Now that we know we don't panic and start shooting things that go bump in the night, here are some things to consider if you wake up in a similar situation:
- Set up your home to deter break-ins ahead of time (a security system, floodlights on a motion detector, dogs, etc).
- Don't invite strangers into your home (you don't want them to "case" your place for a future visit).
- Don't be known as the guy with the extensive gun collection, the guy who buries gold coins under the floorboards, etc. This will draw thieves to your home because they think it will be worth the risk to break in.
- Take a self defense course, tactical shooting course, etc.
- Know what you city, county, state self defense laws are.
- Have insurance. Stuff is replaceable, people aren't. Insurance will pay for it.
- Practice with your family: lock down drills, there's a burglar in the house drill, fire drills, etc.
- Make it a habit to lock all doors and windows before you go to bed every night.
- If you have reason to believe someone is breaking into your home, call 911 immediately (you want them en-route before you take further action).
- Arm yourself (with a firearm, baseball bat, Mace, etc...your choice). Of course you practice frequently with your chosen armament and "accidents" aren't going to happen.
- Know where the family is and gather everyone in one room if possible. You don't want the "burglar" to be your kid who forgot his key and is trying to break himself into the house so he doesn't have to wake you.
- Listen to what is going on. Obviously everyone should remain silent so as not to let the burglar/home invader know where they are.
- If you can, lock everyone--yourself included--into a bedroom or safe room. Yes, I know many states have "Stand Your Ground" laws that are quite liberal and you don't have a duty to retreat but by doing this there is #1, no possibility of shooting a family member because you will have one target area (the door) where you will be shooting, and #2, someone breaking into your locked bedroom is a slam-dunk self defense case when it hits the DA/prosecutor's desk.
- Consider other options besides confrontation. Some people may be so pissed off at this point that they want a confrontation with a would be burglar/home invader but consider that other options may be a safer course of action. Hiding or escaping the premises may be better choices in some cases (for example, for unarmed children, or if your only weapon is a hunting knife, etc).
- Should you just give up and be cooperative the home invader? Some people say this is a course of action, I think it is more of a death wish. Your average burglar is going to flee when things get hinky. Someone on drugs may be aggressive and kill you no matter how cooperative you are. Home invaders tend to like violence so the run/hide/fight thing might be your best option. Generally the type of criminal you are going to run into isn't going to know what to do with a captive, they will probably panic and it won't end well for you (for the very good criminals who are seeking only your cooperation....well if you would be such a target you would probably already have your own security consultant and wouldn't be reading this blog).
- If you must confront a burglar/home invader you want to do so legally (ie: they are in your home not just walking across your property), quickly (you want the element of surprise on your side), and decisively (Firearms are decisive; a fist fight isn't. Obviously each situation differs, the sound of you chambering your shotgun may send the criminal fleeing, on the other hand they may have a firearm as well and you don't want to get into a "fast draw" match with someone).
- Most importantly, you want to follow the same common sense shooting skills you already know: don't point your firearm until you are ready to shoot, keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot, don't shoot at something you can't identify (if someone is shooting through your door you have an obvious threat, if, on the other hand, you hear someone creeping around outside your door, shooting through the door at a noise is not something you want to do), aim for center mass (no shooting up in the air to scare them or "winging" them...if you are shooting you are in fear for your life and you need to stop the threat immediately).
- Hopefully you can run the person off without needing lethal force (I like dogs, they are a threat without being a threat threat). There is no glory in killing someone and it will impact you pretty much forever should you have to do this. After the threat is neutralized, wait for law enforcement. Don't present a threat to them--they don't know the guy with the gun (you) are the homeowner and not the burglar. Answer their questions with factual, short answers (don't guess, speculate, editorialize, show off, say the dead guy deserved it, or anything like that--what you say can be used against you in court). If you need a lawyer, call one (this varies a great deal--in some areas/situations the DA/prosecutor will not charge you, in others, prosecution is much more likely).
- Realize that after a lethal confrontation you may have some sort of PTSD. Work through it, get help with it.
- Be prepared for the media. Unfortunately there isn't much you can do to "prepare" but high profile shootings will bring the media out of the woodwork and they can be a significant problem to deal with.
Bottom line: there is no clear-cut course of action when it comes to someone breaking into your home. Each situation is different and and these situations are quite fluid and changeable. Preparing ahead of time is your best defense, and if things go from bad to worse only you can decide what the best course of action is for your situation.