Being afraid in my home town

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?

Shocking.

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.”

Hogwash.

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.

 

  • Raheem Jumaane

    The Mean Streets of Grinwich

  • Tim Eskew

    Guns are an equalizer for those who choose to defend and protect against those with guns who would do us harm. They are a tool, nothing more, nothing less. It’s like saying I’m against lock picks, because people use them to break into houses or being against spoons because people use them to overeat ice cream. I get it, guns are more deadly, so perhaps some regulations that would make it harder to what? Criminals won’t follow regulations like I do and most folks want the good guys to at least have a chance. Sorry, you can’t unbreak an egg. The magic wand of universal gun removal is pretty fantastic though..

    • ClaySConrad

      Guns are not an equalizer, Tim. The person who pulls the gun FIRST prevails.

      • Tim Eskew

        Not true. The officer at Gene’s poboy prevailed after being fired on repeatedly. I wish the “Wild West” mentality were in the past too. Until then I’m a gun toting filthy liberal scumbag. 🙂

  • Bill Malchow

    Tim, How do I know you are a good guy or will stay one if your economic or emotional state changes? I’m against lock picks.

    • Tim Eskew

      I’m against sticks and rocks.

  • Marc stakenburg

    As a European, who is a frequent visitor of the US, I totally agree with Jan. This gun thing is really something that sets the US years back from the rest of the world. Same with death penalty, extreme prison system, high crime etc. Ferguson, in my opinion, got out of control because of violence used by the authorities. Please disagree, but the proof is in the pudding. In Europe we have a far lower percentage of crime, murder, etc and our prisons are much more human. The war on crime is a fake, led by companies that makes money out of it.

    • ClaySConrad

      Life is cheap in America, Marc. We take it readily and destroy it cavalierly.

    • ClaySConrad

      Life is cheap in America, Marc. We take it readily and destroy it cavalierly.

  • JohnInTucson

    The gun discussion is made difficult by all the silos that prevent a holistic view of the issue. There are folks like Mr. Eskew on this page who say “They are a tool, nothing more, nothing less.” There are those who have had, in their lives, only good experiences with guns – hunting with grandpa, marksmanship medals in boy scouts, or whatever. There are people who shoot and hunt and who take care of and respect weapons and who don’t live in areas where there is a lot of gun crime and they don’t understand what all the fuss is about. There are lobbyists for the gun manufacturers, like the NRA and others, who will use any method, scrupulous or not, honest or dishonest, to try to create more sales of guns. I live about a mile from the Sportsman’s Warehouse store where Jared Loughner bought the guns and clips he used in the shooting of Gabby Giffords. I patronize that store – mostly for clothing. I see the local Boy Scout troop set up a table outside the store selling fundraising items. It’s all normal and healthy to those who shop there. There are some folks wearing t-shirts with strident pro-gun messages but for the most part, just plain folks. There are those with stolen guns and those with legally purchased guns. There are folks who study and debate the meaning of the second amendment. There are liberals and conservatives who own guns and there are liberals and conservatives who don’t. I see and read a lot of opinions about guns where those stating their opinion or participating in an argument are speaking from one silo or another. What I do not read very often is a more holistic discussion about what it means to have more and more arms flowing into our society. It’s difficult to study because those from one silo are often successful in blocking discussion or study of the matter. Doctors treating patients about whom they are concerned are gagged from asking about whether there are weapons in the home. Tracing guns when they are used in crime is a tedious, manual process that cannot be automated because those from one silo or another have blocked any modernization of record keeping because the government might take all the guns. And on and on… I think the holistic view is something like this: guns flow into our society the same way gasoline flows through pipelines in third world countries. Some of the gasoline winds up at its legitimate destination. Some of it leaks from the pipeline and pollutes the environment and the land. There are some leaks where poor people gather with cups and jugs to take whatever they can. Sometimes the leak site explodes and kills a bunch of people and further stains the land. Life goes on – polluted, filled with gasoline-caused death, a stain upon the land and the society. While I support Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly in their effort to control guns, and while I think of them every day because on my way to work I drive by the shopping center where the shooting took place, I think they are nibbling around the edges and may make some modest difference some day. But the pollution that is guns is like the BP oil spill if they never capped the well. It’s destroying our country.

    • Tim Eskew

      What we really need is more education and opportunity that intercepts those who would end up using guns in an unlawful manner and redirect them into functional productive well adjusted citizens with a stake in our future. This will lead to less guns as they won’t be “necessary” to the “criminal” populace. I live in NOLA where there appears to be no mental health facilities to speak of and little inclusion for the group who becomes engaged in gun mêlée. These folks are the big majority of gun abusers along with illegal drug trade representatives. So, put into effect some mental health services, educational safety net, and legalize these drugs so we can put the dope man out of business and get addicts into the first thing on this list. Fix the people and the guns will subside. Until then, and I can find many police officers who are happy to agree, I’m remaining armed.

  • Dago T

    I own guns. My guns don’t own me.

  • Toni Ester

    The estimated rate of private gun ownership (both licit and illicit) in Canada is 23.8 firearms per 100 people. The firearm-related homicide rate is .5 per 100,000 people. The U.S. has less than half that number of guns, with 3.6 homicides per 100,000 people. Clearly, the number of firearms in citizens’ hands is not the issue.

    • JohnInTucson

      We have a violent, detached society that was established in genocide and built with slavery. We stopped reconstruction and kept racism thriving into the 21st century. Into this volatile mix we pour guns and we do little to regulate them. Fewer guns per capita than other, more peaceful countries? OK. Looking for “the” issue is simplistic. Are guns an issue? They sure are.

    • Canukistan guy

      True, but most of the guns owned by average citizens in Canada are shotguns and hunting rifles. Handguns or automatic weapons are severely restricted, here.

  • Mike C

    You cant put the toothpaste back in the tube. The unfortunate truth is that if you’re going to live in any major or semi-major metropolitan area in this country the guns are going to be there and there is going to be a relatively small segment of society that use guns to commit crimes. You are absolutely kidding yourself if you think that there will be any reduction of gun ownership in the U.S.

    • JohnInTucson

      Shame on us for letting the toothpaste leak out. More guns, more firepower, more cops shooting to kill because the perp may have a gun, stand your ground laws, “good guys with a gun” (question – was the shooter captured in the French Quarter shooting a good guy? he claims he saved lives by firing on a belligerent drunk with a gun), and on and on. Remember when the simple bumper sticker was “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” Whenever I see that, I wonder – where did the outlaws get them? Did our lax regulations combined with the desire of the gun lobby to sell more and more guns facilitate the pollution of guns everywhere? Did we actually think about what we were doing? I don’t think we really thought about the overall damage then – and we barely think and talk about it now. Can anything be done about it? Maybe a little. Jared Loughner bought his guns legally in Arizona and was able to use a 31-shot clip. The guy who went on a rampage sometime within the last year in California, driving into a sorority house and shooting several people (as I loosely recall the incident) had handguns with 9-shot clips because 31-shot clips were not legal in CA. A very small example but maybe a life or two or an injury or two were spared in that shooting because of the different gun laws. As I mentioned previously regarding the activities of Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly, this is nibbling around the edges. But it’s something. Folks will argue, with some logical gymnastics, the they need to be able to buy 31-shot clips to defend themselves because someone might own such clips and attack them. If you follow that logic, we will need to continually increase the firepower available to the responsible gun owner because the bad guys are increasing their firepower. But how are the bad guys doing that? if they are stealing guns from responsible gun owners then the gun owners weren’t responsible. If they’re buying privately under the gun show loophole or via straw purchase, then how can we know because data gathering and weapon tracing are made difficult or impossible because the government might use any information to take away our guns. There are forces at work who have the missions of selling guns, getting as many guns as possible into society, and keeping us from fully understanding the ramifications of all those arms. Unfortunate attitudes and activities in so many ways.

    • Pigoon Rancher

      That’s funny. Australia had very little difficulty putting the toothpaste back in the tube. Why so little faith in the home land?

    • Pigoon Rancher

      That’s funny. Australia had very little difficulty putting the toothpaste back in the tube. Why so little faith in the home land?