There have been innumerable discussions on this web site, and others across the internet, about the mindset, preparations, training and physical responses to the use of deadly force. Every gun owner (or would be owner) has had to ask themselves if they have what it takes to kill another human being. We all know the argument. When it comes down to life or death, you or them, could you pull the trigger? Let’s assume, for the sake of this segment, that your answer is yes. Now let me present you with a hypothetical situation:
It’s TEOTWAWKI. Infrastructure is nonexistent. Government collapsed. You’ve bugged out to your retreat, or hunkered down in place. Late one night, an intruder enters your home. He is armed, and threatens your family. You confront him, and shots ring out. When the smoke clears, you get a SITREP, just like you practiced. You and your family are unhurt. The intruder is dead. What do you do now? Normally, if no one had already done so, your first step would be to call the local police or sheriff’s department. They would send out uniformed officers who would interview your family, gather evidence, take photographs of the scene, fill out an incident report, and then the coroner or ambulance would cart off the intruder.
There’s only one catch. It’s TEOTWAWKI. Even if the phone would ring, there are no police on the other end. No one is coming to help. There will be no uniformed officer, no incident report, no photos, no evidence taken. It will be completely up to you to discern how he gained entry, and repair any damaged caused by his entry, and the ensuing firefight. Do you know how to fix the door he kicked open? The window he shattered? The fencing or gate he drove over? More importantly, do you have the parts and tools needed to repair or replace them? Another door? Door frame? Door knob? Deadbolt? Strike face? Spare keys to new locks? Window pane? Window frame? Whole window? Fencing? Fence posts? Gate? Do you have anything to just cover the hole where your window to be?
Oh, and there’s one more little detail you may have overlooked. There will be no coroner to call. . There will be no trained, experienced, seen-it-all-nothing-shocks-me-anymore medical examiner to rid you of your recently deceased criminal mastermind. So, what do you do with the dead guy in your living room?
Honestly, how many of us have ever actually gone so far as to consider the possibility that one day we may find ourselves in a situation like this? An intruder in the home, certainly. A firefight, probably. Taking a life, likely. But who has actually come up with a plan for dealing with the aftermath, the body growing cold between your comfy chair and coffee table? I highly doubt your spouse and children would be keen to leave it where it is, playing the role of “lumpy, rather morbid area rug/ottoman.” And that would be ignoring the fact that corpses have this annoying (and stomach-churning) habit of, well, evacuating on themselves. And rotting. Never forget the rotting. So what do you do with it?
Do you drag it outside and bury it? Burn it on a funeral pyre? Throw it in the nearest body of water and hope it floats downstream? Stake it up on the lawn like some macabre scarecrow, a warning to others? Feed it through your wood chipper? What sort of treatment or rites (if any) do you give during the internment of your would-be murderer? Does he get a pine box, a pit just deep enough to keep the wildlife from digging him up by morning, or unceremoniously dropped in a heap next to your mailbox, waiting for a trash pickup that’s never coming?
Can you even stomach the idea of handling a dead body (and its various fluids) for the length of time required to actually dispose of it? Including transport to burial site, preparation of burial site, internment, and blood stain/brain matter/bowel contents cleanup? Do you even have a cleaner that can get blood, brain, and bowel contents out of your carpets, drapes, clothing, and upholstery? Are you going to be reminded of the life you took every time you sit in your favorite chair? Will you spend hours staring out the back window at the patch of turned earth that marks his final resting place?
Do you relocate? Has his presence (and subsequent death) revealed you to the masses? Can you afford to take that chance? How many of his associates may know of your whereabouts? Will they try to avenge him? Can you repeat this whole process again? Do you have the materials to replace another door, window, or fence? Can you bear the mental strain of taking more lives? Is your yard big enough to bury them all?
I do not have the answers to these questions. I know my own self, and how I react in a situation not all that dissimilar. This is one of those rare things you really can’t properly train for, unless you happen to be coroner or mortician by trade. There are precious few opportunities to be near the recently deceased for the rest of us (for which I am profoundly grateful), and I doubt you will find a mortician willing to loan you a body to practice with. If you do, I suggest you report them to the authorities. That’s just not right.
I guess it boils down to a question of fortitude, much like the Deadly Force issue that would precede it. Can you set aside your personal feelings about the dead, the living, what he intended, what you did, and what that smell is, long enough to do what needs to be done? If you think you can, I suggest you figure out now what you’re going to do when the need arises, rather than figuring out what you’re going to do once the need has risen. Like that old saying goes; “Forewarned is Forearmed.” Food for thought. – C.M., Maine
JWR Adds: While it is difficult to predict post-SHTF circumstances, and even more difficult to predict how long they might last, it is safe to assume that eventually things will get back to some semblance of normalcy–hopefully within weeks or months. At that point, there will be some backtracking, to account for what crimes transpired during the emergency, and to insure that everyone is living at property that is legally deeded to them. Therefore, in the sad event that you are forced to take a life to defend your own, or to defend the lives of your loved ones, it is important to “cover yourself in paper” before you go burying any bodies. It is crucial get an official–preferably a sworn law enforcement officer–but failing that, any official to sign an affidavit of the circumstances of the shooting. Even if the only “official” that you can locate is a retired police officer or a dog catcher or the head of the local water district, get them to sign an affidavit, and have it witnessed by by at least three or four neighbors who will also be walked-through the scene–and be presented the “play by play” after-action report. (Relying on just one or two witness signatures might be a mistake, since people are likely to relocate or assume room temperature in large numbers during a crisis.) Also, before touching anything in the room(s), be sure to take pictures showing the location of the body (or bodies), weapons, spent brass, bullet holes in walls, et cetera. Also photograph the body in the grave, before you back-fill it.