In light of this week’s Supreme Court decision, here are a few words of advice from a former marksmanship instructor to anyone tempted to run out and buy a handgun for home defense. First, hitting a target with a handgun is not as easy as it looks. Are you prepared to spend a number of hours practicing at a firing range? Second, any handgun bullet of large enough caliber to be an effective deterrent can still be lethal after passing through a wall or two, and you are responsible for whatever damage is done, even next door, by a bullet you fire. Third, handguns are easy to steal, conceal, and easy to point in unintended directions, even by children.

In short, a more appropriate weapon for home defense is a shotgun. It requires less skill, is less lethal to unintended targets if you miss, and is even more intimidating than your average handgun. A shotgun can also be loaded with bird shot or rock salt to render it even less lethal.

(This is an expanded version of a letter published in the San Jose Mercury News on 6/30/10.)

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