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Should I buy a gun for home defense in response to COVID-19?

by Keegan McNamara 1 min read23rd Mar 202015 comments


Before the pandemic, Scott Alexander's short post reviewing a few correlational studies on gun ownership and violence left me feeling uncertain about the moral status of owning a home defense weapon. Times have changed though, and I suspect that there will be a larger risk of home invasion during the course of COVID-19's spread. Many people are buying guns and ammunition in what is likely preparation for this increased risk.

Assuming that I continue to own the gun after the inflated risk of home invasion due to COVID-19 decreases to a negligible level, should I buy a gun for home defense now?

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I say this as someone who was at one point extremely good with one kind of gun: guns take a lot of training to be useful for self defense. If you don't already have that training, I'm extremely skeptical they will be useful to you.

Heh, just had this conversation with a close friend of mine. I strongly recommended no guns, but maybe pepper spray. I recommend the same to you.

I used to be fairly into this, did a lot of training and competitive shooting, and some amount of bird hunting. I do have guns in my house, but not accessible - they're in a locked safe, unloaded, with individual trigger locks. It would have to get a lot worse before I wanted one at the ready - a combination of knowing that it's more likely to hurt someone I love than to stop a crime, and not wanting to kill anyone, even a criminal.

If you're seriously concerned, get a few decent-quality pepper spray canisters. These are somewhat less effective than guns in some kinds of confrontation, but more effective in others (because you can use it without full confidence in your target and what's behind them), and WAY less likely to kill a neighbor or family member. Get enough that you can waste 2 on practice and familiarization. Go hose down a tree and practice the take-out, un-lock, point-right-direction, spray-entire-upper-body movements.

Do you know how to use a gun?

Where would you store it? Easy access to loaded gun or locked in a safe /unloaded.

Would you be willing to use a gun? (waving one round for home invader to disarm you and then have it pointed back at you - if they're not already armed.)

What risk factors are in your house (i.e. children) that having a gun might be more of a threat to household than invaders?

What kind of distance would be be defending yourself from? small apartment v. taking out intruder from the top of the stairs out of arms reach.

A lot of other things can be used for defence. Something I read as a kid with plenty of suggestions was the SAS survival handbook. A kettle cord with a plug on the end (UK 3 point plug) was one that stuck in my mind (but these days a phone charger might be the easiest thing to hand) and I remember being on a regularly hijacked bus route with my can of deodorant ready to be sprayed in someone's face.

Do you have anything really worth defending in a robbery? (violent attackers a different matter).

I agree with Elizabeth. There is a learning curve that you MUST commit to, to be safe owning/using a gun responsibly. That learning curve includes regular sessions at the range (1-2 hrs a week) and 100-300 rounds of ammunition per session. So you are looking at a time and $$$ commitment at a time when demand has pushed costs high.

Your decision, given your risk assessment of the potential danger to you and yours. Don't get a gun unless you're willing to commit to the training. Otherwise, you've increased the risk of problems, not decreased them.

Good luck...be safe!

My understanding is that if you try to defend yourself with a gun, it's much likelier that, at the end of the day, you'll wind up dead. I would guess that a much better option is to find a really good hiding place for the things you don't want stolen, and have enough non-hidden stuff to make the criminal feel like they robbed you successfully. (And be a good liar.) Also get a security camera ... and/or a prominent sign that says you have a security camera. :-P The only scenario I can think where a gun might be worth having is a complete breakdown of civil order, with people literally starving of hunger etc. If you think that's sufficiently probable as to be worth preparing for, you can get a gun, and just absolutely don't use it unless that scenario actually happens.

It seems like a big part of the value of a gun might be the ability to wave it around and say "I have a gun". So, as an alternative strategy, have you considered buying a prop gun and practicing the words in a mirror?