I’ve been lucky enough to travel to several countries overseas, and it always is fascinating to observe the differences in the way of life and in the cultures of the countries I’ve visited. Joseph and I just returned from a visit to England. Our daughter now lives there with her partner and their baby daughter, and we took time to celebrate Josefine’s first birthday in London.
Anitra and Robert live in Greenwich (yeah, of “mean Greenwich time” fame, the base for world time determination). Greenwich is considered “London,” but it’s more like an inner-city suburb (think Carrollton or Mid-City).
London was lovely this time of year; the weather was temperate and it only rained one day of our visit. Every time we’ve been there, we’ve walked all over the city, exploring it as much as we could in our limited time there.
It was a glorious visit, and it must have been a “long-enough” vacation, because I was so glad to come home. We arrived last Thursday evening and went to bed, so we could manage a few hours in the office on Friday, after dealing with the inevitable jet lag.
We went to bed pretty early on Friday night, but I got up to go to the bathroom sometime around midnight, and, bleary-eyed, noticed police lights flashing outside. Went back to bed, thinking it was a traffic problem of some sort.
We wake up on Saturday morning to hear that two youngsters (a 24-year-old woman and a 17-year-old boy) were found shot in a car at Second and Baronne, a short way from our house. Apparently they’d been shot in their car, the woman lost control and ran into a parked car on Baronne Street. Both of the victims died.
I came back from relatively peaceful, civilized London to this?
This is the second murder that’s taken place at that intersection in the past five years.
In 2009, there were several young men who were also shot in a drive-by on Baronne Street, one of whom we saw bleeding (and dying) on the corner of Second and Baronne on an otherwise peaceful Sunday afternoon.
Since I’ve returned, I’ve been reading about a rash of car jackings, home invasions and murders in New Orleans, in our neck of the woods.
It’s pretty scary, actually. As anyone who reads my column is aware, I am totally against guns. Yes, yes, I know the gun people will say “if only these people had a gun they could protect themselves.”
How can having a gun in the ready protect you from a drive-by shooting—which, by the way, can happen anywhere, not just in Uptown New Orleans or New Orleans East or the Bywater? I just don’t see it.
It’s beyond outrageous that thugs with guns—because they have guns—get away with robbery, theft, larceny, and murder—literally. But I don’t think that more firearms (the contention by gun-toters that you can defend yourself by having a firearm) are the answer to this problem. The vast majority of the population may feel safe (or patriotic) because they own a gun, but the reality is that the criminals with the guns have a considerable edge on John Q. Citizen when it comes to using a weapon to perpetrate their crimes. More guns in the hands of the general population is just not the answer. Anyone who buys this mantra has been sucked in by the propaganda that emanates from the National Rifle Association (who represent firearms manufacturers) that’s inundated America over the past 40 years or so. More guns does not prevent or solve gun violence. Isn’t that obvious?
So, over the weekend, Joseph runs into the drugstore to pick up something, and leaves me in the car alone with our dog, keys in the ignition. All of a sudden, it occurs to me that I could be a target of a stupid someone with a stupid gun who’s up to no good. After that wave of paranoia, I thought back to the week before when I was in London and we were out all hours of the day and night and we never even thought twice about being shot or car jacked or robbed at gunpoint.
Gun ownership is very tightly controlled in England. The United Kingdom has one of the lowest rates of gun homicides in the world, with only 0.04 recorded intentional homicides committed with a firearm per 100,000 inhabitants in 2010. Fully automatic and semi-automatic weapons are prohibited and require explicit permission from central government to permit ownership.
We’re not consciously aware of it, but when you live in a big city in the US, you by necessity have to be a lot more careful than if you live in a city like London. There’s an overriding fear in the back of your mind: “I could be held up. I could be shot. I have to be vigilant and careful. I have to distrust people.”
I hate that feeling. And I didn’t have it while I was in England, something I just realized when I came back home.
I really dislike having to live in a place where more guns are made out to be the solution to gun violence and crimes. It doesn’t work. We need to have less guns, not more.