When the victim knows the attacker

When I did the review of Every Handgun is Aimed at You, I said that one of the points he made was that guns are an ineffective protection because most violent crimes are not the random stranger attacking you, but often a family member, friend, co-worker, ex-lover, etc. It is more likely to be someone you know, rather than a stranger. I already pointed out that his own statistics showed that half the justifiable homicides he cites were instances where the people knew each other, and there are also a certain amount of the criminal homicides where the victim and attacker  know each other through criminal activity (drug dealers, gangs, etc.) There are also a number of times where the attacker was barely known by the victim, such as contractors, classmates, co-workers, and the like. In those cases, there is little difference whether you “know” them or not.

There is another factor when people know each other that makes a gun part of an effective plan of protection. A potential attacker who knows his victim is armed is often less likely to attack the victim in the first place. Not always, some are suicidal and are not going to be deterred by a threats of death, for instance, but in other cases it would act as a deterrent. Statistics on this would be almost impossible to compile, because you would need to rely on a potential attacker saying “I would have <insert crime here> them, but I knew they were armed.” And some might cut it off before they even form any sort of plan.

I witnessed part of a situation like this: A while back, I was in the gun department of an outdoor retailer. A 20-something woman came in, and told one of the employees that she was looking to buy a gun, because an ex-boyfriend (or the like) had some trouble comprehending the “ex” part, and was coming around her place. She had told him she intended to buy a gun, and was there making good on it.

Not knowing the people involved, I have no idea what happened after she left that day, but there are really only a few outcomes, which we can look at. Worst to best, they are:

  1. He comes anyways, and is either armed himself, or, as gun controllers think happens all the time, he manages to get her gun, and kills her, and likely himself. Obviously the worst case.
  2. Less bad, he comes anyways, and she kills or seriously injures him. Better than her getting killed, but still not desirable, a person is dead, and she has to deal with that. Despite what you may be led to believe, the vast majority of gun owners don’t want to ever shoot someone.
  3. He comes anyways,  she confronts him with the gun, and he leaves. This is the case with most defensive gun uses.
  4. He comes anyways, she manages to get out of the situation without introducing the gun, i.e. calls the police, leaves, or whatever.
  5. He wises up and doesn’t come back.  Best outcome.

In three of the five cases, she is better off with the gun, one (#4) is a wash, the gun didn’t factor into it, and one (#1) is worse or even, depending on whether he did, or would have, used his own weapon.

If I had to guess, #5 is the most likely outcome. A defensive gun use where the weapon was never drawn, never fired, and will never be. And an incident that will never be reported, because it was stopped before it even started. So, in this type of case, the fact that the victim was known to the attacker is actually a benefit, not a drawback.

I am not saying that getting a gun is always the right answer to a situation like that. If you are that sort of situation, you need to ask yourself some hard questions. Could you defend yourself, and could you do it dispassionately? You don’t want to get into a situation where you shoot because of your feelings, or anything but defending yourself against a real and specific threat. If the answer to either of those questions is no, you need to consider other options, or change your thinking to where you could honestly answer yes. And if you do make the decision to own a gun, make sure you are proficient with it.

In any case, your best couse of action is to observe rules of self preservation, (like Greg’s), being aware, being prepared, and keeping yourself out of dangerous situations whenever possible. Stay safe.

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