Guest Post by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous.
You can’t get away from it. Prepping/survival blogs, websites, books, videos etc. all inevitable (and sometimes initially too) discuss the need for a defense strategy in the face of a SHTF event leading to living (at least temporarily) in a WROL environment. That form of defense is almost always described in terms as some kind of firearm. Other defenses occasionally mentioned include the crossbow, knives, and clubbing weapons. In fact, for some people ‘preparing’ is simply a collection of guns and ammo (the “gun preppers” as sometimes referred to). But that is a discussion by itself for another time.
By “non-lethal” weapons I am referring to items such as personal defense mace (including pepper spray), personal defense tear gas, stunners, and tasers. (“Screamers” and “Blinders”– portable often handheld devices that emit loud sounds or bright lights designed to stun and disorient an attacker – are often very limited in effectiveness for personal use unless in very close quarters. Any such device that is effective over larger areas is extremely expensive and anyway reserved only for law enforcement and military use.)
While it is clear that a firearm like any tool has its place in a plan, the topic of a non-lethal defense strategy is very rarely if ever covered. Other than hand-to-hand fighting techniques often centered around some form of the Martial Arts, other non-lethal defensive weapons do not get any mention yet I believe have a very important role in your overall defensive plan for an SHTF/WROL situation.
Too often you will read/hear someone say in an oh so cavalier tone say things like “If the SHTF and someone tries to rob my house I’ll put a 9mm between their eyes!”, or, “My neighbors better not try anything – I have a 12 gauge!”
How very macho.
But impractical in all but the most extreme situations.
Even in an SHTF/WROL scenario.
Stop and really think about what such a stance truly would mean to you, your family, your life!
First off — These are your neighbors! Or at least people in your local community. Regardless of how you feel about your neighbors, any disagreements you’ve had over the years, these are still people you live next to.
Do you really want to greet them at the front door with a gun in hand?
Do you really want to threaten them with a gun?
Do you really want to shoot at them if they don’t back off?
(Same thing applies to strangers as well.)
Such may inevitable be necessary in the end. But wouldn’t it be better to deter the aggression without even needing to show a firearm? Or at least make them think twice about trying?
SHTF and WROL does not necessarily mean living in “Mad Max” anarchy. And not forever. Almost certainly some form of order and rule of law will be restored soon and you will have to face the legal and social consequences of your actions. Whatever your community looks like after the event there will definitely be some form of formalized inquiry and justification needed.
Further, depending on what the SHTF event is, during the event or in the aftermath you cannot count on the same legal system as in normal times being there for your protection, nor being understanding of the scenario. In many localities simply drawing a gun has the same legal ramifications as actually pulling the trigger. Similarly, firing a “warning shot” whether into the ground or the air is still considered using lethal force regardless of where the gun was pointed. You can argue the merits of defense but once the SHTF event is over and some kind of normality returns for sure your neighbors won’t soon forget the guy down the street with the gun! (whom they will no doubt describe to law enforcement as “crazy” or “crazed” or some other unstable term.) It would be much easier to go to your neighbor, hand out stretched, and apologize for spraying them with mace than to apologize for sticking a gun in their face and threatening to blow their head off. Or worse, having actually taken a shot at them! The former stands some chance of being accepted, the latter highly unlikely to say the least.
If the SHTF event is really that bad there also are good security reasons for not letting your neighbors know that you are armed with a firearm. You probably want to keep a low profile as to all your resources. If it’s known you have a firearm that can make you a target for someone who thinks they can take it from you. Or, ponders the question “If he has a gun he probably also has food and other supplies I/we need!” Or just some idiot who thinks himself a Rambo and wants to challenge you on some kind of testosterone kick. Maybe to try to establish himself as some sort of bad-ass leader in the community. Whereas a can of mace or a stunner isn’t all that unusual. It is a matter of perception which truly often is 9/10th’s reality.
Another very real consideration is the physical aftermath of using a lethal defense.
Spraying someone or a group of people with mace doesn’t leave lasting physical harm (presuming no allergic reactions or other medical issues). The effects will wear off in time even without treatment but the memory remains. And that’s what you want – someone to say “That person/house is too much trouble” and go for an easier target.
By contrast if you do employ a firearm and actually do end up shooting a person, or several people, then what? Just as law enforcement may be scarce in a SHTF/WROL event so would emergency medical services. What are you going to do with your neighbor bleeding to death at your front door? Or perhaps several people laying there in various states of injury, possible some already dead from their wounds. Meanwhile the whole neighbor watching in shock and awe. Not a good thing regardless of the scenario.
Then there is the issue of putting theory into actual practice.
Most people have never drawn a firearm in defense in their entire lives. The most ‘dangerous’ thing most gun owners have had to shoot at are paper targets, perhaps wood or metal plates or some bowling pins. But not a living thing much less a human. Even for active hunters, taking aim at their query is different than a human. No matter what kind of formal or self designed training you have done when the reality is in your face it can’t be easy. Even law enforcement officers have a difficult time of it. Few have ever needed to point their service gun at a suspect and even fewer have had to fire it in the line of duty.
So imagine the shock of an otherwise ordinary person in anything but ordinary times having to defend themselves and their family. And multiply that by potentially knowing well the person or persons you are taking aim at. Life just got a whole lot real very fast!
And there is the moral issue to consider.
When your neighbor is at your front door asking for your help, perhaps ‘just’ a little food or water, maybe with his/her family standing behind them, do you really want your response to be a gun in their face?
If you have decided not to share your supplies, that’s your choice. I cannot tell you otherwise. Arguments can be made both ways (also a discussion for a later time).
But when an emphatic “No!” does not persuade your neighbor to leave, wouldn’t it be better to have an intermediate step of force before going to the gravest extreme in front of their (and probably yours too!) family?
Or what if it was simply a woman and her children at your front door begging for help? Even if you won’t help (your decision, no judgment) do you really want to point a firearm at them as your only means of making your point? And if she does try to push her way in are you really going to shoot her in front of her kids?
No matter how much you think you have stiffened your resolve to be firm on the issue of sharing supplies you are still a human being, an American, who has suddenly been thrust into an unbelievable reality that up until a moment ago was just fodder for table talk or forum messaging. You may ultimately need to reach the gravest extreme of lethal action but at least in this authors’ opinion there should be considered an intermediate step of non-lethal action as an option. Better to have more choices then fewer.
This is an incredibly controversial topic; How to defend yourself in the event of a disaster.
I really like what you have said here. I think you are absolutely correct to recommend that we ponder this as individuals. There is a lot more that Americans should be doing in these troubled times. We laugh now about the people who built fallout shelters in the 50’s and think they were crazy. However, with a little vision, those micro supply depots could have doubled as regional disaster storage sites.
This is the same concept as the internet backbone but with food and supplies. This country needs a failsafe in the event that the Government cannot respond in needed fashion to a disaster. As it stands now, we really don’t have one.
The threat of a small nuclear strike to this country is now more prevalent than ever before. The biggest looming disaster we face as a country today is the one of a fuel crisis. That threat could cripple the whole country rapidly and with little warning. We aren’t addicted to foreign oil; we have become hostages of it. When it stops flowing, this country is in real trouble.
Douglas — Fuel and food… Many food crisis’s this year around the world. Canada, Russia, Egypt, etc…
Agree completely. Firearms should be used as tools for hunting, and providing security. Unless the beggar at your door presents a weapon, or threatens you/ your family, shooting them down should not be considered.
If you feel that you cannot, or will not share any supplies, simply tel them that you cannot because you don’t have any. I believe that lying is a better option than shooting your neighbor because of a desperate request.
At the end of the day, I believe that supporting your community is an important part of preparation, because a community means strength in numbers, and organization. If a community organizes to provide security, food gathering, food preparation, water purification, heat, and clothing, the entire community will be safer, which means that you (and your family) are safer.
Once a community has been organized and everyone has their bare essential needs met, other projects such as bathing and laundry can be organized.
Making connections with other prepared individuals in your community can be very beneficial.
Community codes/ laws can be made, and life will cease to be lawless a whole lot sooner.
Uncertainty is most people’s greatest fear, and in any disaster, knowing that you have food, water and shelter is such a great relief that most people are more than willing to pitch in.
In the end, supplies run out, but a group that supports itself will find a way to survive.
Shooting your neighbor over a cup of soup is not a good way to build community, and it may inspire such rage in others that you may become much more of a target than you may have been before.
I agree as well… There is no reason, unless presented with that option to think you need to resort to deadly violence. We all need to become more self reliant. You are right, supplies do run out. When they are gone they are gone, and unless you have built the infrastructure for renewable sustainable resources (and I am one of those people) such as a garden, raise your own protein source(s), and process those resources for storage and consumption, all we will ever have are “supplies.”
Not to get off topic, however…
John — Both you and Suburban presume that ALL people in the community *want* to organize into a mutually beneficial collective and each person/family brings some sort of supply or skill to the organization. (And even if they are completely unprepared in a material sense maybe they will provide some knowledge or just brute labor)
But that just isn’t so. Not always. Especially in the urban and near-urban areas.
They cold hard truth is a LOT of people have a very ‘entitlement’ attitude with a “you owe me” way of thinking. IOW, many people believe that if you have food or water or medicine or whatever and they don’t you OWE it to them just because you have it and they don’t and that isn’t “fair”. You should just give it to them without expecting anything in return or contribution to the overall community’s survival.
To use an analogy — I you saw the first season of “The Colony” when that man and woman appeared in the warehouse and were invited to join the group they asked (as best I can recall) “What if we want to stay here but not follow your rules?”. IOW they wanted to have all the benefits of being in the colony w/o any contribution or loyalty.
Master Po —
“a LOT of people have a very ‘entitlement’ attitude with a “you owe me” way of thinking.” — This is a way of life in NJ where I am. Many feel entitled to whatever they want. I’m not damning the people of NJ, not everyone is like this, and if I were from here originally, I may not notice it at all. As for making assumptions, I have none. I am suspect all the time of people I do not know at my door. While I am not paranoid, I am suspect…
I know not everyone will be a ‘friendly’ and to me that is what having a BOL is partially for. Unless you have experienced what it is like in the country after you have made friends with your neighbors there, and becoming more self sufficient and self reliant you won’t get it. Being form a rural area gives me an advantage, I think. I grew up next to farms, my neighbor raised chickens, and I took care of them as a kid, and collected eggs for them… 🙂
More options are always better, and lethal force is something that should be reserved to defend ones own life, or that of another.
Just like in ‘normal’ times. People always have a right to defend themselves. I think keeping a low profile is the way to go. Not every self-defense situation requires lethal force (as is the whole point of this post) but I think people will need to pick their battles more carefully in a SHTF situation.
The variety of examples of neighbors coming to the door to beg is used several times. If they are indeed neighbors, and I know them, I will assist them however I can. That’s what neighbors should do and I would hope mine would reciprocate if I needed them.
OTOH, If I don’t know them, the door simply will not be opened. I’m not going to yell at them, mace them, or otherwise escalate the situation and draw unnecessary attention to myself. Just like I wouldn’t do that in ‘normal’ times. I just keep the door shut as SOP.
If they try forcing their way in, well now they have escalated the situation and things change drastically. Just like in ‘normal’ times.
I also don’t think spraying a group of people with mace is a wise idea! I can’t see a hungry/angry mob being deterred by a singular person with a personal-sized mace canister for long.
This is an excellent post. I have thought a lot about crisis ethics. I would like to say that I would “share”, but that would mean that my wife or I could die. If I could die, then taking my food, water or fuel is a life-threatening situation. If it is a minor emergency (power loss, winter storm, etc) and there is a neighbor at the door that has zero food or food and no way to cook it as well is freezing to death, then they can come on in and have a can of my soup. If there is a major event where it looks like all basic service are going to be interrupted for an indefinite period of time, then I am sorry, I have to turn you away. First with words, then with angry words, then with mace then deadly force.
Frankly, if the major SHTF, then I will be dead eventually, and sooner rather than later. Living in a major metro area with no where to go if the world ends, when my food runs out, I die. I have lots of water and the ability to collect and purify water, but no food source beyond about a month. I am working on longer-term food storage, but have little support from my wife. She thinks I am crazy to be a prepper. Anyway…