trying to steal your stuff to pay for his fix? Is he a psychopath who’s planning on torturing you for hours on end until your wife comes home and then it’s her turn?

You just don’t know which type of criminal you have in front of you. Which means you can’t know if cooperation is the right response or not.

So how can you decide which way to go?

Me, I’m the kind of guy who assumes the worst. If somebody is in my home, I’m not going to assume he’s there to sell me Girl Scout cookies. Nor am I going to assume he’s alone. So I’ll only use cooperation as a tactical tool to get what I want: make it out of there alive. If I can run, I’ll run fiercely. There’s nothing wrong with running from an ambush; it’s the smart thing to do if you can spot it in time. If I can’t run, I won’t go silently into that dark night. If I have my kids with me, I’ll get all Gandalf on their asses.

As with all things related to self-defense, picking a reaction when you’re facing burglars isn’t always a black or white decision. The best thing you can probably do is to think it all over well in advance and train accordingly.


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  1. #9 just irks the shit out of me.

    Never carry a weapon is just plain stupid, especially when point number 10 is to use wasp spray as a weapon. What, wasp spray has some magical weapon property that only good guys can use? Criminals can use any weapon *but* wasp spray against you?

    If using someone else’s weapon against them was all that damn high-probability an option, police would not carry weapons, they’d just use the criminal’s weapons against them. Criminals wouldn’t carry weapons, they’d just use citizen and police weapons when they needed them.

    The overwhelming majority of people who do, use, or prevent violence on a professional level, regardless of what side of the law they work on, all carry weapons. Maybe there’s a reason or three for that.

  2. Several years ago, a home invasion took place at the home of one of the members of our parish. The kids went to the parish school. The whole family, including the kids were murdered.

    • That’s what I was trying to say Rick: cooperation isn’t always the best choice. The problem is, you never know upfront if it is or not. It’s a can of worms.
      I’m sorry to hear this happened to people you knew. :-(

  3. Garry Hodgins says

    I agree whole heartedly with your sentiments here Wim. Sandford Strong’s ” Strong on Defence ” is a good book for presenting the reality of what happens to victims of violent crimes, in most cases escape or attack are our best chance of survival. A guy was shot 5 times in the housing estate adjacent to mine last Friday. This is a nice suburb of Dublin! It seems my children are growing up in a place which is light years away from the place I grew up in, where the biggest threat was potentially getting bitten by the pony in the field behind our house when you took a short cut after getting the bus home from school. I’m teaching a self defence module to the transition year students in the secondary (high) school I work at and I really believe that teaching kids to be more aware of their environment should be part of the curriculum. In an ideal world so would martial arts. That way, maybe, criminals wouldnt get around like a protected species as they often do on this little island of mine.

  4. Hey Wim

    Nice article.

    I also think these rules are a little weird.
    Like you mention gething away is probabley the best/safest solution.

    Some arguments i have heard of why noth to carry weapons.
    .it may take time to geth the weapon (time one can use to flee the situation).

    . it may escalate the situation (as soon as the agressors see the weapon they might geth even more dangerous).

    . it might be hard to claim self defense when one injures an unarmed person using a weapon (in self defense).

    . (In my country) peacefull people never carry around weapons, or have them in their house for this kind of purposes. Weapons or tools that can be used for such purposes are illegal.

    .From what i,ve heard profesional robbery gangs are mostly more heavilly armed, and fighting them (with a weapon) might geth one shot/stabbed.

    .in some instances unless the person utilizing the weapon is about to go just as far as the robers/atackers one might geth disarmed, like mentioned previously.
    Criminals have (mostly) lower moral boundaries.

    .gething proficient in unarmed self defense could be better since one does,nt need to grab a weapon, one might rely to much on the weapon, and might go for it when running or using unarmed techniques are (at that moment) better.

    I don,t want to say i know these things well.
    Und i defenitley can,t judge for people who live in countrys where people can legally carry weapons.
    I think these factors all depend on in what kind of situation someone lives.
    Like you say, shades of gray.

    However from my point of view (und situation) i think it,s noth a good idea to carry a weapon, or having one ready in case something might happen.

    What are your thoughts on this?

  5. Link’s down.

    Ihave some info on this whole ‘weapon used against you thing’.

    Years ago in law school I actually did quite a bit of research on this. First, I’ve never seen any documentation on ‘weapons’ generically; all the actual stats were guns. I’m not sure you can extrapolate to ‘weapons’ generally. We all have knives in our kitchens, are they more likely to be used against us then against our dinner?

    Second, the data is looking only at actual shootings and is oblivous to the fact that the prescence of a gun is often the only defense needed. (For example, out of my friends and family in a civilian, non-LEO, non-military context, I know of 4 times people have defended themselves by having a gun, 1 time where shots were fired but did not strike the target and 0, yes, zero times, they actually shot someone). So already that argument is skewed because there are in fact far more valid defense situations then the staistics allow for.

    On the other side they also include things that defy reasonableness. When you hear “more likly to be against you if you have a gun in the home” most people think of the scenario wherein criminal x disarms homeowner and then has his way. This is not the reality in most cases (yes, it does happen sometimes but is relatively rare). The actual data for ‘used against you’ includes a number of valid domestic violence self-defense shootings. Both people have the same address so that is counted. It also includes accidental discharges that strike a family member. And here’s the best one, suicides. Yes, if someone kills THEMSELVES the anti-gun scaremongers consider that a gun being ‘used against you’ (which is technically true but disingenous).

    In short, the idea that a weapon is, ‘more likely to be used against you’ is a crock of pooh.

    • I really don’t remember where I read about that stat; It’s been a long time and I don’t remember the details. IIRC, it mentioned weapons in self defense and not specifically home invasion or burglary. Or just guns. But again, it’s been too long so I might be off here.

  6. I’d rather the other guy was dead instead of me and my family.

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