“It was a violent week in the city,” The Providence Journal reports. “With two murders, at least five reported drive-by shootings and an armed home invasion.” As a resident of the Renaissance City, this is not music to my ears. Still, the ProJo’s roll call of gun crime calls for a little perspective. All of the events involved what used to be called “low life”: young men in an economically disadvantaged part of town suspected of engaging in extra-legal commercial activities. Given the last names of the people named, someone less PC than me could further identify the majority of these citizens as people of color. But I will say this: this crime wave left my mostly white, upper-middle class neighborhood unaffected. And how . . .
Last night, walking the schnauzers in the bitter cold, the news report inspired me to clock the security in “the Bubble.” That’s the name Sam coined for The Lady and the Tramp tranquility of Providence’s East Side. It encapsulates the feel of our wide, tree-lined streets, kid-friendly sidewalks. gracious 1920’s architecture and distinct lack of litter, transients and, well, poor people. It’s a Bubble because, in a word, it’s safe.
Or at least the residents consider it so. They must do. At night, roughly fifty percent of Bubble-dwelling homeowners fail to draw their shades. You can see straight into their interior. About a quarter of the homes have no exterior lighting other than a porch light and ambient illumination. About an eighth of the properties are completely dark—clearly indicating that their owners’ have bolted for the slopes or the sun.
I know of only three homes within three miles of my door with lawn signs proclaiming their connection to an alarm company. How many East Side residences have active perimeter alarm systems, set before bedtime? You can round that stat down to zero. How about dogs that bark at strangers? A few. But then again, too few to mention. Proper security doors? Same again, although I just mentioned it.
The Providence Police are not highly visible in the tony part of town, but they’re out there, somewhere. Don’t ask me how I know, but the cops’ response time to a 911 call is well under the ten minute mark. No surprise there; the majority of the City’s pols and well-connected tax payers (e.g. lawyers, doctors, union bosses.) live on the East Side. The cops know that their bread is buttered in the Bubble.
For a neighborhood within a state so blue you have to wonder if it’s been holding its breath for the last decade, the East Side is home to more defensive firearms than you’d imagine. Which is to say a single digit percentage (at a guess). Ocean State residents seeking to purchase a weapon have to pass a written multiple choice test and buy their firearm at a RI gun store filled with Republicans. That’s a bridge too far too far for many East Side liberals (excepting our pal Dave), most of whom grew up in left-leaning, gun-free households.
The Bubble’s mostly male gun culture is subterranean; wives practice a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy or convince themselves that the firearms sharing their home are hunting-related. My daughters’ Quaker school has a militia (motto: “Defending Non-Violence At All Costs”), but its members are as discreet as thousand dollar hookers. I’d bet dollars to double-ought shot-shells that I’m only participant in this hidden firearms fraternity who practices Home Carry.
As one of TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia pointed out a while back, people are only as tooled-up and trained as they need to be. While the Bubble recently suffered a spate of daylight home invasions, it was an isolated, tightly clustered series of events. No one was injured. If this kind of attack were commonplace, or its perpetrators killed or injured a resident, you’d see a sea change in personal defense firearms ownership and home security. But it isn’t, so you don’t.
So here we have a tale of two cities. One where residents feel safe because crime is rare. Where the FedEx guy leaves packages outside the back door. And another where residents feel like they’re under the gun—because they are. Where gun violence is so rampant that the FedEx guy should be packing heat. But doesn’t because the company hardly ever goes there.
I don’t know the “answer” to the other Providence’s gun crime problem. I don’t think there is one. Rhode Island’s history of organized violent crime predates the Revolutionary War, when the state was known as “Rogue’s Island.” It extends through the reign of New England crime boss Raymond LS Patriarca, to today’s South American drug gangs. You could no more wipe out gun crime in Providence than you could remove corrupt politicians from its power structure. Or find a single pol who isn’t corrupt.
But I do think that my fellow Bubblers (RI joke) are delusional for not taking basic security precautions and defending their homes and lives with an accessible gun. As Chris Fry wrote in yesterday’s editorial about the combat mindset, accepting the idea that horrific things can happen can be the difference between life and death. Put another way, when worlds collide, bad shit goes down. Either you’re ready or your not.
TULSA, Oklahoma — Police arrested two teens accused of murdering a father just five hours after the man celebrated his son’s first birthday.
Two men broke into the victim’s home to rob them, held the family at gunpoint, and then Jerry Van Ellen followed them outside. That’s when they shot him in the chest and killed him.
This is even worse than simply a random act of violence. This was a case of mistaken identity.
Police say the two men planned to break into a drug dealer’s house, but they got the wrong address and ended up inside the home of an innocent family instead.
I’m not saying that a firearm is the metaphorical seat belt that middle class folk need to protect themselves from the rare and random car crash known as a home invasion. Jerry Van Ellen’s survival depended just as much on strong doors and windows and an alarm system as any firearm he could have brought to bear on his attackers. Indeed, as an ex-National Guard soldier, he may have had a home defense gun—just not the opportunity to use it.
Equally, you could ascribe this murderous attack to simple bad luck, and dismiss it as a statistical anomaly. I don’t. I see it a warning to recognize that the barrier of invulnerability is an illusion. Truth be told, there’s only a thin blue line between any Bubble and the places where bad people do bad, bad things without any compunctions whatsoever.
In general, American society is a miracle of social engineering: a safe place to live, love, work and raise a family. The most recent FBI violent crime stats—down 6.2 percent—indicate that we’re still on the right track to communal and personal safety and security. BUT— violence will always lurk on the edges of any society. Gun control can not stop it nor disarm it. Nor can social policies or the police. It just is.
There’s no guarantee that a firearm will save you and your family from the worst case scenario of a violent home invasion, even if you integrate it into a comprehensive home defense plan (as one should). But for responsible owners, owners who understand the training and responsibility that [potentially] effective firearms ownership requires, who know that bringing a firearm into the home is dangerous in and of itself, it’s a risk worth taking. No one should have to depend on a miracle for their survival.