Every time there is a new crime perpetrated on a real estate agent, there is more talk about safety standards. Many agents’ thoughts turn to taking self-defense classes and carrying a handgun, so they may defend themselves.
Interestingly, according to the National Association of REALTORS® 2015 Member Safety Report, 12 percent of agents who responded said that they already carry a gun in the field.
In this article, in a balanced way, we’ll explore the ins and outs of gun ownership, including the known associated risks and commitment needed to be proficient.
The risks of gun ownership inside your home
If you are considering purchasing a firearm, you’ll first need to recognize that statistics indicate that keeping a gun in your house is a risk.
The vast majority of homicides take place between intimates, not strangers.
- In 2010, nearly six times more women were shot by husbands, boyfriends, and ex-partners than murdered by male strangers.
- A woman’s chances of being killed by her abuser increase more than 5 times, if he has access to a gun.
- It literally doubles the risk that a household member will kill himself or herself.
- Some studies suggest a suicide risk as high as 10 times.
- More than 30,000 Americans injure themselves with guns every year.
- An American is 50% more likely to shoot themselves dead than to be shot dead by a criminal.
- For every time a gun is used in self-defense in the home, there are 7 assaults or murders, 11 suicide attempts, and 4 accidents involving guns in or around a home.
- In one experiment, one third of 8-to-12-year-old boys who found a handgun pulled the trigger.
You know the risks; still want to pack heat?
Now that you know the potential consequences of possessing a weapon, what’s involved in owning and carrying a firearm that you can use in the field?
You could just go to a gun show, but otherwise you must buy your gun from a federally licensed dealer in your state and submit to a background check that they will arrange, using an FBI database. Once approved, you will be required to attend mandated safety training.
In states that do not have open carry laws, you’ll need a concealed carry permit that can take several months to get approved.
In San Diego County where I live, it has been almost impossible to obtain a concealed carry permit from the Sheriff for decades (a current lawsuit may change that). So if you didn’t want to break the law, “packing” wasn’t an option. I believe there are other parts of the country with the same issues.
Now you have a gun, can you use it properly?
“How good is good enough when it comes to being able to save your life or the life of a family member?” asks Guy Minnis of Hard Target Firearms Training.
Minnis suggests that you should practice at least twice a week. Shoot at least fifty rounds at each session, and make every round count. Fire every round as if it was the only round in the gun and you need to hit your target to save your life. Do not just go through the motions.
Practice the things that you must do to put a gun into action to stop a deadly threat. Practice your draw from the holster that you carry every day and in the place you carry it every day. Practice your draw a lot and practice moving while drawing your weapon.
- Practice dry fire skill sets 10 to 15 minutes a day, everyday.
- Practice live fire skill sets at least twice a week and shoot no more that 50 rounds each practice session.
- Practice with the gun you carry and where you carry it.
- Attend training as often as you can.
- The more structured training you receive, the better you will get.
That is quite the regimen, but remember that the most dangerous weapon is one used without proper knowledge, experience and practice.
Unless real estate agents go through the same kind of weapons training that police do — which goes far beyond the safety classes required to obtain a gun permit— they probably won’t be skilled enough at using a gun in a life-threatening situation.
What pros have to say to Realtors:
Chief Tony Holloway, of St. Petersburg Police advised Realtors not to carry a firearm. “That person’s going to take that gun away from you,” Holloway said. “That (bad) guy that’s going to make a call has got a plan, and you need to have a plan.”
Preston Taylor, a police sergeant with the Sheriff’s Department in Grand Traverse County, Mich., says criminals have often killed law enforcement officers by using the cops’ guns against them.
If a highly trained professional is vulnerable to such an attack, average citizens are doubly so, he says. Taylor, who teaches safety seminars to real estate professionals, says hesitation to use a gun in a life-threatening situation puts the gun holder’s life at risk.
With that said, in a 2012 study published by the Cato Institute, authors Clayton Cramer and David Burnett who researched and documented published news reports, concluded that large numbers of crimes; murders, assaults, robberies, are thwarted each year by ordinary persons with guns.
Bad news: Guns can make you braver
Many people who carry have a false sense of bravado just because they have a gun. There is the inevitability that you’ll start doing things that you normally wouldn’t, just because you think you’re protected.
Remember that if someone is planning something, they will probably be able to execute it before you realize what’s going on. Carrying a gun won’t stop that.
If you carry, are you really prepared to kill?
Having a gun doesn’t inherently make anyone better able to thwart an attack; it just means the battle has become more deadly. Many attackers are very skilled at gunplay and will often meet little resistance in turning your weapon against you unless you know what you are doing.
If you already carry or decide you wish to carry a gun, you’d better be sure you have the skill as well as the will to use your weapon, otherwise it’s more likely to be used against you.
If you’re not prepared to take a life, you shouldn’t carry a gun.
This rape victim had a gun, no chance to use it
11 a.m. Friday Nov. 28 2014 in Zanesville Ohio. Population around 25,000. A 39-year-old Realtor was just finishing her weekly inspection of a rural home in the county.
“I went to lock the door and someone pushed me back inside,” the Realtor said. “He came down on top of me and sexually assaulted me. As she was struggling face down on the floor, the victim reached for her 9 mm Smith and Wesson handgun. Her attacker knocked the weapon out of her hand, causing the weapon to discharge. Each time she’d try to turn and fight back, her head was smashed against the floor.”
The victim also had this advice: “I hope Realtors get that when you go to a house and your hair stands up on your neck and you feel something’s wrong — leave.”
There are alternative strategies
If you still wish to arm yourself, nonlethal weapons can be a choice for people who aren’t psychologically prepared to use lethal force.
- Knives: Almost 10 percent of male agents and just over 2 percent of female agents admit to carrying a knife on the job.
- Mace or pepper spray: While some states may restrict the amount of pepper spray or mace you can carry, most don’t require a permit to carry defense spray.
- Taser: Tasers are legal without a permit in most states, but prohibited in the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island, as well as in certain cities and counties.
There’s more to safety than arming yourself
You may be missing the vital step of screening out those that mean harm, before they actually look at property with you. By following proper safety procedures, you’re already reducing the chances of becoming a victim.
If you insist on verifying a Photo ID in advance, for instance, it is unlikely that perpetrators will comply, so you won’t have to meet with them in the first place.
If you meet at your office or an alternate location such as a Starbucks and your intuition tells you something is wrong, you can (and should) terminate the meeting. If you meet at the property, this is much harder to do.
Is a gun right for you?
If you are considering purchasing a gun because you fear for your safety, you now know the risks involved and the commitment to become proficient.
If you already carry a weapon, in the right hands, I’m sure it can save lives. Be honest: How long ago did you practice? Did you only take the safety course? Ask yourself if you are really competent enough to use your weapon in an emergency, when you may be in a life-threatening situation, with all your adrenaline pumping.
Revisit how your gun stored in your home – otherwise, it’s a standing invitation to family tragedy at the hands of a partner/spouse, a troubled adolescent, or a clumsy child.
Guns are an emotional subject for many Americans, as we have a Constitutional right to bear arms. But this isn’t about gun control – it’s about individual choices and personal responsibility.
This editorial was originally published on October 04, 2015.