by Gila Hayes

Oh, how we love exotic, extreme, and specialized guns and gear. We forget that much of our personal safety depends on behavior and not on gear, so how about tackling behavior issues that can cascade into use of force situations? Let’s consider a few basics that, while certainly not inclusive, are preventive measures most of us can improve and thus keep trouble further at bay.

Doors–Solid steel framed doors are great! The role of the door is to delay intrusion. If you’re inside, the noise of someone trying to get past your door provides warning and time to prepare, issue orders to leave, ensconce in a safe room, call authorities to get your problem on record, and be ready to fight if necessary. But doors work only if they are locked!

A surprising number of families leave doors and windows unlocked. Believing it more convenient or demonstrating disregard for home security, many fail to lock windows and doors after use. What could make an opportunistic criminal’s job much easier?

The same applies to car doors. While most modern cars automatically engage door locks once the vehicle reaches a certain speed, prior to getting under way, most drivers and occupants are distracted getting phones, errand lists, beverages, and other personal effects squared away before putting the car in gear. Could we make it any easier for a criminal to barge inside, grab valuables, hostages and a means of transportation?

Dogs–Our dogs can both deter and incite trouble. My dogs are little more than an early warning system and fun-loving members of my pack. When returning to an empty house, I prefer to send the dog through the door first, observing its behavior as part of the scan to be sure all’s well inside.

On the other hand, a leading cause of friction between neighbors is the location of the dog’s toilet. Sometimes accusations about dog feces in neighbors’ yards are misplaced, as in our current lead story series, but often as not, it’s a legitimate problem. The same applies to barking dogs, so a dog is a multi-edged weapon and while I believe they’re incredibly useful, our canine companions require tending to make sure they don’t create more trouble than they prevent.

Leave it On–Upon coming home, a surprising number who make much of carrying a gun 24-7, strip their self-defense gun off their belt, stashing it on the bedside table or beside the easy chair. If they’ve gone to the basement or outside storage shed or run to the garage to get something from the car or any other of the activities undertaken once “home and safe,” the gun is not readily at hand if a threat suddenly arises. If your holster is uncomfortable, there are many ways to carry a gun on body. After trading your business clothes for sweatpants, add a bellyband, ankle holster, waist pack, or other carry device for your self-defense gun.

MYOB–Like dogs, advice to mind our own business is a multi-edged weapon. For the most part, however, we need to stop inserting ourselves and our righteous opinions into conflicts not involving us. Rude gestures, corrective admonitions and all the other little “I disapprove” messages that slip into daily contact with strangers generally go unchallenged. Sometimes, though, we ignorantly correct someone who is already on edge, intoxicated, irrational or spoiling for a fight. Now you will have to explain why you started an argument that turned into a physical fight when all you really needed to do was leave or quietly watch to see if a worrisome situation becomes a threat to you and yours.

On the coin’s other side, we must resolve unsettled conflicts with family, neighbors and coworkers. This can be a lot more complex than a simple apology! Often harassment defies reason and requires a multi-faceted solution—more complex than we can address here. If you deal with difficult neighbors, you need to understand what drives them. Take the time to read by Marc MacYoung and ask yourself honestly which symptoms and solutions apply to your situation.

There’s a lot more to living safely than buying a gun–even if it is the newest, coolest and guaranteed-to-vaporize aggressors fightin’ tool just released! Address behaviors before equipment.

To read more of this month's journal, please click here.