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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.

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    • If the CTA ban isn’t a bold faced racist controlling move, I don’t know what is. Most south siders cannot afford cars. What better way to clamp down on a “certain” segment of the population from legally carrying where they have to be disarmed while going about their daily business that involves mass transit.
      Why isn’t Rahm honest and just say,
      “we just can’t trust a bunch of black folks riding around on busses with guns.”
      I hate wrong even more when it is dishonest.

      • There is a certain irony that so many of my Chicago co-workers think Texans are a bunch of ignorant, redneck, racist, inbred, hicks but Chicago is by far one of the most flat-out racist cities I have ever been to. I had to take several trips before I saw my first homeless WHITE person. Not all of their blacks are poor but almost all of the poor are black. I’ve never seen anything like it.

        I’m starting to think a lot of their cries of racism is pure projection of their own bias. It’s a weird thing to say because our offices in Chicago and Texas are fairly diverse.

      • What a silly thing to say with no proof whatsoever. Literally tens of thousands of white people from the north side take the trains and buses every day to work, as well as tourists and fun-seekers when they don’t want to deal with parking.
        It’s not about racism, it’s about bleeding heart liberals with zero understanding of how guns work and an intrinsic hate/fear for them. They don’t want them anywhere, let alone on public transit.

  1. Good story, I have recently started referring to them as “2 legged vermin” or varmints depending on the mood ha,

    I would REALLY NOT like to give clickbait pic links to AL Jazeera regarless of how relevant the picture is, its frakkin al jazeera, you might as well link to huffpo or mother jones for an article picture.

    • Why, what’s wrong with Al Jazeera? They’ve got a scary sounding name? They’re based in Qatar? You must use a different number system than the rest of us, because the 1-10 system that we use was invented in modern-day Iraq. I suppose you also don’t use any pepper on your food? Wouldn’t want any support going to those hadjis just because they up and made a news company.

      • I doubt any “hajis” are making money off their discovery of pepper, the invention of the numerical system or any other scientific advances they discovered centuries ago.

    • As someone who works in intel, Al Jazeera is one of the top coices for well-sourced international news in the world. They are far from extremist and tend to favor neutral reporting on most issues (including Palestine/Israel), and oddly enough, the have really progressive opinion columns (even compared to most western news agencies), despite being based in a very conservative country.

      • +1 even outside of an OSINT context, Al Jazeera is usually one of the very few sources of good journalism in the Middle East. IMO this also holds true of their news here in the US.

  2. There is a scene from the movie Get Carter, the 1971 original starring Michael Caine, in which a big bouncer-type guy is starting to make trouble with Carter (Michael Caine), a London gangster. When the man tries to stop Carter from leaving a house, Carter says to him “You’re a big man, but you’re out of shape. For me, it’s a full-time job.” He then kicks the guy’s ass when the man tries to restrain him. (ETA: Here is the link: )

    The point of this story is that I am also a Chicagoland resident and I worry about running into gang members like this. Yes, I will get my CCW license and have taken a few classes, but for gang members like this, violence is a way of life. They are strong, fast, cunning, scrappy, and they’ve both given beatings and taken beatings many times over. Many of them have also brutally killed others, whether in drive-bys or using other means. How does the average office schmuck like me compete with that? Violence is not part of my life at all really; like most office workers, I have to make an effort just to get regular physical activity.

    My only solution is to simply stay out of the bad neighborhoods (e.g., Austin, Auburn-Gresham, Roseland) and also be vigilant or absent in those neighborhoods where crime sometimes spills over (Michigan Ave when the youths are out and about, Streeterville, etc.). At least we can carry now though.

    • Mindset, physical activity, the largest blade you can legally carry and then your CCW as y’all call it.

      • This. Mindset, especially. I’ve walked around freely in some pretty nasty parts of Detroit without any more conflict than a friendly hello. Keep in mind, I don’t look like I belong there (white as a sheet, hair down to my mid back) and my friends (I’d never try it alone, just like I don’t go into the woods alone) even more out of place, but there’s something to be said for convincing yourself you’ve done so a thousand times before. Worst thing I’ve ever had to deal with was someone I’m pretty sure was a narc really trying to get me to buy weed.

  3. Excellent article! I really enjoyed reading it. It never ceases to amaze me how some people seem to believe nothing bad could happen to them.

  4. That was my attitude for years. I did not care about protecting myself much, did not think about it. Used guns for recreation and hunting and some fishing (for gators). Then along came the most beautiful woman I ever saw with her blazing red hair and life for me has never been the same. I began carrying to protect her, and then our growing family, but when I went out by myself, I never carried. One day, my wife saw that and told me, “Protect yourself. You are important to me and you are important to our children. We never want to be without you. We love you.” I melted. I have carried ever since.

  5. I told a few people at a casual gathering that I carry because it’s my responsibility to come home to my family.

    good wake up story BTW.

  6. I live just outside of Chicago now, but I used to live in one of those very nice neighborhoods, Lakeview. One evening, when I got off of the L and started walking to my apartment, I was mugged at gunpoint by two gangbangers. The police showed up fairly quickly and descended on the area en masse. They caught the two guys mugging another individual a few blocks over. Turns out, they had taken the L to Lakeview from the South Side and had mugged several individuals around the L stop. Frankly, they got greedy and stayed in the area too long. If they had hopped back on the L after mugging me, they would have never been caught. This kind of thing does happen with disturbing regularity even in the “nice” neighborhoods of Chicago.

    • Pointing to my earlier reference to the CTA ban, I should have also stated that Rahm CAN trust that thugs will be carrying on the CTA, just not the victims,

      • Of course the thugs are carrying. They have to be ready when they pour off the Red line at Chicago and State so they can get organized at the McDonald’s before going over to Michigan Ave.

  7. So this is, what, like the 3rd year running where they have had a Wilding on Michigan Ave.? I notice it barely made the news this year. I purposefully pushed my usual Chicago trip until it took place. I look forward to visiting the city this summer, as I always do. I love Chicago. It could be such a great town.

    It is very clear that crime seems to be contained to certain areas, but there is no guarantee that the criminals will contain their activities to the usual stomping grounds. In fact, walking down the “nice” part of town at 2am and it doesn’t seem so nice anymore. There is a certain element that starts to come out after dark. You can almost see it gets worse as night progresses.

    At this point all I can do is hope that the residents say they have had enough and eject Rahm at the first opportunity. The city has greater problems than him, but as long as he is running things it will be next to impossible for it to ever get better.

    In the meantime, I wish anyone there the best of luck. Honestly. I still have friends, co-workers, and employees who still live and work there and while I would never choose to reside there myself it doesn’t mean I wish for them to live in a hellhole.

      • This. If anything, Rahm will be forced out for being too hard on the unions, and someone more friendly will be put in his place.

    • That has been part of the problem as of late. The CPD has been stripped to bare bones with retirements far outpacing hiring for a number of years now. The safer neighborhoods have had police coverage stripped in order to saturate more violent areas. It’s not uncommon to hear code over the scanner that there are no officers in the area in better neighborhoods and that an officer will have come as available. this increases response times and as a result property crimes have been more prevalent. Folks don’t seem to realize that by saturating the more violent areas trouble makers often move to more fertile grounds…

    • It’s actually starting to spill over from “certain neighborhoods” into areas where it hasn’t happened to this degree. While it’s still concentrated in the traditional areas, there’s much more activity in neighborhoods that used to be a little quieter.

  8. Sounds like most big cities. The regular shootings and violent crime you see on the news seems to happen in certain areas of town. You still have to be aware and prepared just in case.

  9. To me, the most telling statement from the essay is:

    “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!””

    When we are disarmed all we can do is scream for help and run and hide. We cannot defend ourselves, our families or our neighbors. We cannot stand against aggression and hope to win. We cannot get involved. We cannot make things better when things are at their worse. We must rely on the mercy of the bad guy to have any hope of seeing tomorrow.

  10. +1 Harry Lime. I lived on the north side for 6 years in the 1980’s. I was attacked on the el but back then I was fearless. Chased 4 homies out. Anyone who thinks the city is safe ANYWHERE is clueless. I now live in southern Cook County,Illinois. I’m an antique dealer and used to go deep into the south & west sides. Not anymore…too many 15year olds with guns Yeah smash & grab in ” the magnificent mile” is way up too. BTW this is nothing new. It was pretty hairy 30years ago when I frequented Rush St…with Cabrini Green 3 blocks away.

    • I got to watch from my window as the last two towers along Division near Clybourn were demolished several years ago. While it marked the end of a failed experiment, it was also a harbinger of the re-distribution of gang activity to other neighborhoods and the inner ring of suburbs.

      Really happy I don’t live in the city (or the state) any more.

  11. I lived in Lincoln Park for 9 years in the 90’s/early 2000’s (4 while attending DePaul, 5 while working downtown. When I started school in the fall if ’93, even the “nicer” areas of Lincoln Park were near some sketchy areas. Gentrification took hold around 1995 on, Cabrini came down and the “safe” areas definitely expanded. But my time living in Chicago did heighten my situational awareness. I witnessed several random beatings, one involving a cabbie and a tire iron, and a friend of mine spent the night at Illinois Masonic after he ran into some thugs leaving a bar one Sat night.

    When I lived in a studio by myself, I scoffed against the city laws at the time and had a .38 and a 12 gauge at quick access.

    Now I live in a more gun friendly suburb and looking back now will never again live in cook county with the unconstitutional restrictions they seek to impose.

    As for the author of the fine post above,
    Welcome to what real freedom is.

  12. As a resident of the middle of the state, I keep hoping someone will cut Chicago off and let it float north.


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