“[…] Earlier this year, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds said that 25,000 citizens have licensed firearms. Some will therefore face circumstances in which they feel compelled to use them.
“What’s absent from the conversation is situational risk assessment. It’s an important part of discussions about armed engagement, but it’s easy to leave out of populist soundbites…”
The following guest column on the United National Congress (UNC) political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s suggested response to home invasions was submitted to Wired868 by Orin Gordon, a media and business consultant who can be reached at email@example.com:
A tale of two home invasions.
The first was detected after it had occurred. Security camera footage the next morning confirmed a breach the night before.
The first sign that something was amiss was unsecured kitchen windows. The intruder had defeated the burglar-proof bars on the kitchen windows—and all of the windows of the house—gained entry, and could be seen on video moving around in deadly, ghostly silence.
The doctor and his family slept upstairs, oblivious. It spooked them. They moved house.
The other was the armed holdup of a terrified family, some of whom had returned from abroad, by a group of armed men. The bandits took cash, jewelry, phones and other valuables.
No one was killed—an outcome that’s not always the case. It wasn’t clear whether anyone was struck or beaten, but the incident left them badly shaken.
In describing it, one of the family members spoke with quiet fury. If he ever laid hands on the bandits, he said…
I’ll leave it there. The sense of helplessness, the trauma and the humiliation stay with victims of home invasions, particularly the violent incidents.
It was these people that the Leader of the Opposition Kamla Persad-Bissessar was speaking to when she said that “when the criminals invade your home, draw your licensed firearm and light them up!”
“Empty the whole clip”, she said.
She promised US red state-style Stand Your Ground laws if the UNC returned to government. T&T’s existing laws make provision for self-defence in the case of home invasions, but the calls have resonant appeal and the opposition leader knows it.
The police and government national security apparatus seem ineffective at crime prevention, detection, fighting and prosecution. The ever-increasing murder rate and the brazenness of the hits give the impression that they’ve lost control. Citizens can feel as if they’re on their own.
All that said, Persad-Bissessar’s comments and her subsequent doubling down on them are reckless.
The pro-gun/anti-gun/gun culture debate is another discussion for another day. I prefer to address what’s in front of me.
Earlier this year, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds said that 25,000 citizens have licensed firearms. Some will therefore face circumstances in which they feel compelled to use them.
What’s absent from the conversation is situational risk assessment. It’s an important part of discussions about armed engagement, but it’s easy to leave out of populist soundbites.
Even if you’re armed, you have to make a risk assessment—sometimes in a split second—about engaging a home invader with gunfire. Getting the risk assessment wrong can cost you your life.
The most important outcome is getting out alive. Leave the hero stuff to Netflix.
Let me tell you a risk assessment story. In a remote part of rural England years ago, armed men detained a group of us. Blindfolded and bound in an abandoned house, I could hear a lot of frightening yelling. Gunshots rang out regularly.
It was all part of the hostile environment training that was mandatory for reporters being deployed to war and other danger zones. You’d be surprised at how much the sensory deprivation involved in being blindfolded plays with your mind. It all felt terrifyingly real.
Some of us “lived”, and some of us “died.” I lived. The reasons why lay in our responses to the circumstances, and they came out in the debrief. That’s as much as I’ll reveal.
Of course, no simulation, no matter how well done, prepares you for the real thing. What such courses seek to do is to equip you with some tools to help you to get out of dangerous environments alive.
Every situation is different. You could act in identical fashion in two different scenarios and have opposite outcomes—life or death. The most important skill gained is assessing and responding to risk better.
No response is foolproof. As much as you can lose your life by choosing to open fire, you can also get killed by choosing not to engage when you have the means of doing so.
Risk assessment is not a perfect science, but you can mitigate it and improve your odds. The obvious ways are securing our homes more tightly—from metal bars to better door locks to security cameras for those who can afford them.
Not everyone can. We assume in the absence of the necessary data that most crime is directed at middle or high-income people, and that’s probably generally correct. However, violent crime is also directed at low-income people.
The experience of Haiti shows that criminals also target poorer people, albeit for lower returns and sometimes for different reasons.
Gun ownership—the license plus the weapon—is even more expensive.
“How many of you are prepared to pay $40,000 for a firearm user’s license and another $15,000 to the dealer?” Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley asked during a PNM campaign event on Saturday.
If you’re one of those who have made the investment, get firearms training. It’s more than about being able to accurately hit a stationary target. Even for advanced training involving moving targets, they don’t fire back.
And as proficient as you may become at hitting them, nothing prepares you for firing at and probably killing a human being in a situation of heightened stress. Nothing, that is, except a clear sense of your own impending death at their hands.
Any good trainer would include a solid risk assessment component.