Every able bodied adult is responsible for their own safety and personal protection. As adults we may have a significant other or children that we would like to be able to protect should the need arise. Many citizens falsely believe that law enforcement is charged with protecting individual citizens. This is not the case.

Police cannot protect, and are not legally liable for failing to protect, individual citizens. Courts have consistently ruled that police services provided by a municipality are only provided to protect the general public at large and not individual members of the community.

Former Florida Attorney General Jim Smith told Florida legislators that police responded to only 200,000 of 700,000 calls for help to Dade county authorities. The US Department of Justice found that, in 1989, there were 168,881 crimes of violence for which police had not responded within 1 hour. A 2006 CNN report ranked the top 25 most dangerous cities in America and listed Minneapolis, MN at #23 with Oakland, CA coming in at #25.

It should be fairly self-evident that the general public concerned with personal safety needs to spend a little time thinking about and creating a personal protection plan. The primary purpose of the plan is to highlight ways to make you more aware of your surroundings and to provide the opportunity to consider situations or scenarios along with a corresponding exit or defense strategy. A well though out strategy will assist in keeping you physically safe. This strategy can and should be applied both in and outside the home.

The most important element of a personal protection plan is being aware of your surroundings to the point where you are able to identify and avoid conflict completely. The only way to survive a violent threat 100% of the time is to avoid the threat altogether. In the state of Minnesota there is a legal duty to retreat from conflict if it is safe to do so. Not retreating when possible may put your "reluctant participant" status in jeopardy and possibly erode your claim to self-defense. A prosecutor has the luxury of 20/20 hindsight and will use the states retreat requirement to prosecute a case, if in their subjective view you could have run away but chose not to.

  • Subjective: "relates to personal viewpoints, experiences, or perspectives"
  • Objective: "refers to factual data that is not influenced by personal beliefs or biases"

Quote: "Detached reflection cannot be demanded in the presence of an uplifted knife." by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. in Brown v. United States, 256 U.S. 335, 343 (16 May 1921).

The more aware you are, the more time you will have:

Outcome Warning Time Possible Result
Avoid 1-5+ Minutes You'll never know for the remainder of your life if you avoided a violent encounter or overreacted.
You avoided conflict thus keeping you physically safe and out of the legal system.
Escape 30+ Seconds You avoid having to defend yourself but you are still in a bad situation that you need to get farther away from.
Defend 3-5+ Seconds Actively defending yourself.
Every action you now take will be second-guessed by police, the legal system and the media.
Potential cost is $10K-$500K (or more) to defend yourself in the courts with possible jail time.

Conflict Avoidance
As previously mentioned. Avoid all conflicts.

Situational Awareness
Maintain a 360 degree view of what is happening around you at all times. Maintain more than a 32 foot protective "bubble" around you. Anyone that is within 21 feet of you is within your danger zone. Frequently deviate from your current path or direction of travel and stay in well-lit and populated areas. If available, make use of windows to see the reflections of those behind or near you. Be aware of blind spots along the road such as dumpsters and corners of structures. Follow the crowd rather than taking shortcuts through alleyways. Take notice of people that seem out of place. Avoid dark corners in parking garages. Always take note of possible escape routes when entering an area.

Do Not Look Like a Victim
Walk with a high degree of confidence and purpose. Know where you are headed before going. If the eyes are the window to the soul then wear sunglasses when appropriate, otherwise make eye contact.

Personal Security
Safety in numbers. Travel with a companion when possible. Move faster than the crowd. Never go to a strangers' home alone or let a stranger in your home. This is important where castle doctrine is concerned. In many cases, "defense of dwelling" does not apply to invited guests so be mindful about who you invite into your home.

Automobile Security
Keep valuables out of sight and do not leave paperwork in your car with your home address (includes GPS). Be on-guard when leaving your vehicle with groceries or other items. Lock your vehicle immediately upon entering. Leave space to maneuver when coming to a stop. Be a courteous driver. If hit from behind (fender-bender), stay in your car until the police arrive or if you feel the situation is unsafe, drive to the nearest gas station, store, etc... and call 911 (while driving if the situation warrants). Faking an "accident" is often a tactic used by criminals for carjacking or abduction.

Home Security
Always keep garage and exterior doors locked. Never answer the door unless you are expecting someone. Have ample lighting around the exterior of the house. Leave an interior light on a timer. Have high quality deadbolt locks installed on all exterior doors along with strike plates and reinforce door frames. Get an alarm system and actually use it. When going out of town, stop the mail, newspaper and arrange to have someone shovel the stoop and driveway of snow. Arrange for lawn service to maintain the appearance that the home is occupied. On trash day have a friend push your garbage can to the curb, even if the garbage can is empty. Typically missing trash day means no one is home. Dogs make a good early-warning systems should someone enter your home. Utilize a paper shredder to destroy confidential documents prior to taking the trash out. Wear a gun at home or have a firearm strategically hidden in different areas of the home for fast access should one be needed (this may not be possible if children live in the home).

Minnesota violent crime time of day
Phone Security
Utilize caller ID to screen your calls. Landlines can easily be cut or tapped into from the outside the home. Consider going cell phone only. Never give personal information out over the phone. Banks etc... already have your information and would not be asking for it. Keep a cell phone with you at all times for emergencies.

Planning for Home Defense

  • Everyone in the family should be included.
  • Where does everyone retreat to should the alarm sound (safe room)?
  • What is the escape plan, route and roles and responsibilities in the event of a fire?
  • If you fail to plan you plan to fail!
  • Remember that, "Hope is not a strategy"

Know Your Current Level of Awareness

  1. Condition White: Unaware
  2. Condition Yellow: Aware
  3. Condition Orange: Heightened Awareness
  4. Condition Red: Action
  5. Condition Black: The attack is underway


White - In Condition White, one is unaware, not alert, and oblivious. This state can be characterized as "daydreaming" or "preoccupied". People in White tend to walk around with their heads down, as if watching their own feet.

Yellow - This is a relaxed state of general alertness, with no specific focal point. You are not looking for anything or anyone in particular; you simply have your head up and your eyes open. You are alert and aware of your surroundings. You are difficult to surprise, therefore, you are difficult to harm. You do not expect to be attacked today. You simply recognize the possibility. When outside your home you should be at condition Yellow.

Orange - This is a heightened state of alertness, with a specific focal point. The entire difference between Yellow and Orange is a specific target for your attention (the person or persons that pose a potential threat). Your focal point is the person who is doing whatever drew your attention to him. It might be the fact that he is wearing a field jacket in the middle of summer. It might be that he's standing by a column in the parking garage instead of going into the building or getting in a car and leaving (loitering). It might be that you have been in five stores at the mall, and saw this same guy in every one of them. His actions have caused you to take note of him, so you must assess him as a potential threat.

How do you assess someone as a threat? You have to take into account the totality of the cues available to you. His clothing, appearance, demeanor, actions, anything he says to you, are all cues. The single most important cue is body language. About 80% of human communication is through body language. Predators display subtle pre-aggression indicators which are obvious once you learn to look for them. Most often the followup cue will be verbal that will allow the threat to move in close to you without causing you to flee or fight. Example: "Excuse me, but can I ask you a question?"... "Do you know what time it is?".

As you assess this individual and you see things that convince you that he has malicious manifest intent, you should start to distance yourself from this person and begin playing the "What if…." game in your mind to begin formulating a basic plan of evasion and escape. This is how we get ahead of the power curve (action beats reaction). If he acts suddenly, we must have at least a rudimentary plan for dealing with him already in place, so that we can react swiftly enough. By saying to yourself, "That guy looks like he is about to rob me or someone else, what am I going to do about it?” - You begin the mental preparation vital to winning the conflict which also includes escape e.g. turning around and quickly heading back into the store. Keep in mind that predators often work in groups so be aware that the threat you are focused on may have associates nearby. There are two types of predator: The "resource" predator (they want your stuff) and the "process" predator (they want you).

Red - In Red, you are ready to fight if you weren't able to flee in condition Orange! In condition Red the opportunity to flee may present itself, however the window of opportunity is closing very quickly. The threat that you identified in condition Orange is now making their move against you or at a minimum positioning for the attack. You may, or may not, actually be fighting, but you are MENTALLY PREPARED to fight. In cases where there could be multiple attackers, watch for "flanking" moves. Flanking is a pre-attack indicator where one person distracts with a question to move in closer and their accomplice is moving in behind you.

Black - The attack is underway.

When you believe a threat is real, and you have escalated to Red, you are waiting on the Mental Trigger, which is a specific, predetermined action on his part that will result in an immediate, positive, aggressive, defensive reaction from you. This is how you achieve the speed necessary to win. By having a pre-made decision already set up in your mind, you can move physically fast enough to deal with the problem. Without that pre-made decision, the precious time in which you could have acted was wasted on trying to decide what to do after he starts his attack.

The Mental Trigger will differ depending upon the circumstances. It could be, "If he swings that gun in my direction I will shoot him", for instance. It could be, “I have told him to stop, if he takes one more step toward me with that (knife/tire iron/screwdriver) in his hand, I'll shoot him". Whatever trigger is selected it is a button that, once pushed, results in immediate action on your part.

Your main enemy is reaction time. If you are not aware of your surroundings and fail to see the suspicious person, he may overwhelm you before you can marshal an effective defense. On the other hand, if you are thinking to yourself, "I may have to hurt that guy if he doesn't wise up"; you've probably already won that fight, because you have a better understanding of what is transpiring than he does! The best fight is over before the loser fully understands what just happened. If you are caught in condition White, you will need five to six seconds to realize what is happening, get your wits together, and respond. You simply do not have that much time. Stay aware of your surroundings to avoid having to go physical!

A story related to awareness (or lack thereof). Author Unknown.
Contains profanity.

Back in 1995 I lived in a quiet neighborhood in the SF East Bay with my wife of a few years and our 20 month old daughter. We had a small 3 bedroom two story house, and one of our second floor bedrooms doubled as my home office. One quiet Saturday morning I was in my office playing Command and Conquer on my computer with my headphones on, oblivious to the sounds of the outside world.

I'd probably been playing for an hour or so when, during one particularly quiet moment, I faintly heard my wife cry out downstairs. Knowing that she was down there with our daughter, I pulled my headphones off to see if she needed help with anything. Until the day I take my last breath, I'll never forget what I heard when I pulled them off. I heard the voice of a man, with a thick Mexican accent, shout, "Quit yelling bitch, or I'll fucking cut your head off and fuck your fucking daughter!" My daughter was crying hysterically.

After that, it was like some switch was thrown in me and my higher brain just shut off. I wasn't making decisions. I just acted. I don't even remember pulling the .45 from the lock-box in my desk, I just remember walking down the stairs slowly, scared as hell that I was going to see my wife dead when I reached the bottom. Instead, when I reached the bottom, I saw my wife half naked, bent over the couch, bleeding from somewhere in her upper body, while being raped from behind by some burly guy with a knife in his hand. He wasn't TRYING to rape her, he was in the middle of the deed and was probably nearing climax.

I never said a word to the guy. Not while I was upstairs, not while I was coming down the stairs, and not when I walked into the room. His back was to me, so he had no idea I was even standing there.

He was holding his knife in his right hand, so that was the arm I grabbed with my left when I pulled him off. He spun away from her and me with a confused look on his face, and I shot him square in the chest at nearly point blank range before he had a chance to say a single word. His face went pale as he went onto one knee, and I fired twice more. One hit his neck, and the second missed entirely. I was told later that the first shot was the fatal one.

What happened next has always been a point of shame for me. The only thought going through my head at that point was that I couldn't let my daughter watch this man die. Without even checking on my wife, I scooped my daughter up and walked out my front door. As I walked out to my driveway, I saw one of my neighbors standing there staring at my house (he'd heard the gunshots). The poor guy went pale when he saw me walk out, and I vaguely remember asking him to hold my daughter while I went and checked on my wife. The neighbor asked me if I'd shot her, and I told him, "No, I shot the man who was raping her." I didn't realize at the time that I had the guys blood spray covering half my body, and that I looked like something out of a horror movie. I then handed him my daughter and my gun (I also have no idea why I gave him my gun), and went back into my house to help my wife.

The police and DA gave me some flak about the exact circumstances of the shooting (one of the detectives told me that it was more of an "execution" than a "defense"), but in the end they declined to pursue any charges. The man who attacked her turned out to be a guy with serious mental issues who had been previously convicted of two violent rapes, one of which was against a 9 year old girl. Under California's then-new 3 Strikes law, he'd have gone to prison for life if I hadn't killed him.

As for recovery; I like to think that I've recovered from it, but it certainly induced a few behavioral changes. To this day, for example, I can't wear headphones that block out background noise. Even after years of counseling, over-ear and noise cancelling headphones give me panic attacks because I can't hear what's happening around me. I found out later that he'd been raping my wife for nearly 10 minutes before I heard him, and that he'd actually told my wife THREE TIMES that he was going to rape my daughter when he was finished with her. I was sitting 30 feet away and had no idea it was going on, and that fact has fucked with me for years.

My wife had a much worse time of it though. In addition to two stab wounds to her shoulder and upper arm, and the bruising and injuries from the forceful rape, she ended up having a mental break and took years to really recover. For the first 6 months, she absolutely could not be in any room by herself. For more than a year, she couldn't be in a house by herself (and she NEVER reentered the house where this happened). For several years, she'd break out in a sweat when she heard men with deep Hispanic accents talking, because she'd hear his voice again. Even now, decades later, she starts shaking if you try to talk to her about it. She's fine in every other sense, but even discussing it freaks her out.

Permit-to-Carry and Posted Establishments

Posted private establishments can prevent permit holders from carrying a firearm within their business. "Posting" or notification can be done with a sign that meets the requirements of MN 624.714 subd. 17 or be done verbally (see statute below). Failure to comply with postings may result in legal action and law enforcement interaction. The general rule is that if you wish to shop at a business that is "posted" leave your firearm secured in your car. Otherwise, spend your money elsewhere. If you ignore the signs and refuse to leave when asked to do so, you will most likely be charged with trespass. Again, you only commit a crime if you refuse to leave when asked.

Permit-to-Carry and Reciprocity

Reciprocity is what you have when states honor each others permit to carry a firearm. For example, at the time of this writing, if you have a permit to carry a firearm in the state of Minnesota, you can also carry your firearm in South Dakota, Montana and approximately 12 other states. If you have a Minnesota permit to carry and a non-resident Utah permit to carry, you can carry your firearm in more than 30 states.

Establishing reciprocity is a political process and not a legislative process which essentially means that reciprocity is determined by leaders in state government and not by law makers. Because of this, reciprocity between states can be granted and then be denied with or without notice on a whim.

Regarding reciprocity, keep the following in mind:

  • When traveling out of your home state with your firearm, always check this WEB site to find out which states your permit is valid in. This site is privately operated so there is a chance the information could be inaccurate or outdated. When in doubt, check on the government run WEB site for firearm carry laws regarding reciprocity.
  • If traveling to a state where your permit is valid, brush up on that states carry laws. This will help to avoid issues and unwanted interaction with law enforcement. For example, in MN you can carry openly but maybe not in the state you plan on visiting.
  • If you will be passing through states where your permit is not valid, be mindful of federal and state transportation laws regarding firearms. Usually a firearm will have to be kept unloaded, stored in a secure container specifically designed for a firearm (zippered gun tote or pouch) and stored out of reach (in the trunk). If transporting a pistol, ensure the magazines are unloaded and removed from the firearm. In some states, a loaded magazine inserted into the firearm with an EMPTY chamber is considered to be loaded.
  • Indian reservations are considered to be sovereign territories. Therefore, reservation laws apply. Do your homework and make phone calls when in doubt.
  • In some states, gun magazines that hold more than ten rounds are unlawful to possess.

Personal Protection and Dogs

A topic that comes up frequently is related to shooting dogs that may pose a threat. A prudent person would talk to a lawyer before following this statute to the letter.

Any person may kill any dog that the person knows is affected with the disease known as hydrophobia, or that may suddenly attack while the person is peacefully walking or riding and while being out of the enclosure of its owner or keeper, and may kill any dog found killing, wounding, or worrying any horses, cattle, sheep, lambs, or other domestic animals.


(7297-49) 1939 c 410 s 9; 1986 c 44