Mind Over Matter – Why We Don’t Keep Loaded Firearms When Sleeping

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The latest in high tech super ninja defense aids has hit the social media. This is yet another angle on how to disregard all warning of storing a firearm closest to you when sleeping because you are different than the regular mortal…

The NRA (National Rifle Association) basics in firearms safety tell us that firearms are to be unloaded with ammunition stored separately from the firearm, yet day after day we hear and maybe even observe, people who feel the need to store their firearm loaded near them when sleeping.

As the “Crime Prevention Research Center”[1] has found, not much study has been completed or many statistics kept with regard to family members mistakenly shot as intruders. Still, anti gun rights activists will tell you that not having a gun in the home is the best prevention for accidental shootings. I suppose this is correct, but it would also be correct to say that if we did not drive cars we could have saved 35,303 lives vs. the 591 accidental deaths caused by firearm possession or ownership in 2011[2].

Why is a security adviser speaking to the idea of keeping a loaded firearm in the bedroom? The answer is simple… As a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment and a gun owner, I want to be sure that we all bare the fact that we must handle and possess firearms safely, and that we as gun owners do not give the anti-gun owners any leverage in removing our rights to ownership any further. It is time we think out of the box when it comes to protection of our family and homes. Let’s face it, we all know someone who has bragged about the fact that they have a gun in every nook and crevice of their home, and that they will be never caught of guard when a threat finds them. I am not going to speak to the fact that you should store firearms safely throughout the home regardless of the time of day, no, I want to speak to the fact that we do not control our mind as much as we may think.

This idea of having a loaded firearm near where you sleep needs to be discussed. As I used the term in gest, “super ninjas”, that think they are in control and because of their incredible training, can overcome their own mind when awakening from sleep. I have read the social comments from all walks of life, “my husband and I are both war veterans and we each keep a loaded gun next to our bedside”, or, “I have been a cop for 25 years and need to have protection for my family close by”. Whatever the reason, you must think about what you are doing and what you could have done.

So why is it recommended that you maintain your firearm and ammo separately? Well, when we are sleeping the answer should be obvious; we all are susceptible to what is called “sleep inertia”. Sleep inertia[3] is commonly understood as grogginess which effects the level our body and mind is awake and can perform basic functions. Melatonin levels during our REM[4] sleep are at higher levels and this causes sleep inertia. The more rested you are will obviously reduce sleep inertia. The issue is that we do not control or know what stage of sleep we are in consciously.

So what are the answers or solutions to protecting your home and family? First off, we need to understand sleep inertia lasts on the average of 15-30 minutes. This may be reduced when awakened by an intruder in your home due to the adrenalin affects.

  1. If you maintain your firearm in a locked location within the bedroom with ammo secured in a separate compartment from the firearm it may allow you to shake the effects of sleep inertia. The adrenalin rush from being woken in addition to the time delay in possessing the loaded firearm will reduce likelihood of unconscious reaction.
  2. Installation of an alarm system may act as an alarm clock for you, increasing the adrenalin when you first wake. The addition of a family dog can also assist in this.
  3. Security must be looked at in layers; starting with exterior of your home and working inward to where you and your family members may be. Your sleeping chamber should be reinforced to be sure you are allowed enough time to get assistance from law enforcement or consciously react in your own defense or that of your family members.

The bottom line is, “we need to allow for time to reach the conscious decision level of the process”.

Physical barriers that create a delay or completely block an intruder from getting to you or your family are important and simple. Secured interior doors or shielded windows are just some of the ways you can accomplish this. Electronic measures such as alarms need to be used; you need to develop discipline in your everyday habits.

I know that many will read this and think to themselves “I don’t want to live in Fort Knox”, but think of it this way – you are considering the use of a tool that may take someone’s life, this alone should represent the importance of these additional precautions. When you react to an intruder and are faced with using a lethal amount of force to protect what is yours, the inconvenience of these physical barriers is minimal.

I recommend you stay away from these gadgets and leave you with this old idiom, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

Bill Peeler is the President and Director of Peeler Group International, a Risk Management, Investigation and Training business formed in 1995. He is also a firearms instructor within law enforcement and the public sector.

[1] http://crimepreventionresearchcenter.org

[2] http://www.cdc.gov

[3] http://valleysleepcenter.com

[4] http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/sleep-101

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