SALT LAKE CITY — For some, it's not whether to buy a gun. It's never to buy gun.
Guns are a non-starter in a lot of families, whether because of long-held beliefs or safety concerns connected to their children.
Still, there are a number of items around the home that can be used as self-defense weapons in the event of a violent home invasion.
Some are obvious: a taser, a stun gun.
Others are not.
David Burnell, a former special operations fighter who is now a tactical combat expert and the CEO of OPSGEAR, demonstrated how a simple magazine from the coffee table can become an effective weapon.
You have to condition your mind to say, 'What do I have in my proximity right now that can defend myself and my family?'
–Dave Burnell, CEO of OPSGEAR
"You simply roll it as tight as you can," explained Burnell, as he stabbed hard and repeatedly at a dummy. "You strike the guy in soft tissue areas."
Burnell recommended an overhand stabbing action, ala the movie "Psycho," targeting eyes, the neck, the areas below the rib cage and the groin.
"If they can't see it's hard for them to fight, if they can't breathe it's hard for them to fight, and if they can't walk it's hard for them to fight," Burnell said.
Moments later, another loud crash. This time Burnell had struck the dummy with a fire extinguisher, causing the dummy to topple on to a nearby table. The extinguisher, he said, is another improvised weapon, or "proximity defensive tool," that can be extremely effective.
"It's not only going to blind them," he said. "It's going to make it very slick for them. After that's done, you now have a heavy instrument that you can strike them with in the head."
Burnell also suggested as possibilities scissors, a screwdriver, a sock with something hard in it, pepper spray and a stun gun.
"We have the right to defend ourselves, especially when someone's assaulting us physically," Burnell said. "You just have to condition your mind to say, ‘what do I have in my proximity right now that can defend myself and my family?'"
The stun gun, which should be discharged on a fleshy area to get the best result, can cost as little as $25 and in that price range is less than a tenth of the cost of an average taser - which can be shot from a distance but which is supposed to be purchased at a licensed dealer or from TASER and requires registration with the company.
Shooting instructor and Utah Shooting Sports Council chair Clark Aposhian said he actually prefers a taser for self-defense over a stun gun, but acknowledged in a fight for one's life "anything and everything" becomes fair game.
"Never say I've had enough," said Aposhian, describing the mindset he believes a home invasion victim should have. "You've got to prevail."
Both Burnell and Aposhian maintained a gun remains the best option, because it can be fired in self-defense from a significant distance.
The experts also recommended locking bedrooms at night, make sure valuables are nearby if a swift escape is needed, and an escape plan is paramount.
"How do you get out of the home," Burnell explained. "Where is your primary exit, where are your alternate exits and how do you alert somebody to the danger."
Making a home a "hard target" also matters.
Burnell advised keeping property around homes well-lit, and taking down big bushes that make good hiding places around garages and doors. Even checking bushes with a flashlight before going inside is a safe practice.
"You might feel like you're a dork because not everybody does that," Burnell said. "But it's better to feel a little bit like a dork and get comfortable that the boogie man's not in the bushes and you then can go into your home."
Signs that warn of an alarm or a dog are obvious but equally effective deterrents, he said.
**** This is the Part Three of a three-part series, "Guns in the Home."
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