From the headlines: mother shoots stranger in child’s bedroom
In the wee hours of last Sunday morning, a Portland, Oregon woman arrived home to discover, and shoot, a 59-year old man in the bedroom of one of her two children. The children are five and ten years old. The intruder died of his injuries after being transported to a hospital.
News reports say the woman returned home around 2:00 AM. Accounts seem to conflict regarding whether the children were already home or entered the residence, a single family home, along with their mother.
What appears certain is the man forced entry into the home. This was no case of sleepwalking. What’s also clear is that he passed through the common areas of the home to a place where the only valuable likely to be found is the innocence of a child.
From what the news tells us, this incident of home defense is justified. The man’s actions showed intent to do serious harm to a child, he had already demonstrated aggression by breaking in, and he was in close proximity to the homeowner and her young offspring. We aren’t told if he was armed, but it doesn’t really matter—his other actions were sufficient to warrant immediate action.
We aren’t told if the woman or one of the children called police before action was taken. One newscast states the man “may have been struggling with mental health issues.” That’s also immaterial when it appears he has immediate plans to carry out an assault on a child, as well as having access to that child.
Having spent the early years of my career as a licensed professional counselor, I’d like to caution anyone—gun owner or not—to view media allegations of mental illness with suspicion. Real mental illness is uncommon, and violence among the truly mentally ill is less common than among the general population. It’s my opinion that most often, the media confuses the behaviors associated with addictions—including pedophilia—with clinical mental illness. They’re related, but not the same.
Thus far, it appears the homeowner has not been charged with any crime—nor should she be. She did at least two things right, which can be lessons for self protection. They include—
- Hardening the target. The intruder had to force his way into the home. Even if you love the summer breeze wafting through your home, at least secure screen doors and make sure there’s something secured to them, like a bell or wind chimes, that’ll give you an early notification of an attempted invasion. The evidence that someone had to break in can only work in your favor if a defensive action is questioned legally.
- Access to a firearm. We don’t know where the homeowner kept her gun, but she was able to secure it and use it in short order. Everyone needs to customize their gun and ammunition storage based on who lives and visits the home….but the gun that is under lock and key may not be accessible fast enough. Other GunCarrier writers have discussed gun/child safety in fine fashion, so I won’t go into detail here.
Were there reasonable alternatives to shooting the intruder? We cannot know. There is still an investigation going on, of course, and perhaps more details will emerge.
Shooting in self-defense is not a matter to be taken lightly. It’s something to avoid if alternatives exist. The value of scenario-based training cannot be over-emphasized in terms of preparing for the moment when you may have to make an immediate, critical decision.
If you carry or simply keep a gun in your home for self-protection, a gift you can give yourself and society is to find a course that will allow you to practice in life-like situations. At minimum, imagine an unwanted guest (or two, or three…) in the places you frequent, and picture yourself navigating the situation successfully, perhaps with a firearm, perhaps not, based on your current skill level and physical ability.
There is some evidence that people who train well are less likely to choose shooting as an option. Training should include more than target practice. Do you know if some of your mannerisms make you a potential target? Are you able to identify signs that another person is armed? Can you regain control of your own breathing and heart rate after being startled? These and other skills are things lawful gun carriers should work on. They’re skills that most people, skilled at violent crime, already know.