So a few months ago a friend of mine got mugged in my neighborhood. She's 5 foot 1, 100 pounds wet, and about as intimidating as a newborn kitten. Walking home from Acme (the local supermarket) at 8 pm, two guys walked past her. For some reason they seemed sketchy to her, but when she looked back and saw they were walking away, chatting, and generally not giving a damn about her, she felt silly. Who doesn't look sketchy in this city? Shouldn't she know better?
Then she heard coins fall at her feet. Assuming they fell from her pocket, she bent over to pick them up. When she straightened herself she found one of the two guys waving a gun in her face, screaming, "I'm gonna blow your head off! I'm gonna blow your head off!"
And she said, and I quote,
"Are you serious."
An hour later and down her favorite (cashless) wallet and a bag of oranges, she told a cop what happened. Of course this wasn't the first time for her, she's always getting robbed. Newborn kittens are an easy target I guess. When she finished giving her account of the events the cops gave her some advice on staying safe in the city. He told her to get a gun.
I've considered getting a gun. I've considered becoming a dentist, getting facial tattoos, and moving to the Louisiana swamp, too. I've got my reasons for each. As for being a dentist, I've got a steady hand, a love of dental hygiene, and other people's mouths just don't creep me out. Facial tattoos I'd get because occasionally I'm an idiot. And the swamp, well that's obvious. It's the only way I'd become an expert on "'gaters", cooking gumbo, and playing banjo.
And as for the gun, my life contains all the necessary components that drive one to gun ownership. Stalkers who know no limits? Check. Threats made on my life? Check. Living in the middle of a city with one of the highest murder rates in America? Check.
But my friend who got mugged and I agree on reasons why we should not own guns. What the hell good would guns do us when it would take someone less than a second to overpower us? Why would we get guns just we could then get shot by them? And did you know that like half the time the guns you (you the reader, you that dumb cop, you whoever) get robbed with are either not real or not loaded? And that said, what the hell sense does it make to add real, loaded guns to an otherwise airsoft robbery?
I played around with this idea for a couple days, imagining scenes where I got mugged by people who didn't realize I have a tiny gun, and I'm mad dangerous.
I'm on Tasker St, walking home with my bag of groceries.
"I'm gonna blow your fucking head off!"
"No way I totally have that little gun from Men In Black, motherfucker!!"
"Give me your bag of oranges from Acme!"
"No way dude! Eat lead!"
KAPOOOW! Green goo everywhere. (Obviously an alien.) Justice served.
This idea amused me. Or at least it did until I was at work, talking to some 6 foot 5 built-like-a-Roman-statue guy about weapons. I mentioned the MIB gun and he told me that I should sooooo totally get one ("they're so feminine and manageable!"), then all about his guns. Of which there were many. Like, enough to fill an arsenal.
I asked if he had seen the movie Tremors. I hate to be one of those people who references TV and movies in real life but it was appropriate. I explained the basic premise of Tremors (giant human-eating worms chowing down on a small town) and asked if, like the character with an arsenal which came in oh-so handy with worm-shooting, he was collecting all those guns just in case something like that went down. "I'm serious, are you afraid of giant, carnivorous worms? Come on man.What on earth do you need all those guns for?"
He told me, plainly, "To shoot people."
I laughed, "Ahhhh 'to shoot people', of course! And how many people are you shooting in this fair city, may I ask?"
"So far, 3. I only killed 1 though. Actually, he was in your neighborhood...."
The guy told me the stories behind each shooting (2 getting mugged, 1 in a drive by), and he was matter-of-fact, detached, and cold. It was survival he said, and I believed him. And that scared me. ("... he laid there in a pool of his own blood...") That shit was not an abstract green goo alien bust up. It was like, near where I sleep, and red, bleeding, and dying.
So far there have been over 100 murders in Philadelphia this year. A couple years ago the city was almost declared in a state of emergency because, put simply, it was warzone. In fact there are more Americans getting murdered every year in Philly than dying in Iraq. (In 2008 314 Americans died in Iraq, and 333 died in Philly. In 2009 149 died in Iraq and 305 died in Philly.*) It's scary.
...And so are stalkers. And death threats. But more than anything the streets my life take place on terrify me. Because you can almost lose your head over a wallet with no money and a bag of oranges. Because as much as I can beat with the rhythm of this town ain't shit can beat after it's been shot. However, I'd rather face that fear and that reality than face getting to a point where I could be speak so flippantly about taking some one's life. That's just me. I understand the harsh reality of becoming harsh, but I can't (and won't) do it. Maybe I'm just a hippy.
Instead of getting a dainty little gun, I'll just keep doing my best to avoid the wrong moments. And when I can't, I'll try to keep my wits about me. And I'll get some pepper spray. And maybe a taser. Which I'll now relate to a movie, because I'm one of those people...
"...scuse me, I'd like to get by now..."
*statistics taken from icasualties and The Philadelphia Inquirer