26 February 2013

A Humorous Detour - Examining the Joe Biden Armed Home Defense Method

Vice president Joe Biden has a wealth of experience in government – in the Senate, as vice president, as a dealmaker, arm-twister, cajoler and fundraiser. All of these are relevant job skills in politics.

Whether you like him or not or like his policies or not, you have to concede that he is effective.

Most of the time.

Last Tuesday, the VP gave an interview on guns and home defense. He recounted his wise advice for home defense, the same advice that he has given his wife.

He advised his audience to “buy a shotgun.” He explained you really don’t need an “assault weapon” with 30 round magazine to defend your home. (By the way, I’m inclined to agree there, insofar as “need” is concerned.)

Then he explained his plan. He owns two shotguns, apparently of the double-barreled variety. If his wife detects an intruder, here is the VP’s plan:

“I said, Jill, if there’s ever a problem just walk out on the balcony here ... take the double-barreled shotgun and fired two blasts outside the house.”

His theory is that the sound of the shots will scare off the bad guys.

Let’s take this advice apart:

Shotgun – That part is fine. A shotgun is an excellent home defense weapon. There are a number of different loads available, that is, a number of different types of projectiles. There is less threat of over-penetration, that is, it’s less likely that projectiles will punch through four walls and hit an innocent neighbor.

The only criticism I have so far is that it’s not a great idea to publicize the inventory of one’s home weaponry. If the bad guys come around and actually commit acts which necessitate a response, what that response will be should be the homeowner’s little surprise.

Oh, the VP also talks about locking the weapons up. This is an absolute necessity. You do not leave weapons unlocked and available unless they are on your person. There are lots of varieties of vaults and lockboxes available which permit reasonably rapid access.

So what’s the problem?

Holy home defense, Batman – Walk out on the balcony!? Discharge a weapon at random!? This is advice coming from a supposedly responsible public official?

Let’s think this through, Mr. VP:

You hear intruders. What do you conclude? Well, you’re right or you’re wrong – it’s a person or it’s not a person. If it’s a person, that’s likely to be more dangerous so that’s the safer assumption to make initially. Then you will continue to collect information.

If it’s a person, there is a chance that they are there without any bad intent. Maybe they are making a delivery, or have a mistaken address, or it’s the meter reader coming in or some family member who has lost his or her key.

Or the people coming in may have a bad intent. That also is the safer assumption to make while you continue to gather more information. By now, your defensive arms should be readily at hand and you should be seriously considering calling 911.

But so far, discharging or even pointing the weapon is not justified. You don’t know that you have a person with bad intent. Even if it’s a person with a bad intent our hypothetical does not yet contain a danger to life which justifies the use of deadly force. Indeed, if in the unlikely event that you hear someone say, “I’m a burglar! I’m stealing your downstairs TV and then I’m leaving. Have a nice day,” that alone still doesn’t justify shooting anybody.

(There are numerous exceptions, which are beyond the scope of this post.)

If you have identified the intruder as a bad guy, it’s reasonable to assume that the intruder is prepared for a confrontation and further reasonable now to assume that the intruder is armed.

And here’s the advice you’re getting from Mr. Biden: Let’s go out on the balcony and expose ourselves to someone who may be armed. Then let’s take our double barreled shotgun which can shoot twice without reloading and shoot it twice. Now, we’re standing out on the balcony holding an empty shotgun. And, since we fired randomly to “scare” the bad guy, we have announced to the intruder that we are armed. As I ran this scenario past my buddy, he noted that this seems to turn the situation into a fair fight. That’s not good planning. You don’t want a fair fight against someone armed.

Mind you, maybe this scaring off thing will work. The intruder may head for the hills. Another possibility is the intruder may reach for his firearm.

Oh, where did the projectiles go which were shot randomly? Isn’t it rather cavalier for someone worried about gun violence to say, hey, let’s point a weapon randomly and let ‘er fly? Projectiles follow the laws of physics. If there is something in their path, it becomes the physics of material strength and destruction.

Also, even in the keep-your-powder-dry mecca of the Mountain State, generally it’s illegal to discharge a firearm in a residence randomly.

There’s lots of training available, in person or online. Every person who owns firearms should be familiar with them and trained in their use. I will not presume to summarize any “right way” to use a firearm in the home. There are way too many variables for any one post. Moreover, there are a LOT of people in the United States far more qualified to give those instructions.

I do know to avoid doing stupid shit like going gunning for an intruder at random and shooting at nothing.

Fortunately, Mr. Biden and his family are protected by the Secret Service. If an intruder comes into their residence, I don’t think the Secret Service will follow the Biden defense plan.

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