Maybe You Know How to Protect Yourself With a Gun — but What Can You Do Before It Gets to That Point?


There is something being left out of the gun control debate, according to NRA member and licensed firearm instructor Paul Purcell. In between the conversation regarding the need to address mental health and banning so-called assault rifles is a topic that’s not being adequately discussed — how to protect yourself without using a gun should the need arise.

“I know how to use [a gun], but I don’t want to ever have to,” Purcell told TheBlaze in a phone interview, echoing what he believes is a sentiment the majority of gun owners have.

In other words, Purcell said what’s being ignored is the need to understand defensive measures that could be instituted before a situation would escalate to gun use.

Now we should point out that Purcell isn’t advocating things like urinating on yourself, something that was actually suggested on a University of Colorado-Colorado Springs safety tip sheet that led to widespread mockery. Or, as Colorado Democratic Rep. Joe Salazar suggested, just have women use “call boxes” and “whistles” to protect themselves against potential attackers. Purcell simply believes that people should prepare themselves for when they can’t use — or a situation wouldn’t merit use — of a firearm. It is the idea of knowing when you can or should use a gun — and when not to.

It’s an idea best summed up by Sgt. Rory Miller in the book “Meditations on Violence”:

It is better to avoid than to run; better to run than to de-escalate; better to de-escalate than to fight; better to fight than to die. The very essence of self-defense is a thin list of things that might get you out alive when you are already screwed.

“You must have layers of protection and defensive options at your disposal that can match the threat. In other words, you don’t want to immediately reach for a firearm for each and every stranger that might knock at the door,” Purcell explained further in an email.

Purcell, who is a natural disaster and terrorism preparedness trainer and consultant, provided TheBlaze with a strong list of defensive measures that could be implemented to help avoid a situation where use of a firearm might escalate and be merited.

Here are a few examples:

  • Something as simple as using longer screws in your door’s lock strike plate will make it harder to kick in.
  • A bit more advanced but innovative, add a sprinkler system over your doors to “literally turn the hose on a would-be intruder.”
  • If the budget is there for it, install stronger doors and/or locks.
  • Having a dog, even a small one can be a deterrent. If you can’t have or don’t want to have a dog, Purcell said staging evidence of one — like large bowls and a chain outside — could be effective as well.
  • Consider pushing the panic button on your car’s keyless entry system, if you have one. The noise could alert the neighborhood and frighten away a potential intruder.
  • Don’t underestimate natural and/or non-lethal weapons. Perfume or pepper spray in the eyes. Purcell also made a case for Tasers and non-lethal guns, like paintball or BB guns.
Bans on stunguns and other non-lethal weapons, Purcell said, is not a good idea because they are often useful tools to de-escalate a situation before the use of a firearms might be necessary. (Photo:

California-based self-defense instructor Jennifer Cassetta told TheBlaze that it’s also important for people to be cognizant of the information they post on the Internet.

“Don’t post on Facebook everywhere you are and everywhere you’re going,” Cassetta said. “[Posting you’re] sitting at home with a glass of wine — stupid.”

Never post a photo of your home or the inside of it on social media, Cassetta advised. She said it’s not horrible to write what’s going on in one’s life on Facebook or Twitter, but consider doing so after the fact — not in real-time.


When Preventative Measures Don’t Work

Purcell said he believes there are times when firearm use might be necessary, but he tries to educate people about the proper legal, emotional and moral consequences that come with that use.

“[We] need to prevent citizens from being too quickly rushed … I don’t want them to spend the rest of their life second guessing because they didn’t know there were these other options,” he said.

It’s an idea already championed by many responsible gun owners. In fact, in Texas courses for concealed carrying of firearms require conflict-avoidance training. Here’s an excerpt from KR Training in Austin showing why [emphasis added]:

It is your responsibility to avoid conflicts and resolve disputes whenever possible. […] Remember the question ‘what else could I have done to prevent the situation from escalating or the conflict from occurring?’ If you don’t ask it of yourself at the time of the conflict you may find a prosecuting attorney asking it of you in court. Always remember that your actions will be judged after the fact by 12 ‘reasonable people’ on a jury. If they determine that you had less violent options other than use of force or deadly force or that you were responsible for the conflict escalating you could find yourself convicted of aggravated assault, murder, or other felonies, and headed for prison.

So what if the situation doesn’t warrant a gun? What happens when de-escalation isn’t possible or doesn’t work, but a gun still isn’t necessary? Or what if you don’t have time to pull a weapon?

Cassetta said everyone should learn some sort of self-defense, especially women.

Among the defensive maneuvers Cassetta teaches in her Stilettos and Self Defense classes for women is how important making noise and drawing attention can be (again, her instruction should not be confused with the suggestions in Colorado).

“Use your voice as a weapon,” Cassetta said, noting that when she herself was attacked she didn’t even have to bust out physical defense tactics because causing a disturbance by “yelling like banshee” was effective enough.

And although there is a way to learn self-defense against guns in general, she said this is at a higher level. If you are unarmed and not prepared to fight against someone with a firearm, Cassetta said she would first advise the person being threatened to consider giving the attacker what they want (a wallet, purse, etc), depending on the situation.

If you’re being threatened and have the opportunity to run and decide to, Cassetta also recommends fleeing from a gun-wielding attacker in a zig-zag pattern because that lowers the likelihood of being hit in a vital organ or being hit at all.

Watch Cassetta demonstrate the “A-B-C’s” of self-defense on the Today Show a year ago:

“The message coming across from the government to citizens is that you don’t need to do anything at all,” Purcell said. “They’re not saying violence is a real issue … [and] let’s teach you about what to do in these situations.”

Purcell said if the government was serious about helping curb violent crimes, more states would allow civilian use of electric stun-guns and other non-lethal defensive options, and would teach conflict resolution in schools.

“If the legislative aim of the current administration is [a safer society] would not this be one of the options put on the table?”

And to be clear, what Purcell is suggesting is simply one option of many. For example, conflict de-escaltion wouldn’t have protected the rape survivors who appeared on Glenn Beck’s Tuesday evening program. They are women who advocating for the choice to be able to protect themselves the way they believe necessary — which might mean with a firearm.

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