I’m going to kill anyone who breaks into my house!

by Greg Ellifritz

You hear noises in your house at night. Upon investigation, you find a drunk man you don’t know sleeping on your couch. What do you do? Shoot the intruder?

No doubt many of you would make this decision. There isn’t a week that goes by when I don’t hear someone saying, “I don’t care who it is. If I find somebody I don’t know in my own house, I’m going to kill him.”

With an increasing number of states implementing Castle Doctrine, it may be legal for most of you to do just that. But being legal doesn’t mean it’s the right solution. I think all the “I’m gonna shoot anyone in my house” folks are being extremely short sighted and setting themselves up for a nightmare if they continue to make such ludicrous statements.

Anyone? You’d shoot anyone? What if you find the five year old neighbor kid in your house? What if the “intruder” was a 90-year old woman? Would you shoot those folks? Let me tell you about some situations that I’ve personally responded to in my police career:

I’ve responded to at least half a dozen calls similar to the one above…drunk people stumbling into the wrong house. Some went in through unlocked doors. A couple even forcibly made entry. Most ended up passed out on the floor or on the homeowner’s couch.

I once had an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s disease return to her former residence (that she had vacated 10 years prior.) The new resident never changed the locks. The lady used her old keys, opened the door and sat down in the homeowner’s living room at about four o’clock in the afternoon.

I once responded to a call where a teenage girl’s father caught a teenage boy in his house at night. Unbeknownst to him, his daughter had snuck her new boyfriend in after the parents went to bed.

I once responded to a call when a man returned from vacation and found several unknown young men drinking the beer in his fridge. His college-aged son thought dad would be away on vacation another day and had given his buddies keys to the house so they could use it for a party spot.

Have you ever thought about the fact that a cop might be legally inside your residence? We get calls all the time from relatives wanting us to “check the well being” of a person who can’t be contacted. It’s usually an older person with health concerns who hasn’t spoken to his family for a few days. The relative provides police or medics with a key to the house and asks us to go inside and make sure the person isn’t dead. I can’t tell you how many homeowners I’ve woken up from a dead sleep (or drugged stupor) in their own homes.

Think about these situations. Would you really want to shoot an elderly woman, a cop checking to make sure you aren’t dead, or your son’s friends? That doesn’t seem like a very good plan to me. Are you still going to shoot ANYONE you find in your house?

I’m all for shooting anyone in your house who is presenting a clear danger to the safety of you or your family. I’m not so keen on shooting folks who don’t need to be shot. Gun owners need to be both smarter and more discriminating in who they consider as “enemies.”

Even if the shooting is legally justified, would you want to endure the moral consequences of shooting a person who isn’t a threat to you? How would you like it when all your young children’s classmates are scared to talk to their friend’s “killer” father? Have you thought about how expensive it is to replace the carpet and clean up the bloodstains in your house? How about the forthcoming lawsuit? Have you stashed away an extra $50K to pay for the lawyer to defend your innocence?

What can you do in lieu of shooting an intruder who doesn’t present an immediate threat?

First, to avoid the problem, lock your doors! Most drunks won’t break in.

If you do find someone in your house, the safest thing to do is to arm yourself and then call the police. Don’t wake him up. Let the police come and remove him. If he is awake, take a position of cover, call the police and order him to leave. Don’t try to hold him at gunpoint (or baseball bat point) or try to restrain him. Just get a good description and tell him to get out. Hopefully. the police will catch him as he stumbles away. Even if they don’t, you no longer have a problem to handle.

I’d highly suggest that you read Larry Lindenman’s incredibly informative series on “Managing the no shoot … yet.” (Part One, Part Two, Part Three) Larry describes some truly innovative tactics for dealing with situations like these. I took his class on the topic a couple weeks ago at the Rangemaster Tactical Conference. The material is truly something that every armed citizen should master.

Learn something new. Drop the macho braggadocio. Be smart about who you need to shoot.

Greg Ellifritz is the full time firearms and defensive tactics training officer for a central Ohio police department. He holds instructor or master instructor certifications in more than 75 different weapon systems, defensive tactics programs and police specialty areas. Greg has a master’s degree in Public Policy and Management and is an instructor for both the Ohio Peace Officer’s Training Academy and the Tactical Defense Institute. For more information or to contact Greg, visit his training site at Active Response Training.