I live in Chicago, and despite all the press the city gets for the ongoing gang killings, there are some very nice neighborhoods that are relatively safe for a big city. For the people who live in nicer neighborhoods, the violence plaguing Chicago is out-of-sight, out-of-mind. We see the reports on the local news, but it may as well be happening in a different city. But it is the same city, and the violent streets are often just a few minutes’ drive away . . .
Last summer, my wife and I were dining out in one of those nicer areas, just the two of us, no kids for a change. It was early evening and still light outside. Our table was by the open doorway to the patio that looked out on the street. We had placed our orders and were enjoying a drink when we heard the screech of tires and men yelling.
The family that had been dining on the outside patio scrambled through the doorway, the woman screaming, “Call 911! Someone’s getting attacked out there! With baseball bats!” I looked at my wife for a beat then pushed my chair back to face the door to the patio and the street beyond it.
A car lurched into my line of sight then hit the brakes, rear doors still open, swinging. The driver had his head out the driver’s side window, looking back toward the corner with a vicious grin on his face. Two guys with baseball bats raced to the car and piled into the back seats as the driver turned forward and the car peeled away. They wore street gang uniforms: shaved heads, sleeveless white tee shirts, baggy pants, heavily tattooed. They were big men, muscular and fast.
The police showed up maybe five minutes later to talk to the guy who had been assaulted. He seemed to be okay. He was lucky the thugs were just toying with him and didn’t actually bash his head in with their bats.
As the restaurant settled back down, I thought about how I had just seen from a safe distance what we good people are up against. Seeing some seriously bad guys like that, totally out of their usual context, making trouble in an otherwise safe neighborhood in broad daylight was sobering. It was as if I’d seen a predator like a shark or tiger pass me in the wild.
I think of the driver’s vicious grin to remind myself not to be lulled into complacency by being fortunate enough to live in an area where violence like this is not common. Seeing how strong and fast they were, I know my chances of surviving an encounter with predators like this would be slim. I’m a middle-aged family man who works in an office. How could I hope to fend off one of these guys one-on-one, much less three-on-one?
Thanks to the new law in Illinois, I am now licensed to carry a gun on the street. I believe it’s unlikely I will ever need to draw or fire my gun, and I hope I never have to, but I also realize that if I ever am confronted by violent criminals like the three I saw that evening, I will face long odds. Being armed gives me the best advantage to increase my chances of survival, even if only marginally. It gives me an option to respond and not be left helpless, unable to defend my loved ones. Being prepared to respond to a violent worst-case scenario brings me peace of mind knowing I’m as ready as I can be to protect my family and myself.
Many of my neighbors are apparently okay rolling the dice and hoping they never encounter any of these violent criminals. But some people want to be prepared to protect their families just in case. Count me in the second group.