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Special Report: Alternatives to gun ownership

What should you purchase to defend yourself if you don't feel comfortable with guns?

Many people want to be able to keep themselves and their family safe, but aren’t comfortable with firearms.

Experts say the first thing you should always do is try to get away safely if you feel threatened. But when you can’t do that, there are options other than guns.

The Police Science Institute doesn’t just teach people how to use non-lethal weapons. It teaches when and why to use them.

“We’re really advocating, avoid the situation at all costs by just paying attention to your surroundings. Try to de-escalate the situation, in other words, kill them with kindness. Or, use the non-lethal,” said Kurt Hamett, a Senior Instructor at the Police Science Institute.

If words aren’t working, that’s when you grab your extra defense.

“Pepper spray, I call it the great equalizer. At a minimum, the hands are going to go to the eyes to start trying to wipe it out and clear the vision. That’s all you need to turn around and start running away,” said Hamett.

That’s the key: Just get away from danger as fast as possible.

So what weapon should you purchase? If you’re interested in pepper spray, you also have pepper gel as an option. Both work at a distance of up to ten feet.

The spray spreads easily, so it could hurt someone you didn’t intend to be affected; the gel won’t spread like that, but it requires more accuracy.

“It’s a matter of choice. But like, with the jogger, the spray works well because you don’t have to worry about people in the area, because they’re out jogging. The gel works better in enclosed areas, because you don’t have to worry about cross contamination,” said Ray Zarate, another Instructor at the Police Science Institute.

Joshua McKinnis took the pepper spray course to train to be a security guard.

Security guards can carry large canisters of pepper spray; civilians are limited to 2.5 ounce containers.

McKinnis says after taking the Police Science Institute’s educational course, he thinks he’d prefer pepper gel to pepper spray.

“Just because it seems like you’re allowed to use that more on indoor outdoor, and it sticks,” said McKinnis.

Pepper spray also come in different sizes and styles. A large one that sprays at a large distance and has a comfortable hand-hold could cost about $40. But something smaller and more discreet can only cost you $9.

If you’re considering an electrical weapon, the prices are going to be a bit steeper.

Stun-guns hover around $40, but you have to be in arms’ length of someone for them to work.

“The stun gun is up close and personal, it’s pain-compliance,” said an Instructor at the PSI.

Tasers are about ten times the cost of a stun gun, but they let you shoot from afar.

“Tasers actually are 399.” So a lot pricier, but a lot safer. “Yes. A little pricier, a lot safer. You get 15 feet with these cartridges,” said another Instructor at the Police Science Institute.

Civilian-model Tasers run for 30 seconds at a time, so you can shoot, drop the thing, and run away.

“That gives you the ability to safe-escape, because you can a lot of distance in 30 seconds,’ said another Instructor at the Police Science Institute.

Some of the courses at the Police Science Institute include having people live out virtual reality scenarios to train them how to react.

“It makes people think, and have to really be paying attention to what’s going on, because they see what’s happening there, and all of the sudden, the hand disappears into the pocket. They may think a weapon’s coming out, whereas it’s actually just a cell phone,” said Hamett.

Knowing when NOT to use your weapon is just as important as knowing how to use it.

Zarate says to use physical force, you must actually feel there is a threat of danger.

“There has to be some type of physical threat to you. You don’t have to wait till the guy punches you in the nose. But you’re right, that is a fine line. But some people, they feel that ‘Well, he’s on my property, I can do whatever I want.’ Well, it doesn’t always work out that way,” said Zarate.

The course tries to hammer into your head: If you think you’re in a dangerous scenario, first, see if you can just get away from it.

If you can’t, use your words to de-escalate. If that doesn’t work, grab your pepper spray or electrical weapon. Then get away as quickly as you can, and contact police.

“I have a saying here in class: Be nice to everyone, always. Until it’s time not to be,’ said Hamett.

Click here to find out when and where to take self defense classes.

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