In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King
by Desiderius Erasmus, a GSL member

The numbers are pretty dismal. The U.S. Department of Justice reported over 1.03 million home invasions and 1.25 million cases of violent crime in 2022. Most do not get the press that they deserve. One that did involved University of Idaho students Kaylee Gonclaves, 21, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Ethan Chapin, 20, who were found stabbed to death in the early morning hours of November 13, 2022 inside a rental home near campus. A suspect has been arrested.

Most of the time, this column deals with the use of lethal means for self-defense – pistol or shotgun, caliber, type of ammunition and so forth. Then it’s on to train, train, train and measures to take to try and not be in a situation that could go lethal in a hurry, such as being out on the town in the wee hours of the morning, under the influence of alcohol, or strolling the streets in high-risk areas, where you stick out as being a stranger or an easy target.

What about, however, if you are a priest or a nun? A person that the military would term a “conscientious objector”? Or just a person who wants to follow, “Thou shall not kill” at all costs? You have the right to hold those beliefs, and in many respects you are a better person than I am.

But what if you could use non-lethal defenses to protect yourself and those people near you who might also be vulnerable to harm by the bad guys – such as the very old, the very young, and anyone else who is sought out by criminals to hurt? Because there are such devices that in most cases – nothing is 100% certain – will not take a person’s life.

In addition to being non-lethal, many of these options are compact, can be legally carried in more areas than can a firearm (but still not everywhere!) and require less training than does a firearm.

Pepper spray is the most common non-lethal self-defense weapon available. It is affordable, compact, and effective, and works for everyone, including law enforcement. Pepper spray, which contains an extraordinarily powerful agent known as Oleoresin of Capsicum, delivers a potent yet non-lethal way to subdue a criminal by targeting eyesight.

It also causes significant pain to the bad guy. Pain, and other nasty side effects, are effective at granting a victim several minutes to defend themselves or flee an attacker. If you travel alone or at night, with or without a firearm, it is never a bad idea to have pepper spray easily accessible. Pepper Spray is legal in about 47 states, however a number of cities and states have pepper spray laws and restrictions on sizes, strengths, and the way you can purchase them. If you have a question about pepper spray laws in your jurisdiction, it is wise to check with your local city or state attorney’s office.

Self-defense alarms and whistles bring attention to yourself and the situation. A few bystanders may move toward the sound of a loud whistle, whereas most people run the opposite direction to the sound of a gunshot. Criminals may want to avoid potential witnesses and some will cease their attack when an alarm goes off. The problem is that some will not cease and desist. Alarms and whistles are generally reasonably priced and can be taken almost anywhere without restriction. Consider these devices as backups, not stand-alones.

Tactical flashlights are very effective and practical for anyone traveling in the dark. First, of course, they obviously produce light which allows you to navigate safely in areas with which you are unfamiliar. If you can avoid one twisted or broken ankle on a curb you did not see that light is worth its price. Sturdy, tactical flashlights are probably not going to produce a lethal blow against a criminal, although they possibly could, but can neutralize an attacker with a hard blow at the right area, giving you time to escape. Perhaps more effective is temporarily blinding your attacker. I have seen minimal lumens requirement at 100, 250, 300, 1,000 and even 3,000. Every salesperson, who has probably never actually used a flashlight to blind an attacker, will have his or her “take it to the bank” answer. Best bet: ask a law enforcement officer. My take would be the more lumens the better as long as the batteries don’t run out of juice too fast. A 10,000-lumen flashlight with no power is now simply a club.

Finally there are stun devices that use electrical shock to immobilize an attacker. The two basic problems are first, a stun device could kill an attacker if the moons all align in order such as someone with a weak ticker.

Secondly, there are a ton of rules and laws out there concerning their possession and use, and who knows when a prosecutor will portray a stun device as lethal force?

Non-lethal self-defense is not the perfect option in keeping you safe. But if your conscience is your guide, and you want to avoid killing another human being, these defenses might be better than nothing, because our country and society need you around to show us our better nature.


2 thoughts on “Non-lethal / less-lethal options”
  1. I am not personally a huge fan of non-lethal response. I would prefer to do everything possible to avoid the conflict in the first place, but the reason I carry a firearm is because I do not trust stun guns, pepper spray or flashlights to stop an attacker. All may have their place, but there are far too many recorded instances of police officers employing non-lethal responses and ending up critically wounded or dead because the Taser, spray or light didn’t stop the attack. If things have went south to the point I have to draw a weapon to defend my life, I want the best possible chance of emerging uninjured. You just might only get one chance to defend yourself – choosing incorrectly might cost you or a family member their lives.

  2. Guess I’m just old school. Besides being old. I carry or have carried a wooden baseball bat in my vehicle. Not always feasible to whip it out. But might come in handy in certain situations.

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