Woman's first time shooting her gun was in self-defense

AP Photo/ Rick Bowmer

I’m a big proponent of firearms training, but I’m also vociferously opposed to training mandates before folks can exercise their right to keep and bear arms. As we’ve seen in places like California, Illinois, New York, and most recently Massachusetts, anti-gun politicians can and have imposed onerous requirements on residents before they can bear (and in some cases, keep) arms for self-defense that seem more designed to stop people from obtaining a license than ensuring they’re comfortable and competent with their weapons.


If it costs more than $1,000 to apply for a carry license, or owning a gun requires first going through a multi-day training course, some folks are simply going to throw up their hands and decide it’s not worth it or financially impossible to comply. Some of those folks may choose to carry in violation of the law, while others will reluctantly decide to forgo exercising their Second Amendment rights; a win as far as the gun control crowd goes.

As much as I want people to be trained, I understand that the right to keep and bear arms doesn’t rely on any kind of training mandate. You have the right to own a firearm for self-defense even if you’ve never stepped foot in a gun range, and as one woman in Washington State recently shared, you don’t have to have hours and hours of range time with your gun of choice in order to successfully defend your life when it’s threatened.

When a Longview man dressed in dark clothing, carry a multiround gun, burst into a Rainier home in the early hours of January 2022, he didn’t know the now 70-year-old occupant was also armed.

Layne Marie Hoffee Keith said she was lying in bed, waiting for her nature show to start, when the intruder blinded her with a light and demanded she hand over money and jewelry.

“My thought was I got a 50-50 chance of getting out of this,” said Hoffee Keith.

But, she did.

Hoffee Keith retrieved her .22 Derringer in a gun case under her bed, and once the intruder wasn’t directly looking at her, she shot him.

It was the first time she ever pulled the trigger on the two-shot pistol.

“I hesitated a split second, (because) he was still standing there, (then) I shot him again,” she said.


To be fair, Hoffee Keith says this was the first time she’d fired this particular gun, so it’s possible that she does have some experience with other firearms. Still, if the anti-gunners had their way she would have been unable to keep or bear her derringer unless or until she’d proven to the State’s satisfaction that she was knowledgeable and proficient with her weapon of choice.

As it turns out, Hoffee Keith demonstrated her proficiency when it really counted; not on the range but in her own bedroom last January, when 53-year-old Chris Anthony Baratta broke into her home armed with a gun of his own.

With his face covered and carrying a pocketknife and flexicuffs, Baratta broke into Hoffee Keith’s home just before 7 a.m., armed with a CMMG 9mm AR pistol that was equipped with a silencer, court records show.

As he was rummaging through Hoffee Keith’s belongings, she, still on her bed, reached for her gun telling the intruder she was only getting her inhaler.

After being shot, Baratta fell to the ground outside her bedroom and retaliated by firing wildly into Hoffee Keith’s room, court records show.

Bullets ripped through her mattress, damaged her hallway, and struck a mustard bottle on her bed leftover from the corndog she ate before falling asleep, Hoffee Keith said.

Overall, he fired 17 rounds toward Hoffee Keith’s bedroom, but she was never struck; he only stopped firing after his gun was jammed, according to court records.

Eventually Baratta crawled out of the victim’s house and sat on her porch with the gun resting on his lap. Hoffee Keith could hear him yell “It hurts,” in which she replied: “I hope it hurts as much as you scared me.”


In retrospect, a two-shot .22 derringer may not have been the best self-defense weapon for Hoffee Keith, given that her attacker was able to fire back 17 times at her. Something with a little more stopping power might have ended the threat to her life without giving her attacker the chance to empty his magazine into her bedroom, but thankfully she was uninjured by any of the rounds directed her way.

Baratta was sentenced last month to 14 years in prison, while Layne Marie Hoffee Keith is alive, well, and presumably still enjoying corndogs as a late night snack. While she’s shared her experience with the local paper in Longview, Washington, we don’t know if she’s upgraded her own self-defense firearm since she was the victim of a home invasion or if she’s decided to spend some regular time at the range in case she’s ever the target of another armed and violent intruder. I certainly hope that’s the case, but her story is a very vivid reminder of the fact that even those without hours and hours of firearms training can and have saved lives (including their own) when seconds counted and police were minutes away.

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