Friday, September 13, 2013

Personal Safety (part 2)

Personal safety options are varied; opinions on personal safety options are even more wide-ranging. My opinions are purely that -- my personal opinions based on my own experience, knowledge, and situation. I realize many will disagree with what I write today and the decisions I made, and I certainly respect other people's opinions and hope those who disagree (and agree!) with me will share their thoughts via a comment. 

As I shared in my previous post, I became more aware (concerned is probably too strong a word) of my own personal safety considerations more than a year ago and finally gave it more serious thought earlier this year, after yet another cross-country trip by car. I knew my "surface knowledge" wasn't enough and began doing more serious investigation into my options. While there are certainly more than I will address here, for the sake of space and time, I'll touch on the more basic options.

The first option I considered was a personal safety dog. Dazey, my Norwich Terrier, barks when someone knocks on the door (or, if she's awake and hears them, as soon as they step onto my porch). While that's great, I wasn't sure whether or not she'd hear an intruder at night, so nighttime security wasn't ensured. Also, she's a fairly timid, sweet dog, so she would not provide protection if an undeterred burglar entered the home. She also does not like to travel, so I would still be on my own in the very situations I was most concerned about. I checked into purchasing a 2nd dog, one trained for personal safety (the "lowest" tier of guard dog security) that would travel with me. After doing some research and choosing several well-respected canine protection companies, I visited their websites, where I discovered that the type of dog I was seeking would cost between $20,000-$50,000. That option was quickly discarded without any further consideration.

I checked into a home security system. The price for the configuration I would be most interested in was within my budget. However, as with the guard dog, the home security system would address only the issue of home security (obviously), which I wasn't as concerned about. It would provide me with no personal security when I'm away from my home, and that was my biggest concern.

I considered the next two options -- a stun gun and mace -- simultaneously, and to be quite honest, I was predisposed against them to begin with.  I know several people who carry mace, and my husband and I actually bought a container of mace for my daughter when she moved to the city to attend college. When I spoke to several personal security consultants, they agreed that mace is problematic for several reasons, not the least of which is that the person using the mace is often just as negatively affected a the person the mace is intended for. Even a slight stirring of air will blow the mace back on the person using it, and it could seriously affect their ability to escape the threat. Of course, mace must be used in fairly close proximity to the person it's being used on. In short, it would only be effective if my attacker was much, much closer than I wanted them to get. Additionally, most mace containers are small and easily lost in a purse, even when attached to a key chain, so being able to grab it when needed was a concern. Mace was out. Those same considerations -- the taser's size and being lost in a purse as well as the need for proximity to the person being tasered -- applied to a stun gun. I realized I could attach the mace or the stun gun to a snap or o-ring on my purse so that it was more readily accessible, but then it would be "attached", creating another issue of usability. As a result of the various problems, I eliminated both the stun gun and taser from consideration.

Martial arts were quickly considered and also quickly discarded, at least as a singular safety method. My initial concern was not of my size and ability. On the contrary, I knew enough about various martial arts to know that my small stature (just under 5'2") would not keep me from being effective against a larger opponent. What concerned me initially and even after speaking to several instructors and reading various articles on the topic, was the fact that the martial arts all rely on personal proximity. I would only be able to use my as-yet-unattained skills on an attacker or would-be abductor if they got close enough for me to touch them. I didn't want them to get that close! However, I did decide that martial arts would be a great additional strategy, one to be used in a situation in which someone snuck up on me from behind or grabbed me while walking past.

I had finally worked through my list to the one option that most appealed to me and, at the same time, caused me greatest pause -- a handgun. It met my list of "wants" -- portable, easy to use, and fairly inexpensive (even with the rising cost of ammunition). Even more importantly, to me at least, was that it was the one portable option that didn't require that an attacker be within arms length for it to be anything more than a threat -- it could be used before the attacker was close enough to disarm me or do me any initial harm. Furthermore, it could be used effectively and easily when dealing with more than one attacker.

I did not take the issue of gun ownership lightly. I was raised in a home where there were no guns; when I married into a family of avid hunters and to a man who owned multiple long guns, I was initially uneasy. My initial objections -- animal cruelty -- were quickly dispelled with first-hand research I conducted. My other main concern -- safety -- were less quickly resolved. It was only after I saw first-hand how seriously my husband, his family members, and all of his friends took firearm safety and witnessed how they conducted themselves when hunting (no alcohol on the premises -- several hundred acres co-owned by family members, all laws scrupulously obeyed, etc.,) that I relaxed. My husband taught me how to handle a gun safely, how to ensure that the locks were on and the guns were not loaded, and how to lock the gun safe, etc. But all of that was a far cry from owning and carrying a handgun.

I spent months researching this issue. Proverbial long story short, I purchased a handgun that I could operate easily even with my small hands and short, chubby fingers; I took a gun safety class and spent time at the range (and I intend to go to the range on no less than a monthly bases as long as I own the gun); I purchased several safety devices, including a small safe for the gun itself and a separate lockable ammunition box; and I completed my state's concealed carry permit class and range qualifications.

Do I feel "safer"? Not yet. But I didn't feel unsafe in my home or in my community. The true test will come the next time I travel. I will move my billfold and other items from my purse and place them in the "special" purse I purchased that has a hidden compartment specially designed to conceal the handgun while still keeping it accessible, and I will carry it with me -- obeying the laws of every state and community I enter -- the next time I travel. That will be the true test as to whether or not I feel "safer". I'll keep you posted.

As I said in my opening comment, I welcome your comments on this topic. Only because I know spammers, etc. monitor blogs and comment to create a stir, I mention that disrespectful comments will be deleted. Thank you!

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