It’s midnight in Northfield, IL and you, your wife, and six year-old daughter are all sleeping soundly.
Suddenly, the stillness is shattered by the sound of breaking glass. It wakes you as if someone flipped a switch, instantly transforming you from sound slumber to fully awake. Your wife wasn’t disturbed; she’s still sleeping peacefully, unaware that someone may be invading your home, your family’s sanctuary.
You hold your breath, all of your senses on high alert – maybe something just fell from a shelf. Or maybe it was just a nightmare.
You’re listening for any new unusual noise – and then there’s another chilling sound – the squeaky patio door slowly opening. Now it’s plain – you weren’t hearing things, someone is entering your home.
Your heart stops and just for a moment, you freeze. This is really happening.
It never occurred to you that simply cleaning out your garage and parking the family’s car in it for the first time in almost a year may have given a burglar the wrong impression. The absence of the BMW from its usual place in the driveway must have been taken as evidence that no one was home.
Most burglars would rather not confront a homeowner, but in Cook County, with the laws discouraging possession of a firearm, their chances of meeting an armed occupant were slim.
Then, you hear voices speaking softly, too softly to understand, but it meant that there must be more than one of them. Thoughts flood through your brain, all variations of “what can I do?” “How can I protect my family?”
No golf clubs or baseball bats up here; those were downstairs in a full-to-overflowing closet. No weapons up here at all. Pillows and fuzzy slippers don’t make very good weapons.
Again there were sounds, muffled sounds of movement downstairs, “they must be looking for something,” you think, “I hope to God they don’t come upstairs.”
No sooner had that thought flashed across your mind; you hear that third step creak. Fixing that had been on your “HoneyDo” list forever. Now that step was acting like an alarm – one that always creaked when someone stepped on it.
Now there was no longer any question, someone is coming up the stairs.
You quickly cover your wife’s mouth so she can’t make a sound and shake her to wake her up, whispering close to her ear. “Don’t make a sound, there’s someone in the house.”
It was obvious in her eyes as her emotions changed from confusion to surprise to terror. She was awaken by a vigorous shaking, a hand covering her mouth, and told that someone was in her home – she had every reason to be confused and scared. “Molly” was all she said. She’s out of bed before you can stop her and down the hall to Molly’s room. A mother’s primal instinct kicked in and she went to protect her child.
“What can I do, what can I do?” Your mind races to find some answer, some way to deal with the situation. “A gun …” was only a fleeting thought. You and Rachel had only talked about a gun once, but only briefly, neither of you “liked” guns and didn’t want a gun in your home, it was dangerous and you were both too civilized for that.
You pick up the phone and quickly jabbed 9, 1, 1. After what seemed like an eternity (really only a few seconds), an operator answered, “Northfield 911, what is your emergency?”
You whisper “someone broke into my house and they’re coming up my stairs, we need police NOW!”
The 911 operator started to give you instructions, but you cut her off … “I can’t …” then stopped … because that’s when you saw the shadow coming up the last few steps.
Moving deliberately, more and more of the dark silhouette came slowly into view. Though it was too dark to see plainly, an outline was framed in the bedroom doorway. In the darkness, the figure slowly got larger and larger – it might as well have been a monster from your childhood coming to get you. Your heart is pounding like a jackhammer.
The dark figure stopped – and so did your heart.
You’re holding your breath; maybe if you don’t breathe, he won’t see you.
“Hang up the phone.”
This is a fictitious account of what could happen in a self-defense-free home.
From the time that the husband heard glass breaking until the man in black appeared in the doorway, things would likely have been very different if the homeowner had been armed.
But the couple had made a conscious decision to rely on chance and merciful criminals to keep them safe in their own home.
What options are left when the couple has ruled out self-defense? What is your recourse when you refuse to fight back? Hide in the closet and hope the police arrive quickly? Pull the blankets up over your head and cower? Beg the criminal to spare your wife and daughter? Pray?
If you’re lucky, maybe all you’ll lose are things, and true, those can be replaced. But weren’t those things your things? Didn’t you and Rachel work long and hard for those things? So is it ok for a burglar to come in and relieve your family of things that you’ve accumulated over eight years of hard work and saving?
If you’re ok with giving away your property without a fight, an ad in Craigslist would draw lots of folks who could just drop by and pick out a few of your things they might like to have – and I’m sure that they’d promise not to scare your family.
But maybe this wouldn’t be your lucky day.
Maybe one of the bad guys takes a liking to your wife (she is pretty) or maybe one is a pervert who likes young girls. Suppose there’s a struggle and your wife rips the ski mask off and sees a face. Now she can identify him. What will he do?
When you hear her scream, what will you do? What can you do?
If you hear your wife scream, I’ll bet you’d trade everything you have for a gun.