In Self Defense - Episode 97: Claude Werner on Encountering Home Intruders - CCW Safe National | CCW Safe Weapon Liability | CCW Safe Defense Attorneys
In Self Defense - Episode 97: Claude Werner on Encountering Home Intruders

Posted By: Justin Collett

Listen to the "In Self Defense" Podcast





In Self Defense - Episode 97: Claude Werner on Encountering Home Intruders

Claude Werner, The Tactical Professor, returns to the podcast to discuss his statistical analysis of self-defense cases with an emphasis on encountering home intruders. Don West and Steve Moses join Shawn Vincent to unpack Claude’s lessons for armed defenders.


The CCW Safe team believes that continuing education is an important component of being a responsible firearms owner/carrier. We offer our free content as food for thought. We try to take a neutral position and encourage the reader to evaluate how they would handle a similar situation. If the content provokes thought we have succeeded in our mission. The opinion of the content provider may not reflect the overall opinion of the company and staff members.


TRANSCRIPT: 

Shawn Vincent:

Hey, everybody. This is Shawn Vincent. Thanks for listening in to the podcast. Today, our friend Claude Warner, The Tactical Professor returns to the show. Claude, if you don't know, served as an infantryman for 23 years, 10 years of that in Special Operations. He retired from the army as a captain. In private civilian life, he was a market research director at commercial real estate firms. He's a self-professed data head, he's into statistics, and he's applied that love of statistics to his passion and enthusiasm for the sport of pistol shooting. And he's an NRA-certified instructor, a firearms instructor. He's an advocate for the responsible ownership of guns and a fascinating guy to talk to.


Our friend, Steve Moses, he's a firearms instructor and CCW safe contributor. He introduced us to Claude. He's done a few shows with us. We always get a lot out of those conversations. Steve joins us today. We'll also be joined of course, as always, by Don West, venerable criminal defense attorney and also National Trial Counsel for CCW Safe.


The topic of our discussion today revolves around a white paper that Claude wrote, oh gosh, 20 years ago where he analyzed some statistics. He compiled statistics and analyzed some common shootings that had positive outcomes for the shooters to look for some commonalities so that we are not just trusting anecdotal stories when we frame our thoughts about how we approach self-defense. And in particular to our conversation today, our thoughts about home defense as an armed defender. Some of the data, it's old data. Some things have changed in the last 20 years. We talk about that a little bit, but some things haven't, and there are a lot of great lessons to be learned from it.

So thanks for listening in, we've got about an hour conversation today for you, and we're just going to get right into it. Here we are: my conversation with Don West, Steve Moses and Claude Warner, The Tactical Professor.


Oh, hey, if you want to learn a little bit more about Claude Warner and the resources that he has for armed defenders, go check out thetacticalprofessor.com. That's thetacticalprofessor.com. 


Shawn Vincent:

I understand that about 20 years ago, you put together a little white paper on some self-defense stats and the internet won't let you forget it.


Claude Werner:

That's exactly it. It's like a vampire. I've been very surprised at how often it keeps coming back up. And I think that's because it's the closest thing to data that actually exists about the whole concept. I was watching a very interesting TED Talk a couple of days ago about the concept of small data. And what the speaker was saying. And I have to research this a little bit more, something called Miller's Law. Which, in essence, says we can only remember 10 things. And that mirrored something that I've seen a lot over my years in this industry that people conflate, they lump together pieces of information that they've heard. And over time, that becomes a victim of what I call the telephone game where you whisper something to somebody and they whisper it to somebody else. And by the time it gets around, it's not anything like it used to be.


And the advantage of having worked for 30 years with small data in the real estate business is that I had to capture an awful lot of things like that. And so I had to capture a lot of that data and I got used to the idea that very often things were not what people remembered them to be. I had a very good example when I first got into the commercial real estate business. My boss wanted me to analyze where the brokers were actually doing business, because we were a very geographically-oriented firm. And so I did it in a pretty simple basis. I took all their contact addresses, zip codes and put them on a zip code map. And it turns out that almost none of the brokers were actually working the geographic area that they thought they were.


So this is back in about 1990 that I started getting hit in the head with the idea that when we try to remember things without putting them in some kind of a data organization, and truthfully Excel works pretty well for that. That's what that whole table that you guys have came from. It was just putting data into a spreadsheet in an organized format and then saying, "Well, what actually happens with this?" And that's what created the vampire that just won't die.


Shawn Vincent:

Yeah. And the vampire that won't die is this study you did covering five years and it's the late '90s and maybe the first year or so of the 2000s, right?


Claude Werner:

Correct. It's 1997 to 2001.


Shawn Vincent:

And you were tracking self-defense incidents that you could find mostly in the news or you had some other sources that would-


Claude Werner:

Well, for people who are members of the NRA, there's a column, it's on page 10 every month of the official NRA journals called The Armed Citizen. And I actually got that idea from when I was a match director for IDPA. We were looking for real-life scenarios that we could base our matches on. And somebody suggested looking at The Armed Citizen. And like most NRA members, I'd never really paid any attention to it. It's something you see it, but it's like an ad. It looks like an ad. And so people just tend to see it, but forget it. And I just started looking at it going well, is this actually a good basis for scenarios for a shooting contest? And unfortunately, as it turns out, it was all much less lurid than a typical shooting match is.


So all my fellow match directors have said, "Well, that'd be boring because a lot of them involved one or two or three shots and then the thing's over." But it started me on this track of, "Well, what does the concept of personal protection really look like?" And I separate personal protection differently. To me, self-defense is a subset of personal protection because one of the things that became apparent in this is how often people actually are protecting someone else, their family or an innocent bystander or something like that. And so it's a broader segment of the market if you will than when we say self-defense. Well, that's some of the episodes, but it's not all of the incidents.


Shawn Vincent:

That's interesting. And I think for our conversation, we've looked at defense of others and Don, legally, most of the laws that cover self-defense include defense of another if that self-defense would've been justified if you were in their shoes, right?


Don West:

Yeah. That's the easiest, straightforward analysis that if you were that person that you're seeking to help, would you have the right to defend yourself? And as the third-party defender in the defense of others, you basically have the same rights as the person being attacked would. The same degree of force can be used. Of course, it always has to be proportional and those sorts of things. Yeah, that's exactly right. There are of course always some nuances and there's a couple of twists depending on where you are. But I think as a rule of thumb, that's a pretty safe bet. One of the questions I think might be was that person, in fact facing a deadly force threat, or did it just appear that way to you? So you want to be right, of course, if you're going to intervene on behalf of someone else. But the rule of thumb we can comfortably use is that if that person could defend themselves, you can defend them against the attacker.


Shawn Vincent:

Yeah. And that's all to say, Claude, that in our discussions, we look at defense of another in the same bucket as we look at self-defense. And I can understand where personal protection's a little bit different. So it's interesting that you saw that. But one of the things that really keep me in … there are a lot of new members to CCW Safe that are on the home defense plan. And in our conversations over the last years, I've found that some of the most controversial cases or in our opinion, anecdotally, Claude, we found that the most likely scenario where an armed defender is going to have a confrontation is when they're in their home and they're face to face with a potential intruder. And I saw in your white paper that 52% of the encounters you looked at were home defense encounters. Is that right?


Claude Werner:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). That's correct. Now to put that in context, that study was done 20 years ago when concealed carry laws were much less common than what they are now. So that would tend to make me think initially that we could have a lot more encounters on the street, assuming we don't get killed in the streets, as the euphemism goes. But then that's balanced by the fact that in the gun buying panic, if we want to call it that, most of those people who are panic-buying guns are not going out and getting some kind of weapons carry license. In Georgia, we call it a weapons carry license. So I'll refer to it that way. So a lot of those people are not. And this is, once again, anecdotally from my discussion of people who are in the gun sales business. They're basically just getting a gun for home defense. So maybe the proportion isn't changing much at all, despite the fact that we have a much broader availability of licenses and constitutional carry and so forth.


Shawn Vincent:

Yeah. And I was going to ask you about what's maybe changed since you've done that study and now. But I think what we can agree on is that whether it's 52% or whether that's gone down a little bit, roughly half the encounters that people have that you've been tracking happened in the home. One thing I want to clarify too – I think in the white paper you wrote that these were all cases that had what you call “good results.”


Claude Werner:

Positive outcomes.


Shawn Vincent:

Positive outcomes. Yeah. Okay. And what I assume that means from our conversations before, Claude, a positive outcome is when the defender survives the encounter and is not prosecuted for the shooting. Is that correct?


Claude Werner:

Correct. Correct.


Shawn Vincent:

Yeah. Okay. So here's one of the big lessons I got from the paper is that in the majority of these encounters where somebody faces an intruder in their home, there is a period of time where they detect that there may be an intruder and most of them have had enough time to go retrieve their weapon from a secured place and engage it before they faced the potentially deadly threat. Did I say that accurately?


Claude Werner:

Yes. Yes. You did. As a matter of fact, you did.


Shawn Vincent:

Tell me a little bit more about that.


Claude Werner:

Well, if we can think about it, if somebody starts rattling your front doorknob, that tends to be an alert for people who are armed, who at least have ready access to a weapon. So you hear somebody rattling the door or you hear noise in the basement or things of that nature. Well, then people tend to go and get their gun if they've got one. And one of the things that I found, it was sort of stark to me in the study. And incidentally, I did as much as... Because this was based solely on the NRA incidents, I actually had some Google searches that I ran for about two years subsequent to doing it to sort of vet the information, to try and find other sources of information.


And basically, everything was the same anyway, which is why I went back to just looking at The Armed Citizen. People would like to think that the situations are much more lurid than what they are, but it turned out that was a relatively accurate representation. So what doesn't happen is the Tueller Drill where all of a sudden you're just very suddenly attacked and you have to do a one-second draw and get a shot off.


Shawn Vincent:

And so when you say the Tueller Drill, for the listeners who are not familiar with that, that's the 21-foot rule that if you have somebody who's armed potentially with a knife and they're 21 feet away from you, if they ran and sprinted and attacked you, they can get to you within the reaction time of your ability to retrieve a holstered weapon and make it ready and deploy it, right?


Claude Werner:

That's correct. And the misapplication of what Dennis Tueller calls the Tueller Principle is so rampant that we could have a complete podcast all about that.


Shawn Vincent:

This interpretation being that if there's someone who's scaring you that's within and 21 feet, that you can shoot them.


Claude Werner:

No, rather the timing of it is the issue that people think all of these things happen in what I refer to as reaction time. In other words, in increments of a quarter second. And in fact, some of these go on for very long lengths of time before any shooting occurs. It's a little bit outside of the home defense thing, but I've watched one business robbery that went on for 20 minutes where the robbers came in, left, came in, left and they were casing the place and setting themselves up and so forth. And that's also very common in the home defense scenario where it's not going to happen in reaction time, which is not to say it's not going to happen quickly, but that people will have it chance in many cases, maybe most cases, to actually go somewhere, get a secured weapon. Or unfortunately in many cases, unsecured weapon, because I have no shortage of those negative outcomes as well. But they'll have a chance to access a weapon and then confront the intruder and then things start to go along kind of quickly.


Shawn Vincent:

So before we get to that point, Steve, from a tactical point of view, I'm curious your opinion on what kind of access does a home defender want to have to their firearm and how quickly do they need to get to it? And what's your opinion for an armed home defender on how you store that weapon and how you access it when you have an indication that somebody may be casing your house or trying to get in?


Steve Moses:

In my opinion, it is based in part upon your home circumstances. And do you live with other people in which it's important to keep them away from firearms, such as children or perhaps another adult that is incapable in some way of being responsible in the event that they get their hands on a handgun? In my particular case, I pretty much keep a small handgun on me all the time simply because, as I said one time, I was the victim of a burglary. For me, I prefer to have that handgun on my person just simply because someone who really wants to get in your house very quickly can literally just kick the front door in and typically be in there very quickly. Some people are concerned about perhaps someone trying to use a rouse in order to gain initial access into your house. So that's another time when you might have a need for a firearm.


But if you're securing your home and everything, and let's say you're in your bedroom and everything, and the alarm goes off or you have some other reason to gain access, I would say you probably want to be able to get your hand on your firearm fairly quick. And that might be, I'll defer to Claude here, but I'm thinking maybe three to five seconds.


Claude Werner:

I would not disagree with that. When it's time to get the gun out, it's time to get the gun out quickly.


Don West:

Claude, I thought you had said that in your research, many people defending their homes had lots of time, relatively speaking, lots of time to retrieve a firearm, even from another room or maybe pull it out of a lock box that would take a little bit of time to manipulate. Steve is saying he wants it accessible within three to five seconds. But it sounds like there's a bit of an incongruity there. I'm thinking a lot of people would not want to have a side arm while they're inside their house. So they want some middle ground. They want a gun they can get at if they need it, but not feel as though they have to have it on their person all the time. Is there some middle ground?


Claude Werner:

Oh, yeah, absolutely. When I say, and I don't think Steve and I disagree about this, we're just expressing it in a different way that when we would say three to five seconds, what I would take that to mean is I don't want to have the gun in one place, the magazine in another and the ammunition and a third in the classic way that people are often taught that you have to keep your ammunition and the pistol separate. Trying to load a magazine, and I have run into clients like this, where they literally have a pistol in their dresser or drawer and a box of ammunition next to it. And the pistol is empty and the magazine is empty.


Shawn Vincentt:

The magazine is empty. Yeah.


Claude Werner:

Well, trying to load a magazine while you think somebody is in your house is probably not something that any of us want to experience. Now at what point do you say, "Well, I'm going to load the magazine and keep it next to the pistol so that my at children, if they happen to access it, it's much harder for them to load the pistol?" That's a conversation that is a very individual one. But in that sense, I think that Steve and I have common ground in that we're saying that once you decide to get the pistol out, you need to be able to pick the pistol up and get it into action and ready to use very, very quickly. Now my analysis in the paper, as you mentioned, Don, is that in many cases, people do go to another room, access their gun and then come back or establish a defense. As Steve said, sometimes people do kick in your door.


So then if they kick in your door and you then run to your bedroom and pick up your pistol and establish a defense in that room, well, then you've gone to another place and picked the gun and up and are ready to use it. Also strictly from the training standpoint, I think one thing I would say that is very little emphasized in training is the idea that, okay, let's say you have to do that, but then the intruder has gone to somewhere else in your your home. And then you feel the need to protect your family, to go and meet them and have a meeting engagement with them. That means that you need to have some practice at beginning to move through your home safely with a loaded weapon in hand and not have an unintentional discharge along the way. And that's something that we just don't emphasize at all. And I think that's a failure.


Steve Moses:

Something to add also is that what we're talking about, I think, it's not about an average. You've got times where you may have minutes in order to deal with the intruder and you may have mere seconds. And so as they say, statistics are small comfort when you're the anomaly. If you're the one that needs to get to that gun very quickly, you want to be able to do so. And it's actually unique. It's just really not that hard to do. There are actually what they call gun vaults in which you can actually have a handgun mounted, say for instance, on a nightstand in a locked gun box that you can either enter a very quick combination or even place your hand on it. It registers the fingertips and gain quick access to that handgun. So if indeed you believe that you live in a situation or you might be exposed to something where you need to get your hands on a gun very quickly, there's means of safely getting that accomplished.


Claude Werner:

That's absolutely true. I agree with you 100%, Steve. 


Don West:

So if I'm hearing both of you then Claude's concern about getting access to a firearm, but had to do more stuff, load the magazine, put the magazine in the gun. All of that stuff can be avoided by having a gun that's ready or almost ready to use, but can be secured safely against others in the house and quick accessible, whether it's the lockbox you were talking, Steve, or something else that once you get to it, if you don't have it on you, you can access it and make it ready very quickly without having to fumble around dropping bullets and magazines and trying to do all that stuff when you're scared to your wit's end.


Claude Werner:

Exactly. 


Shawn Vincent:

I've seen YouTube videos where without warning the front door splinters open and three guys dressed in black come charging into a house. And Steve, you're saying that's possible. They can gain entry in seconds if they want to. But what I got from your research, Claude, is that most circumstances, there's at least a few seconds, many seconds, or even a couple minutes warning that somebody suspicious is trying to enter the home. And now that we've established that your firearm needs to be safe, but also easily accessible in a usable form quickly, you also touched on tactically how you manage the house, where you retrieve your firearm, where you're going to actually make your defense and whether or not you've got other people in the home that you are responsible for keeping safe.


And so it seems to me that if I'm thinking about home defense, I want to... Steve talks a lot about the “hard corner.” The room in your house where you don't meet the intruder at the front door while they're trying to splinter it down. But you go to a highly defensible room in the house and get into the hard corner. The corner on the same side of the wall, so that you have a tactical advantage if the intruder comes that far. And so I'm thinking here for my home defense plan, I want the weapon somewhere near where I'd want to take a hard corner, and I want to know where to send my family if I think that there's an intruder, if I have that time. And I want my hard corner to be somewhere in between me and my family. And I want my firearm accessible quickly to get to that hard corner.


Steve Moses:

Yeah. But the people that live in your house, it's good to have a plan in a place that if you say get to your rooms now, all the children, they get to their rooms, or they all go to one room and lock the door. So that puts you in a situation in which you probably have a little bit more control over the circumstances, and you don't have to necessarily go from room to room in order to perhaps secure your children or other people in your house.


Shawn Vincent:

So Claude, another lesson that I want to take from your white paper is that I think in a lot of these cases, what we're looking for is for the defender to have as much information about the nature of the threat as possible. And so in cases where a potential intruder's going to kind of case the property beforehand, the more lighting I have outside my house, if I have … these days, they're pretty inexpensive to have, wifi enabled security cameras in a couple of key places near a couple of key entries. If I have those things in place, there's a good chance that I'd be alerted earlier to a potential intruder. I'd have a chance to look on my phone at what kind of video there is. And all that does is give me more time to get to my secured weapon and to get the loved ones into a place and to get myself into a defensible position.


Claude Werner:

Yes. And that's probably one of the key differences between our current time and the time of this study is the fact that that technology did not exist at the time when I did the initial study. And having that availability of, as you said, a wifi camera or the ability even to have any knowledge about what's going on outside of your home, that increases the amount of time that we have to make our preparations. And as Steve said, maybe move your family into a safe area. One thing I'd like to touch on in that is the aspect of communicating that.


Here's another thing that we don't do an awful lot in the training community and that's teach people to talk with a gun in their hand. And I have found that at times to be a huge obstacle to people. In fact, I had one lady where I took her to an indoor range for a short session. And I said, "Okay, now what I want you to do is I want you to say, 'Go away. I have a gun.'" And her response was, "I can't say that." And I said, "Yes, you can. Just repeat after me. 'Go away. I have a gun.'" And after five iterations of this, I finally managed to get her to say it loud enough that there was some possibility that someone 10 feet away would hear her…


Shawn Vincent:

Or believe her.


Claude Werner:

Yeah. Yeah. And so when Steve talks about the idea of communicating with your family, that's probably something that we need to consider as well. Matter of fact, I have a friend and colleague who had a situation where someone was outside of her front door and she found that she literally could not speak. Now I told her, I said, "You need to find out whether that was because you had just been awakened." And sometimes people can't talk particularly well when they wake up physically, or if it's because of your condition of fear and you need to figure that out and make some accommodation to it.


I recommend that people have a megaphone. I actually have a YouTube video about how to use that because especially for people who have soft voices or perhaps can't speak that well, the ability to amplify yourself can be very, very useful. Who has megaphones? The police. So right away, an awful lot of this represents psychological aspects. And if we can make an intruder believe that they are at a disadvantage, whatever the reason. That the police are there or that you're armed or that you're alert.


Shawn Vincent:

Or that they've simply been discovered.


Claude Werner:

Yeah, that's right. That they've been discovered. "Hey, who's there?" I think that puts people in a position of advantage to start out with, and then once you're in a position of advantage, then you can start exploiting that.


Shawn Vincent:

And I think, correct me if I'm wrong, but in your paper, I believe that about a third of the encounters, no shots were fired. That just the presentation of the firearm and the potential attacker or intruder's belief that you're serious is enough to get them to abandon their activity. Is that correct?


Claude Werner:

Criminals for the most part are not in the business of fighting. They're in the business of taking advantage of a person's weakness. And so as soon as you put that shoe on the other foot and say, "Look, this is no longer a victimization. This is a fight." We have a joke. It's like, "Oh, look at the time. I'm late for my root canal. I have to go now." And that's very commonly the case. Now, as Steve says, there are sentinel events when that's not the case. And the person is either just too, whatever, inebriated or under some influence or something like that. Or in a few cases, it's actually a psychopath. Well, people like that you're going to have to deal with. And that's unfortunate that some people just have to be shot, but that's just the way it goes.


Shawn Vincent:

Well, and so, here's what I saw is that a third of the time, the presentation of the firearm and the intent to use, it's enough to end the attack. But what you also write is that if that doesn't work, you've got to be prepared to go live with that firearm right now to protect yourself. Steve, does that jive with your experience and how you train the folks in your classes?


Steve Moses:

Absolutely. Yes. I very much believe that it's important that you can immediately get into the fight and respond effectively. But by the same token, you would ideally like to be trained to the point that you can basically break that situation off. Or as, Claude would say, break contact in order to basically be able to get out of there very safely. So I think you need to be prepared for either extreme. One is that I can talk my way out of this, or the second one is I may be in the fight of my life and I need to fight back very effectively right now.


Shawn Vincent:

Well, and what we're shooting for here is positive outcomes, and that's not just surviving, but also surviving without legal ramifications. And Don, we have the presumptions of the Castle Doctrine, which are hugely influential and really benefit the defender, especially in these home defense cases. But we've also explored plenty of cases where the home defender made some mistakes or had some misperceptions that put holes in the Castle Doctrine and leave them vulnerable to legal prosecution. And so Claude, when we're looking for positive results, that includes no one in your family getting harmed and not facing a prosecution for it. And Don, haven't we seen cases where there's a chain... The defenders are justified when they draw the weapon, the weapon changes the intruder or the attacker's posture. If you can sense that, and there's a way to let the intruder escape, that just eliminates all of your legal risk in a home defense case, or almost completely eliminates your legal risk in the home defense case.


Don West:

Yeah. It makes a lot of sense tactically, I think, because then you've now avoided the confrontation. But it also makes a lot of sense legally because the situation has changed. And if you're going to look at it from a strictly legal analysis, the threat is over at the point that the person is trying to get away, trying to flee. And if you take the aggressive position at that point and chase them or shoot at them as they're running away, you may very well lose any benefit of the so-called Castle Doctrine, the protection of your home, but you probably would be acting outside so-called standard self-defense too. If you're not facing that imminent threat, you don't have the right to use deadly force in response.


So I think it's tricky because I think the law favors the homeowner in any kind of incident within the home, which is why there are so many truly tragic outcomes emotionally and personally, when a family member comes into the house in the middle of the night or a relative from out of town comes in and gets shot standing in the kitchen by the homeowner who's scared and unsure. Those people typically aren't prosecuted and yet they've shot and killed a completely innocent person.

So the home defense certainly favors the defender. On the other hand, by employing some of those principles that we've talked about today, some of the comments that you've made, being sure that you are truly facing a threat before you use that kind of responsive force, you're going to avoid some tragedy and also avoid the legal pitfalls that are going to surround most shooting incidents.


Shawn Vincent:

And increases the chance for a positive result.


Don West:

Exactly.


Shawn Vincent:

Claude, one thing that you mentioned. So we know that about a third of the cases are resolved without a shot being fired. And then we get another third of the cases that there's only one or two shots fired. And when more than that's fired, it's usually folks who have got a semi automatic pistol that it's easy to empty a magazine in a stressful adrenaline situation. Is that about right?


Claude Werner:

Yeah. And you had asked earlier, Shawn, about the idea of the fairly high degree of lethality that occurs once shooting starts.


Shawn Vincent:

Yeah. You were saying about half of the people who get shot die or it's a fatal shot.

Claude Werner:

That's why I brought my friend, the angry man, here as my training aid, because you never get away from a session with Claude without some kind of training. And so what the angry man has is he has a sheet of paper on his upper torso. And that represents the area of the thoracic cavity that's above the diaphragm. Now one of the numerous conversations, or I should say numerous conversations I've had with emergency room surgeons is that they consider any hit below the diaphragm to be a far less serious wound, which is not to say it's not serious, but a far less serious wound than one above the diaphragm. Well, because of the nature of a lot of these incidents that occur at home and people have learned to get the gun in the eye target line.


And by that, I mean that there's an eye from them to the intruder. Well, when you get the gun in the eye target line and you're six or seven feet away, the odds are the shot's going to hit inside that piece of paper. Well, that's where all of our vascular activity that supports our life is occurring and shots there very frequently result in death. So one of the other things that I've encountered with people who owned guns is they first of all don't want to hurt anybody because they're good people and they certainly don't want to kill anyone because they're good people. But we have to, and you alluded to this in a way Don, of we have to be prepared mentally for the fact that if we shoot someone, especially in this set of circumstances, there's a good chance they're going to die.


And even if it's legally justifiable, good people do not want to kill someone, which is why I absolutely hate it when internet commentators make some comment like “should have had better aim” when an intruder's only wounded or a defender only wounds an attacker on the street. Well, you know what? Should have had better aim is irrelevant if the break in contact occurs and the attack ceases. Whether the person who was shot lives or dies, assuming it was justifiable shooting, that's just not important. And I object to that when people say that sort of thing, because they're being ignorant about the consequences mentally and emotionally for people who have to kill someone.


Don West:

And not only that, their mentality becomes one of punishment as opposed to self-protection. And that is thin ice in the legal realm. If the prosecutor views your actions as stemming from anger or revenge or any motive other than a clear response to a clear threat, you're running huge risks of it going really bad when you're in court.


Shawn Vincent:

Yeah. That's the quickest way to turn a self-defense claim into a murder is any sense that there is anger or a revenge motivation and that the shooting didn't have to happen.


Don West:

Yeah. Or there were extra shots. We've seen those cases. We've talked about those cases where the first one or two neutralized the threat, but that wasn't quite enough because of whether it was the emotion or the anger or what have you. Some more shots were fired and then pretty soon a legal self-defense shooting becomes a criminal act.


Shawn Vincent:

Claude, one thing I wanted to pick up on in your talk about the thoracic cavity is that, and you found this in your study, that most of these shootings take place just out of arms reach, right? And this is that 6 to7 foot zone that you're talking about. And I'm going to go ahead and read into that, that the defenders in these cases essentially have waited until this threat is clearly coming at them. And before they've made that shot to get that clean thoracic cavity shot. And what that means is that they've basically eliminated almost all the ambiguity, right? That distance, if there's any light at all, they're able to identify whether this is a stranger or someone that they know. And their intent, especially if they've prominently displayed this weapon and especially if they've articulated verbally, get out of here, I'm going to shoot you, right? The intent's clear, and they've got a close range shot.


And so when we're looking at positive outcomes, it's so funny. We looked at home defense cases where some guy opens up the door and goes outside to see what the threat is and gets into a firefight in his front yard. And then we've seen another one where a mother of twins retreats behind three closed doors and shoots only when the intruder breaks through the third door and she's got no place to go. One started to engage a little too early. Another one arguably started to engage a little bit too late, right? One had a problem. The guy who charged out has a legal problem. The woman who protects her kids behind three locked doors is praised by the local sheriff for being a hero, right? And I think somewhere in between there is the spot where you've eliminated all the ambiguity and now it's no longer safe to wait anymore. That's how you get a positive outcome.


Claude Werner:

I would say that I agree with you, Shawn, with the caveat that I'm not sure in most of these cases that that's a deliberate decision on the part of the defender. There's a whole science called proxemics that talks about how we as humans use space. And it really illuminated a lot of the question in my mind about why I sought that just beyond touching distance shooting. And what it boils down to is that in proxemics we have a relatively small “personal space” is what it's called that actually only extends four feet from our body in the Western world. That varies throughout the world. Asians tend to be much closer contact than we are in the West. So I think my opinion, and I'm not a psychologist, but my opinion is that what people would do is they would wait until that person who was attacking them was almost getting ready to approach their personal space and then they would fire. So I'm not sure that it's a conscious decision, but rather that it's an unconscious decision that's driven by certain aspects of our amygdala that we need to think about this.


Shawn Vincent:

And Steve, from a tactical point of view, then those folks waited almost until it's too late, didn't they? If you're waiting until you feel like your personal space, four feet, is being threatened by a clear attacker.


Steve Moses:

Possibly there's a lot more to it. A lot of it has to do, I think, with the actions and perhaps the physical appearance even of the intruder. And so how did the actual confrontation when the homeowner and the intruder were for all practical purposes, face to face? Under what circumstances did those take place? Were you in a room when that person came in the room? Did they stop? Did you talk to them? Did they continue to move on you? Did you go another room, get a gun, come back in that room and you then engaged them? And where were they when all of that happened? And so it's kind of hard for me to just kind of put this in black and white terms, because I think there's so many variables that I do know that there is a tendency to be reluctant to shoot another person, even when that opportunity is legally justified.


And I've been in that situation because the intruder was willing, if you would, to stay where he was and not encroach any further. By the time I was in a position where I could have effectively engaged him, I made the decision not to shoot him. And now in retrospect, I might have just let that guy go. Back then it was like, "Oh, man. You caught somebody in your house, you held him for the police," which is what I did. But the circumstances on that can really vary. And so if there is a very noted reluctance on the part of homeowners to shoot someone that may at that point really pose a definite deadly threat or not. Because sometimes it's like, "Man, I don't know if this guy's going to kill me or not. It could happen at any moment." I've been there. It's really hard to kind of articulate what homeowner should do.


Shawn Vincent:

Well, and this is why these conversations are valuable, right? And I think, Steve, you were saying at the beginning of the conversation that statistics are fine until you find yourself being the anomaly, right? And Don, you and I we've been involved in self-defense cases. We've studied a lot of self-defense cases. There always seems to be the exception to the rule, don't they?


Don West:

Yes. Which makes you wonder, “Is there a rule?” We certainly have common themes. And I think one of the common themes that seems to come out of all of these wide array of cases, even the ones that on their face seem to be the anomaly to the rule that we thought we had sort of established is a comment you've made before, Shawn, and it impressed me so much. And that is of course, while hindsight's always pretty visually clear, there seemed to have been a moment in time through the event where the critical decisions were made that perhaps with better training or preparation in terms of other kinds of home defense, whether it was better lighting or better security, or even just better awareness of one's vulnerabilities, there might have been an opportunity to turn this thing completely the other way. And not only avoid the physical harm to another individual, but also to avoid the risk of the legal harm that often flows from this.


So I think that's pretty consistent. I have yet to see a case that we've talked about, and maybe because they don't necessarily hit the news or hit the legal reports, where there was nothing that could have been done differently that may have changed the outcome.


Shawn Vincent:

And I guess that speaks to... We're talking about this, how close do you let an intruder get to you before you fire? And that there's a lot of variables that go into that, depending on how credible do you think the threat is.I guess what I wanted to mention, Claude, and I think your data supports, this is that most armed defenders, they're not shooting an intruder just because they've come in the home, right? They don't say, "Oh, someone's unwelcome. They broke into my house. I got the Castle Doctrine behind me. I'm going to waste them right now and have this done with." Most people are taking some time to identify the threat. And if they can resolve it with the defensive display, they let it go at that. And if they fire, it's one or two shots, they've eliminated the threat. It's often when the threat's within a close proximity to them. And these are the folks who are having the good results.


Claude Werner:

Yeah, I would say that's a good recipe for positive outcome. And you alluded to this earlier, Don, the recipe for a negative outcome, what I call negative outcomes, is not being aware, not having thought about what your decisions are ahead of time and not having enough information. The simple act of challenging an intruder does not carry the risk that it's often thought to. And it really mitigates the risk of shooting a family member or someone that doesn't need to be shot. If you say “Who's there?” and the response is “Daddy, it's me!”, the FBI calls that a clue.


Shawn Vincent:

Yeah. And then you don't have to live the rest of your life knowing that you shot your daughter who happened to sneak out of the house and you didn't realize it.


Claude Werner::

Right. Exactly.


Shawn Vincent:

Steve, I want to ask you. You sent this white paper over to us and thought it'd be a good piece of conversation. What struck you about it? And what questions do you have for Claude about this?


Steve Moses:

What Claude, I think, has done is he's set out a range in which things can happen and perhaps what they most commonly occur at. And what I think that does, and my hat's off to Claude, is I think it allows concealed carriers to kind of give an idea of perhaps the terrain in which they may operate in the event that they have to deal with someone that actually is a threat. In a lot of instances, I think people tend to jump to conclusions. One of my favorite sayings is most incidents are over … they take place at three yards, three rounds are fired and they're over in three seconds. And it's not so much that any of that is true. And I think it kind of drives home to the concealed carrier that things happen in close range and may happen very quickly and you need to be prepared for it.


And so I think much of what I read into what Claude was doing was it was giving us an idea of, "Hey, there's probably a pretty good chance if something happens, at least based upon that opinion, it's probably going to perhaps might fall within that range and you need to be prepared for it with the understanding that there's extremes on other ends." And so even though that data, I believe that 2005 is the last…


Claude Werner:

2001 was the last one.


Steve Moses:

2001. Okay. So that's over 20 years. Much of that is still true with the understanding that since then with the advent of technology, people have better security systems in their houses. I think that poses a little bit more of a barrier to a lot of people that might be interested in doing intrusions. And you have a whole lot more people also that now are either carrying handguns, whether it's through permit or by virtue of constitutional carry.


Shawn Vincent:

And Claude, when you talked about how when you're going through these, you found that these cases weren't, I don't know the word you used, but as exciting or dramatic as people imagined... Lurid. Is that kind of what you mean that these things are often settled without a shot fired or with a single shot fired and somebody runs off and that was your self-defense encounter and it wasn't this O.K. Corral shootout?


Claude Werner:

Exactly. My colleague John Hern has coined the phrase, "Ninjas coming from the ceiling." And that's what people want to think that they're going to be involved in this sentinel event... John Johnson calls it a “sentinel event.” One of these outliers where now you have this large group of home invaders that are very sophisticated and they're going to come in and kill you in your sleep. Which is not to say that things like that don't happen. But as Steve said, the vast majority of these things are three shots, three seconds, and three yards. And my point is let's make sure that we can solve that problem first and have a pretty good resolution of how we're going to do that. And then as time permits, then let's think about the sentinel events, because in fact, like Steve says, they do happen at times.


One of the incidents in my database is a group of seven serial home invaders in Rochester, New York, who … a home defender saw them breaking into another house. And then when they came to his house, he was waiting for them behind his sofa with a shotgun and killed two of them outright and badly wounded a third.


And then to your point, Don, that you made earlier, he made the mistake then of chasing the rest of them down the street, shooting at them with his shotgun. Now, apparently the police at that time didn't have a big problem with that. But clearly that has a lot of legal risks to it that we can't recommend that as a course of action. So that's what I'd say about that is let's think about the most likely problem first and how we're going to solve that and what the risks are associated with it. And then after that, then let's think about the things that are more involved and more lurid.


Shawn Vincent:

Don, what struck you about what you saw in Claude's paper and what comments or questions do you have?


Don West:

One of the things of course that struck me is that people are generally pretty good at retrieving the firearm from some other place in their home. But to emphasize the importance of practicing that so that if your decision is to keep your firearm in a specific location, not on you, that you know where it is, how to get at it, how to make it operable very quickly when you need it. But at the same time are so aware of the importance of safety and security that you've met that burden as well, being able to own and possess the firearms safely from other family members or anyone else that may stumble across it. And yet at the same time, it's accessible enough that it can be used in those moments than when you may have to.


Another thought that struck me was when Claude was talking about how the caliber of the firearm didn't make nearly as much difference as having one available, if you need it. I think there's a lot of folks out in the gun culture that sort of mock or make fun of smaller caliber firearms and people that may carry something. Claude, what'd you call those? “Mouse guns?”


Claude Werner:

Right. Mouse guns.


Don West:

And where'd that come from?


Claude Werner:

Well, that's a common phrase in the training community. Meaning, generally speaking, anything that's a 380 or less is considered a mouse gun by a lot of trainers.


Don West:

And does that mean that in the training community, those would be 

discouraged?


Claude Werner:

Yes. Very much.


Don West:

And it's because they are considered to be not lethal enough in self-defense situations?


Claude Werner:

Correct. It's a bad lesson that we've drawn from the law enforcement community the idea that you have to render the attacker, the criminal. You have to render them immediately powerless and unable to escape because law enforcement officers have to get the bracelets on a criminal that they've justifiably shot. So they want him to be planted, or her, as the case may be. Whereas in the case of an armed citizen, if you shoot the criminal and he runs away and the attack is ended, that's good enough. That's all we really care about. And if he goes away and has to go to the hospital or doesn't have to go to the hospital, who cares? I've fulfilled my mission to force him to break contact and go away. And I survive the day and without harm. That's all I care about.


Don West:

So is there a lesson from this research that would suggest that even if it's a smaller caliber gun, if it's one you're comfortable with, that you can handle readily, that it's better to have that than none at all. And you shouldn't forego the self protection that even a smaller caliber firearm will provide in lieu of not having one.


Claude Werner:

Exactly.


Steve Moses:

Hey Don, one thing I might add is the fact that if indeed you are up indeed against that crazy person, the psychopath that is willing to fight to the very end in order to kill you, which is not likely to happen, something the larger caliber is definitely probably going to be more effective in shutting the threat down sooner that it doesn't mean that it's necessarily going to happen fast enough to save your life. So in other words, there are probably one or two circumstances where a larger caliber gun may indeed be what you need to defend yourself, but those instances are extraordinarily rare. And in most instances, the attacker is going to do exactly what Claude says. 


And taking that even a step further, in many instances, people lack the confidence or the hand strength or whatever you want to call the ability to handle a larger caliber gun. And so I'm very much an advocate of the same thing as Claude is. I believe that small caliber handguns have their place and they really shouldn't be discounted. Because I know afterwards the internet's going to light up because they said, well, we said the 22 caliber handguns were for the most part just as good as anything else. That's largely true. One little thing]... If you do have to stop somebody then usually a larger caliber handgun's probably going to be more effective. Would you agree, Claude?


Claude Werner:

Yes, yes. Yeah, no. When we deal with those outliers of, and I would say that especially when you look at people who are emotionally unstable like stalkers and the occasional story we see of the estranged ex-husband who goes crazy and wants to kill his ex-wife. Ultimately the bigger and better your gun is, the better off you are. Fortunately those cases are exceedingly rare. And I would say generally, to a certain extent, predictable. If you know your ex-husband has threatened to kill you and perhaps has tried that in the past, well, probably a 25 is not your best option.


Shawn Vincent:

Well, and I'm going to build off what Steve said there, because in our conversation about the Kyle Rittenhouse case, Steve distinguished between a psychological and a physiological break with the firearm, right? And most people who, and I think your data is showing this, Claude, who see the firearm. Psychologically, that can be enough to be like, "Hey, I don't want to mess with this." And if that wasn't, then the pain of being shot even non fatally and risking further shots or death is enough to psychologically cause them to break off the attack. But if we've got somebody who's raging on angel dust and barges through your door and is disconnected with reality, they can fight even with a hole in their heart for 10/15 seconds if they choose to. And that's when the bigger caliber is going to give you that physiological stop, if the psychological stop fails. So Claude, is there anything else you wanted to bring up that you thought would be relevant from your study that our members could benefit from?


Claude Werner:

Don touched on the idea of making decisions. And I would say making decisions ahead of time. This is something I've talked about a lot in the past is our decisions are really what determine our outcomes, not our equipment. There's some possibility that the equipment will be involved, but the largest part of the positive or negative aspect of the outcome is going to be based on our decisions that we make. And our best decisions are always made ahead of time. Sometimes we might need to modify that plan in a short term, but ultimately decisions are what determine our outcomes. And I'd like people to think about that.


Shawn Vincent:

And if I were to stress anything that you've said today, too, it's the communication aspect of it. Because I've actually encountered cases and folks who would sooner shoot somebody than say something that they'd consider rude to them. They feel more comfortable drawing the firearm and shooting than being like, "Hey, back off, I don't want you near me." And they skip that step or don't feel comfortable with that step. But I think when it comes to removing the ambiguity in an encounter and also demonstrating one that the intruders discovered that you're home and that you have the tenacity to engage and defend yourself then that verbal warning can go an awful long way to end an encounter without having to fire any shots. That's an important part.


Claude Werner:

Yes. Absolutely true. That communication aspect can be so important. And to go back to something Don said, it's something they need to practice. Just learn to say things. It it's odd to me when people put a gun in their hand, especially when they're not used to it, the gun then becomes preoccupying and it's hard for people to think, it's hard for them to speak, it's hard for them to make good decisions. And the more they practice even just handling, not necessarily even shooting, but even just handling the gun on a repetitive basis, it removes the mystery from it and gives a degree of familiarity that's very, very useful.


Shawn Vincent:

All right, guys. That's the show. Thanks for listening through to the end. Steve Moses and I had a little chat afterwards and he wanted me to stress out a couple of things to you guys. And one is that in the last 20 years, things have changed a little bit. We touched on this in this show. There's more constitutional carriers. There's more concealed carriers out there. And the crime environment is different. And he's saying that a lot of his students are having more encounters when they're out in the world. And that maybe the number of home encounters is less frequent than it used to be.


Another thing that we talked about in the podcast is that we've got more accessible and better security devices, and that that's going to lower the incidents of home intrusions. And maybe as a final word in this podcast today, if there's a list that can be drawn for those arm defenders who are concerned with home defense, is supplement your firearm with some of the fantastic and relatively inexpensive and high tech home security options that there are out there, including cameras and lighting. Those are things that can reduce the chances that your home's going to be targeted by an intruder. And if it is, it's going to increase the amount of time that you have to detect the potential intruder and then respond. Hopefully in a way that keeps your family safe and make sure you don't have to resort to your firearm. Unless it's, of course, as the imperative last resort.


That's our show. Thanks again for listening in. Until next time, be smart, stay safe, take care.



© CCW Safe 2022. Powered by PeopleVine. Terms of use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Policy