Handguns for Self-Defense, Part One

The best non-lethal implement for self-defense is the handgun. The notion of the “non-lethal” handgun might be puzzling to some folks, but most people shot with a firearm survive. For example, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, over a five-year period ending with fiscal year 2001, treated 1,302 victims of gunshot wounds. Patients treated at VUMC for gunshot wounds have an average survival rate of about 80 percent. About 60 percent of these patients of all ages are treated and discharged directly to home. Two percent of VUMC’s gunshot victims are discharged directly to jail.

You've no doubt heard about some of the more celebrated cases, for example 23-year-old New York City resident Sean Bell. On Nov. 25, 2006, Sean Bell, due to be married later that day, Bell was holding his bachelor party at Club Kalua, climbed into a gray Nissan with two friends who had been celebrating with him — and died in a hail of 50 bullets fired by a group of five police officers. New York City agreed in July 2010 to pay $7.15 million to settle a federal lawsuit filed by the family and two friends of Mr. Bell. The lawsuit, filed in 2007, accused the police of wrongful death, negligence, assault and civil rights violations. Joseph Guzman, friend of Sean, was hit 19 times, yet survived.

Actor, rapper, record producer, author, and entrepreneur 50 Cent was shot nine times at close range with a 9mm handgun, reportedly by Darryl "Hommo" Baum, friend and bodyguard of Mike Tyson, on May 24, 2000. After 13 days in the hospital, 50 Cent was released. He has since released four albums, with his fifth due shortly. Handgun lethality is largely random, luck of the draw, or “roulette” according to Dr. Martin L. Fackler and Dr. Vincent J. M. Di Maio. Not only is survival rate 80%, but if a gunshot victim's heart is still beating upon arrival at VUMC, survival is at roughly 95%.

In a recent story that made national news, Melinda Herman of Loganville, Georgia, just a week after learning to shoot a handgun, fled to the attic with her two nine-year-old children and a .38 revolver to get away from a home intruder. Her husband was on the phones with her and a 911 operator. The intruder had used a crowbar to break through the front door and then two other doors upstairs, and Mrs. Herman could hear him coming closer and closer. “She had already locked multiple doors before she and her children took refuge in an adjacent-room attic -- the kind with a small door that you have to bend down to go through,” reports CNN. The intruder tried to enter that door.

Walton County Sheriff Joe Chapman said he believes the mother and her two children were in a life-and-death situation and she had no choice but to exercise her constitutional right to self-defense. "Had it not turned out the way that it did, I would possibly be working a triple homicide, not having a clue as to who it is we're looking for," Sheriff Joe Chapman told CNN. Despite being hit with five out of six times with the .38 Special at very close range, the suspect not only survived . . . he managed to make it back to his SUV and drive away a distance before finally driving off the road. Despite being shot five times, the intruder did not drop, did not stop, and the five shots were not quickly lethal, nor were they lethal at all.

Again, just as Dr. Fackler and Dr. Di Maio have long reported, the “manstopper” load is a fabrication and the one shot stop is largely a matter of blind luck. For self-defense use in the home, where firearm concealment is not an issue, clearly use of large capacity magazines is a matter of common sense and perhaps survival.

When it comes to handguns, like any other firearm, being able to hit what you are shooting at is vital. There is no one size fits all, but fit and comfort is critical. If your handgun is painful to shoot, you won't enjoy practicing and although someone may think that trying to hold a hand-slapping little monster is what you need, a .22 WinMag with good ammo is far, far more effective than a flyweight .357 Magnum that bruises and wants to jump out of your hand and that you can't hit much of anything with.

In many cases, the best non-lethal self-defense tool is the handgun; something only lethal 20% of the time (assuming you actually hit something with it) is hardly a sure-fire lead pipe cinch to be deadly. It has that potential, of course, but it is far from a certainty. That's alright, for the goal isn't strictly lethality at all, the point is merely stopping an attack and eliminating a threat . . . not necessarily taking a life. Firearms in the right hands are not about taking lives, they are merely about saving them.

How often? In a national survey conducted by renowned Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck in 1993, the finding was that are approximately two million defensive gun uses per year by law-abiding citizens in the United States.


Be sure to read and consider: handgunwounding.pdf .



Copyright 2013 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.



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