In January, an Alabama man was shot and killed by sheriffs deputies who responded to the wrong address for a shots-fired domestic disturbance call. Prosecutors have just concluded their investigation and will not take further action in the tragic death.
How did Ray King, 50, get killed? He answered the door late at night holding a gun.
It remains unclear whether or not Mr. King pointed the gun towards the glass storm door (and by extension the deputies standing on the other side of it) when he opened his front door. Either way, he was shot and killed. While he may have been well-meaning and protective, he died in part because he chose very poorly.
Yes, your home is your castle. Yes, courts have ruled that you have a right to have a gun in your hand when you open the door. At the same time, just because you can lawfully do something doesn’t mean it’s the wise or prudent thing.
But what do you bring with you for a knock from an unexpected caller, especially at unchristianlike hours?
I’d half expect TTAG readers to answer, “a gun, of course.” While a gun is very useful, there’s a far better answer: prudence and common sense.
In short, there are a million reasons why someone may ring your doorbell and 99% of them are innocuous. Answering the door with a visible firearm carries very big risks and precious few benefits for you.
Cops and criminals alike tend to think with their lizard brains when they encounter a person with a gun in their hand, especially if it’s pointed at them. While your estate might collect on a wrongful death claim if you get shot through your screen door by a trigger happy cop, there are better ways to earn a buck or two.
There’s nothing wrong with having a snub-nosed revolver tucked in your pants or a holstered gun on your hip. No pants? Take a moment to put some on as a public service before answering that knock. Then practice discretion and keep your gun(s) concealed. If you think you need to answer the door with a long-gun you need to be calling the police instead. Gun or no gun, bring a phone in case you need to call 911.
Secondly, don’t be in a hurry to answer the door, especially if things seem the least bit suspicious. Stand back at least six or eight feet from the door, announce yourself and then move.
Are you like an increasing number of Americans with a Ring doorbell or an Arlo camera system? Check it and use it to talk to the visitor(s) on the other side of the door. Then act appropriately depending on what you hear and see. Cameras help. They’ll show how many people are outside, their location and their body language.
Remember, contrary to common custom, you don’t have to open the door to answer it.
Now, I know most gun owners with even half an ounce of situational awareness will think to themselves, “C’mon John. Do you think we’re stupid or something?”
Here’s the thing: While you might not blithely open the door the next time some unknown character knocks or rings the bell at zero dark thirthy, have you coached others in your home to use similar common sense and caution? Case in point: my 4-year-old twin boys who haven’t met a stranger. Old enough to open the door, too young to understand situational awareness in any way. (Just ask me sometime what happened at Halloween while we “trick or treated.”)
Maybe it’s your spouse, your grandchild or even a guest. Encourage them to stop and evaluate circumstances before they open the door. And even if things seem okay, if another member of the household handles door duty, there’s nothing wrong with lurking nearby ready to engage in an instant if things go sideways.
Again, your best defensive preparation: practice situational awareness. Make sure others in your home know to use common sense before opening the door to an unknown visitor, too.
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