THOUSAND PALMS, Calif. - - For many Americans, a deadbolt and an alarm won't do. When it comes to keeping their homes safe, certain citizens turn to the second amendment, arming themselves and preparing for one of the worst-case scenarios; a home invasion.
John Newman, a Thousand Palms resident, is a part of that small but well-armed percentage. He also happens to be part of an even smaller segment of the population that has needed put their firearm to use in one of these worst-case scenarios.
"He turned around, he was pointing a 9 millimeter at me," Newman says, describing an attempted home invasion. "I walked out here and he was in the corner of my yard and that was when I started firing."
It was 7 o'clock in the morning. Newman awoke to noises in his Thousand Palms home. Walking through several rooms, he noticed drawers, that had been closed, now open. He came across a man going through his cabinets. The intruder was armed, but Newman claims he realized there was no clip in his weapon, no bullets. He rushed to his bedroom and grabbed a 45 caliber pistol.
Newman found the intruder in corner of his yard, he fired his weapon but did not hit the intruder.
The Pew Research Center reports the U.S. tops the list of countries with the most guns. We own half of the world's weapons while making up only 5% of the world's population. Americans like their guns.
A quarter of Americans own all guns. A quarter of Americans own all the guns in the nation. Meaning, many Americans have more than one gun.
"I live in a motorhome and sometimes we get stuck out in places far removed from other people, so you have to be able to protect yourself," said Tom Alpers.
Alpers has lots of guns. He regularly shoots at 2nd Amendment Sports in Indio. His German-made .45 caliber pistol is one of six he owns. He says it is a rough world and he feels he could pull the trigger on another human if need be.
"If they were after me or my wife, I don't see why I couldn't do it if I had to," Alpers said.
It is not just an armed man protecting an unarmed woman these days, the ladies are packing too. Pew Research shows that in 2017, 22% of American women owned a gun.
Gun makers have geared advertising toward women, particularly young women and they are offering special models, with smaller frames, even colors and concealed carry leather handbags. There is even jewelry, with the motto, "look cute while you shoot."
"I tell people all the time that female officers use the same firearms that their male counterparts do," said Kent Miller, a certified firearms safety instructor.
Miller says females do just fine with guns. In fact, studies have shown they may actually turn into more accurate shooters than men. Men often tend to jerk their trigger finger too hard, pulling the aim off. Women, more cautious, slowly squeeze the trigger, helping them hit their target. Miller says there is a gun for everyone.
"I would not recommend that one for home defense, it doesn't have much of a grip, shorter barrel. My hand comes off by a full inch and a half," Miller said.
Miller says nothing is more important than practice. No one, he says, can expect to become proficient with a weapon, without firing it on a regular basis.
Storing your weapons is also crucial. Gun enthusiast Luis Pinedo has plenty of guns, he also has kids at home. This keeps him from having loaded weapons ready to fend off an intruder, but he says he accepts that.
"As a gun owner, I feel it's my responsibility to make sure they're stored away," Pinedo said.
Valley law enforcement officers, who must regularly demonstrate their ability to handle a weapon, echo the importance of gun safety.
"Gun ownership is a huge responsibility and a huge undertaking and the misfortune of a weapon can last a lifetime," Pinedo said.
But fearing a home invasion, many Americans are heading to firing ranges, preparing to respond just as Newman did. He says he fired his semi-automatic pistol at that armed break-in suspect five times, and although he didn't hit him, Newman believes the intruder gained access through a doggie door. He has since seeled off the door. The intruder has never been caught.
While Newman feels having a gun helped him protect his home, there is some evidence that owning a gun does not really make a person safer. In fact, it could be just the opposite.
The National Crime Victimization Survey conducted every year by the Bureau of Justice found that among other things, a gun in the home increased the likelihood not only that a household member will be shot accidentally, but also that someone in the home will die in a suicide or homicide.
There is much to consider when thinking about arming yourself.
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