Take a Stand: Securing your safety - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Take a Stand: Securing your safety

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Gun stores in Chatham County are reporting a rise in women interested in weapons in the wake of a sexual assault early this month at Candler Hospital in which a man attacked a pregnant nurse on the way to start her shift.

Security experts recommend women hope for the best and plan for the worst.

"The best person to look after you is you," said J.R. Roberts, of the Savannah firm Security Strategies.

But how? The first thing that comes to many people's minds is a gun.

Security experts and self-defense trainers say the first question you should ask yourself when deciding whether to carry a gun is whether you really would be able to take another person's life if it came down to it.

Next, decide whether you want to commit the time to really learn how to use the gun safely, to get a concealed carry permit and to learn where it is and isn't legal to carry a gun.

Those laws are tricky. You can't carry a gun in a bar in Georgia unless you have the owner's permission, but you can in South Carolina as long as you aren't drinking, unless the owner specifically prohibits it.

In Georgia, how much a permit costs depends on the county where you reside. In Chatham County, it's nearly $90. County probate courts issue the permits, and you must pass a criminal background check.

South Carolina's permits cost $50. The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division issues them.

In addition to passing a criminal background check, you must have 20/40 vision, whether naturally or with glasses, and you have to get firearms training.

But be careful crossing the border. Georgia doesn't honor South Carolina's concealed carry permits, and South Carolina doesn't honor Georgia's.

Matt Harrell, self-defense and gun instructor at Patrick's Uniforms and Gun Range in Garden City, said if you plan on packing you've got some studying to do.

"Learn the technique and practice, literally every day," he said.

For those unable to make that commitment, gun stores offer a bevy of non-lethal options.

Harrell calls the expandable police baton Patrick's carries, "the great equalizer."

"You can back off or I can make life really difficult," he said, whipping the baton out to its full length.

Harrell recommends basic training with the baton, to identify pressure points.

Another option is pepper spray. That can immobilize an attacker for a half hour.

But Dick Berman, self-defense trainer and owner of Thunderbolt Guns, said there's a better-than-even chance pepper spray will blow back on the user if deployed outdoors.

Berman recommends anyone using pepper spray be sprayed with it themselves, under the guidance of a trained professional.

Berman's favorite option is the stun gun. He demonstrated a 7-million-volt model at his store.

"Press the unit up against your attacker and give him a one to two second jolt, which should cause him to fall on the ground and flop around like a dead fish."

There's a big difference between a stun gun and a Taser. A Taser fires two barbs with 15 feet of wire to reach out and jolt the attacker.

But Harrell said it, "would not remotely" be one of his first choices for self-defense.

First, the attacker must be hit with both barbs or the weapon won't work. But what if he pulls out those barbs and ends up angrier? What if he's wearing a leather jacket?

Experts say the self-defense tool you choose is all about you and how much training you're willing to get and what threats you might face. The key is to consider those questions now.

"If you find yourself in a crisis situation, and you've thought about it before, some instincts take over," Security Strategies' Roberts said.

"The idea is [to have] reasoned response rather than frantic reaction."

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