Americans have a constitutional right to armed self-defense, but they have other choices as well. The University of Colorado, for example, last year offered the students it sought to disarm with statewide legislation other “crime prevention tactics.” Options for female students facing rapists included passive resistance,” biting, and self-degradation. According to one proponent of the bill to ban the lawful carrying of firearms on campuses, such threats are “why we have the whistles.”
Along similar lines, NBC’s Today Show recently offered suggestions on how to deal with violent home invaders. Their basic advice: politely defer to the intruder, but if things really get out of hand, reach for the insect repellent.
For the tips, the Today Show interviewed former NYPD detective Wallace Zeins, whose New York City pedigree was evident in his recommendations. First, Zeins instructed viewers to use their vehicles’ key fobs as a makeshift alarm. Following that, the former detective told the audience to keep a can of wasp spray in the bedroom to use as an improvised chemical weapon against a violent intruder. Further, the report suggested abandoning one’s home to the intruder as soon as possible. If captured by a violent home invader, Zeins’s advice was to comply with the attacker’s every wish, and to never lie to them.
At no time did the report suggest that firearms were a viable option. Also unclear was whether Zeins himself has abandoned the firearms he carried as a police officer in favor of bug spray to protect his own home and family.
The Today Show’s omission of firearms as a legitimate means of self-defense isn’t especially surprising, given NBC’s lengthy history of anti-gun bias. Nevertheless, while the defensive capabilities of firearms for home defense may continue to escape the attention of NBC’s producers, the legitimacy of this option has been recognized by far weightier institutions.
The Supreme Court’s Heller decision noted one of the reasons D.C.’s handgun ban was unconstitutional was that “[t]he prohibition extend[ded] … to the home, where the need for defense of self, family, and property is most acute.” The Supreme Court’s opinion in McDonald reiterated this point. State legislatures have increasingly passed Castle Doctrine legislation to protect residents who employ armed self-defense from unjust prosecution and civil liability, amplifying a doctrine well-established in Anglo-American case law.
Further, there is strong evidence that gun use is the most effective means to defend oneself from criminal attack. A 1988 study by Florida State Professor of Criminology Gary Kleck titled Crime Control Through the Private Use of Armed Force determined, “Victim resistance with guns is associated with lower rates of both victim injury and crime completion for robberies and assaults than any other victim action, including nonresistance.”
Despite their best efforts, Today and Zein inadvertently gave one sound piece of advice, when the former detective told viewers to treat home invaders “like royalty.” While he apparently meant that a victim should be as obsequious as possible to an assailant, liberty-loving Americans have a strong tradition of treating interloping monarchs to the business end of their rifles.