The 3 principles of self-defense

By » Thu, November 17 2011

CalvinHobbesRobbed1 355x450 The 3 principles of self defense

Just as it is prudent to wear your seat belt while driving, it makes sense to know how best to respond to violence. In fact, it is overwhelmingly likely that some of you will become the targets of violence in the future. The purpose of this essay is to help you prepare for it.

In my experience, most people do not want to think about the reality of human violence. I have friends who sleep with their front doors unlocked and who would never consider receiving instruction in self-defense. For them, gun ownership seems like an ugly and uncivilized flirtation with paranoia. Happily, most of these people will never encounter violence in any form. And good luck will make their unconcern seem perfectly justified.

But here are the numbers: In 2010, there were 403.6 violent crimes per 100,000 persons in the United States. (The good news: This is an overall decrease of 13.4 percent from the level in 2001.) Thus, the average American has a 1 in 250 chance of being robbed, assaulted, raped, or murdered each year. Actually, the chance is probably greater than this, because we know that certain crimes, such as assault and rape, are underreported.

Principle #1: Avoid dangerous people and dangerous places.
Principle #2: Do not defend your property.
Principle #3: Respond immediately and escape.

This is a stellar essay by Sam Harris about the realities of crime happening to you, (yes, you) and while it certainly has all the principles covered, it doesn’t do justice at all to principle #2.

Justice being the operative word.

I know someone who shot another person, actually, two people in self-defense. A mom at home watching her kids while her husband worked late. She heard a large amount of noise from somewhere downstairs, grabbed her gun, and told the kids to go hide in her closet.

There were four men professionally hauling all the family’s expensive-looking stuff out the back door. By her account, she was threatened and shot the two who were in her kitchen (and if being outnumbered 4 to 1 by criminals breaking into your house isn’t threatening…). One of the burglars died.

They were committing a robbery but didn’t know it; they’d cased the home and thought it to be empty; they all had records as burglars and were well-known to local law enforcement.

When the dad came home, the house was cordoned off and his family missing. His wife was in custody, his kids were already in temporary foster homes. His wife was released on her own recognizance the next day. It took several days to get back the kids.

crime scene investigation 7527201 The 3 principles of self defense

No charges were filed against the parents, but the house was still a crime scene; they’d have to move out. They still had a mortgage to pay, and without family in the city, could only afford a motel room. The kids got the bed, the mom got the cot, and the dad spent most of the nights awake in a chair, looking out the window nervously; the last time he assumed everything was OK, his family got taken away.

That’s when the death threats started.

Being a non-violent criminal, the dead guy’s family and friends started a campaign of harassment that followed the mom for weeks. They followed the mom around town, and showed up at the dad’s job. The family got restraining orders placed and got new phone numbers, but there’s nothing police can do without direct evidence of a credible threat. If ever they would have felt safer armed, it was then, but because of the ongoing investigation, their guns had been confiscated.

It took more than six months for the police to wrap things up; it was considered low-priority. Six months with two adults and three kids in a motel room with one bathroom. The damage to everyone was done. The whole family was a wreck. The dad couldn’t work because he couldn’t sleep, the kids were tanking school and stopped hugging their mom because people were calling her a murderer, and the youngest told the school that their house had washed away in a flood because she couldn’t even begin to deal with what was going on.

Eventually the dad got a new job and they moved to a new state, somewhere where no one knew anything about anyone. That was more than a year later.

And this was a legally-justified shooting.

Anyway, the essay is definitely worth a read or two. But when it comes to applying self-defense, you have to literally take that as meaning defense of the self, as in, bodily harm. Anything else, even if it’s by some legal contrivance considered acceptable, will ruin you. Make sure that the ruin is worth it. Lives yes; televisions, no.

Oh, and Harris forgot the fourth principle.

Principle #4: Never get involved in a land war in Asia.

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