Not everybody gets to Live Free or Die. Some people are trapped by circumstance behind the Nanny Curtain in regulatory hellholes: Massachusetts. California. Cook County, Illinois. New York. New Jersey. You know who you are, you denizens of these bleak kakistocracies.
And if you’re one of those people, you’re sick to death of hearing us tell you to “vote with your feet, already.” People have families, ancestral homes, jobs that amount to a Golden Cordamatic Dog-Tenda, etc. etc. Some of you even like your hellholes, apart from the gun laws. Indeed, one-party kleptocracies like New York and Massachusetts still contain great swaths of Norman Rockwell’s America — Rockwell, in fact, lived in western Mass. They just are run by urban machines and organized crime, but we repeat ourselves.
OK, so you’re stuck inside of New York with the Cuomo blues again. Now what do you do? How do you select weapons in a state that gives you fewer options that are available out here in the United States?
Many of the jurisdictions that are hostile to gun ownership are also hostile, to some extent or another, to self-defense. It is no exaggeration to say that there are people in prison in places like MA and NJ for cases that would be clear-cut self-defense in the real world (MA has since liberalized its LOSD situation some, but many prosecutors still burn with lust for The Great White Defendant, to steal a line from Tom Wolfe).
There are also people in prison in very self-defense-positive states like Florida for what they thought was self-defense but because of how they did it was not. (Pro tip: cops can shoot fleeing felons, fleeing anybody really, with de facto, real world impunity. You can’t).
Andrew Branca’s book, the Law Of Self-Defense, describes the legal requirements for a self-defense claim. In some states meeting these requirements can forestall any prosecution; in others, they must be presented as an affirmative defense only after you’re on trial. In most states, you can defend yourself in your home or business; but in some states you cannot.
Note that all bets are off outside the United States. Almost every jurisdiction on the planet has some kind of self-defense law, but only a local criminal defense lawyer (which is the kind of lawyer you will need if the police take a dim view of your self-defense claim) can tell you how it works.
You must know your local laws. For example, in NY, retired law enforcement officers can’t be prevented from carrying their guns — a Federal law overrides, although this is little known by NY cops, so you might not be able to “beat the ride” — but they are felons if the gun they carry violates the bizarre and extreme SAFE Act, as the majority of service pistols and a surprising number of backups do (at least the 7-round limit was overturned, but the 10-round applies to everybody). We’d bet that every day thousands of retired LEOs and Federal Agents transit NYFC with a technical violation of the SAFE Act on their hips. (It was an LEO who pointed this detail out to us).
Be Aware of Trends
You don’t just live in your jurisdiction today, you live in it next year or the year after that. Unless you want the particular part of the state you live in to have concrete walls and barred windows, you need to know where the laws are going and be ready to comply — or face the consequences of civil disobedience. (Numbers sued from out of the grips of the New York State Police last week demonstrate that most New York gun owners took the civil disobedience route, relative to the SAFE act’s long-gun registration. Even though New York has long registered pistols, with zero effect on crime. However, that’s one Catch-Me-F-Me-Rule® with a very big F attached).
We are always armed. Because we’re armed in the Brain Housing Group, not just on the hip or in the hands. Look around you right now: what can you apply deadly force with, that’s right within reach? Within one step or motion? Within five seconds? If there isn’t anything, go get something. But there probably is: couldn’t you kill an intruder with the chair you’re sitting in? If so, how would you do it? Could you kill someone with your laptop? A table lamp? It’s not for sheer amusement that we post the when guns are outlawed series here. It’s instructional, friends.
That’s part of mindset, the yin of mindset: being willing, ready, and conscious of your ability to deploy deadly force defensively at all times. You can kill with a pen, even a cheesy Lighthouse for the Blind GI Issue pen, and a sharp #2 pencil is even better. But your mind has to get through the assailant’s orbit into his frontal lobe before the pencil can.
However, the other part of mindset, the yang of mindset, is even more important. While it’s fine and good to expect a fight, the key path to long life and prosperity is to avoid a fight. Taking the fight to the enemy, as we’d do in actual war, is a terrible strategy for personal, home and family defense. For one thing, it makes you the aggressor, creating legal problems down the road for you (just ask Michael Dunn, who is spending the rest of his life in prison because he went to the gun in a situation that started 1. with some yout’s who wouldn’t turn their vile music down, but 2. and more importantly, because he failed to plan and had to make a gas stop in a bad part of town. He escalated that situation, certainly (imagine where he’d be if he just walked away, grumbling about “kids today” or even muttering racial epithets to himself. Answer, not in the state pen). But he was in the situation because his failure to plan exposed himself and family to unnecessary risk. Just as investigators almost always find that an aircraft mishap was the final culmination of a long string of errors or failures, the removal of any one of which breaks the “accident chain,” if you investigate uses of force with care you will often find that they, too, are the culmination of a chain not only of chance and circumstance, but also, of imperfect judgment on the part of the defender.
The yang of mindset teaches you not to seek confrontation, not to go places you don’t belong (especially places well-known for violent crime. For instance, in Massachusetts, there are about 200 murders a year, and there are about 250 towns and cities. Over 200 of those towns and cities haven’t had a murder in a decade; forty-plus will have one this year, three or four of them will hit double digits, and a couple neighborhoods of Boston will account for scores of them). Violent crime is closely correlated, these days, with gang activity and gang activity is largely funded and sustained with welfare money, between criminal scores. The yang tells you not to go voluntarily into the welfare/gang/crime environment. The yang tells you not to get intoxicated in strange bars, alone, for instance. There’s enough risk that the criminal will come to you. Be ready in case that happens, but meanwhile take measures to decrease that eventuality’s probability.
Yes, we do recognize that most people can’t afford to move to a gated community where crime is reduced to opportunistic jewelry theft by maids and cable-installers (and if that’s your problem, preventing it is, again, a mindset issue). Not everybody can afford to move to a waterfront mansion in our town, or even to one of the inland $1200-month apartments. Maybe Brentwood is not for you, but do you have to live in South Central? And if you really do, how do you harden yourself and your home as a target; how do you become the Gray Man, off the criminal’s targeting screen; how do you work that mindset in the interests of your defense and survival?
Mindset interrelates closely with law. Massad Ayoob has written a lot about decisionmaking in this juncture, and his self-defense book is a good mate to Branca’s, because it deals a little more with what a shooter can expect, apart from and alongside the legal imbroglio.
OK, you’ve got a handle on your local and state laws, and you’re staggered by how restrictive they are. You can’t even defend yourself!
Yes, you can. Most jurisdictions allow most people to get a long gun, no matter how deep they’ve gone up Bloomberg’s colon. Even a semi-auto ban leaves you with several rapid-firing possibilities, including slide-action rifles and shotguns and lever-action rifles.
Others are good old standbys of decades or even a century’s standing.
If you’re facing a burglar equipped with a (probably stolen) Glock and you have a Winchester 94, who’s better armed? You are. Almost any long gun capable of fairly rapid fire can be used with more accuracy, and almost any centerfire long gun will hit harder, than any pistol, even at indoor combat ranges. Even rounds like the .357 Magnum and .45 Long Colt do better out of a 16″ barrel than a 4″ one, and you have advantages of a multipoint hold and a long sight radius. (Although a red-dot is ideal for home defense. We like Aimpoints).
We’re hoping to explore some basic-to-exotic lever options in a future post. One secondary advantage of a lever is this: if you do wind up in the dock, your defense attorney is asleep at the switch if he can’t get some mileage out of your eighteen-ninety-four Winchester (or seventy-three, or ninety-five Marlin) and the fact that it came on the market when Grover Freaking Cleveland was president (Ulysses S. Grant, in the case of the ’73).
Handguns are more restricted than rifles, just about everywhere. And some of your cutting-edge anti-gun states have tried to ban particular gun features. (Some of this is based on the ATF’s history of using a Sporting Purpose test, imported by corrupt and censured Senator Thomas Dodd from Nazi Germany). The idea that a pistol is more deadly because of the position of the magazine, or the size of it, or the presence of a threaded muzzle is rather bemusing for anyone steeped in the technicalities, but it is the law of the land in a number of (usually crime-soaked) conurbations. As a malum prohibitum law it’s child’s play to enforce: they just charge any violator they stumble across, whereas the perpetrators of malum in se violent crimes actually have to be hunted down and cases built against them, which is often more work than big-city cops or prosecutors feel like doing.
There are still jurisdictions where handguns are difficult for non-connected law abiders (New York City, for one). There are others, like Massachusetts and California, that have instituted broad bans on new handgun designs under a pretext of “consumer safety.”
For you, there’s the handgun equivalent of that old lever-action, the “obsolete” double action revolver. Yes, you only have five or six shots before a difficult and time-consuming reload process, but in the typical home or self defense situation, this is enough given accurate shooting. One’s accuracy may rise to the level required, as historically there are very few cases where shots are fired in armed self-defense that the aggressing felon “won” the gunfight.
There seems to be a general consensus among instructors and trainers that police and military pistol marksmanship, never very impressive at the median level to begin with (and always pretty terrifying at the left tail of the distribution), has deteriorated signally since the advent of double-stack wondernines in the 1980s. Groups of officers routinely contagious-fire hundreds of rounds at very close ranges with very few hits — on the suspects, at least (all those rounds hit something. Just not their targets). Fewer rounds are OK if you make them count. Modern defensive ammo (if your state allows it; some, like NJ, don’t) can help but you have to give the bullet the hit it needs to do its work.
Remember, unlike the police, who have de facto impunity for reckless firing, you own every round you fire, every bit of damage it does, and every injury it causes.
No pressure, eh?
But the traditional DA cop revolver is widely available on the quality used-gun market, is (assuming it passes a smith’s inspection for timing, etc.) as reliable as machinery gets, and is simplicity itself to operate: the original point-and-click interface.
There are many options in non-firearms weapons, including weapons you can assemble from innocuous items (which is how we stay armed with deadly contact-range weapons whilst flying commercial). But this post is long enough already. Let the When Guns are Outlawed posts help you with some ideas.