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“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.

And collide they do. The Petit family kidnapping, torture, rape and murder was one result. And then there’s this from yesterday’s

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.

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  1. Robert, I certainly hope you wear a helmet in your house as well as a gun, because you are way more likely to fall and hit your head than be a victim of a home invasion.

    • You might be able to take a hit to the head.

      A bullet or knife? Not so much.

      In any case, were you to meet any one of us in real life, how could you actually tell we are being restricted by our “fear,” so to speak?

    • If the sheep ever do get the wake up call they will act just like the School Board in FL. The gunman levels the gun to aim right at the victim and he just sits there and begs for his life instead of getting behind concealment or running. Not to mention that he should have had his own gun, but I guess that’s too much to ask for residents of the gunshine state.

      • Running? Get shot in the back. “Concealment”? You mean under the desk? Get shot through the particle board. Not a whole lotta choices there. Trying to talk the wacko down was as good a try as anything else — but being armed is, of course, the best option.

        • Far better to me a moving target than a sitting duck. Far better to be behind an object where the shooter can not see you–even better would be to move out of the are when behind the concealment. Sitting there waiting your turn to be shot is the stupidest of all options.

  2. Survival does not require a gun, but it does require a survival mindset.

    In examining the FL School Board shooting, the board and the audience just stayed in their seats while the madman drew on the wall and swore. All should have run.

    The board and the audience just stayed in their seat while the madman exposed a gun. All should have run, but only one did.

    The gunman actually had to order the people to leave. They finally did so with the slow pace of walking out of a movie theater. One even politely pushed in her chair.

    While one feeble woman tried to save 5 men, the 5 men just sat there and watched.

    When it came time to die, with the gun aimed right at the victim, he just begged instead of running or taking cover.

    Shots fired, 3 of the 5 board still just sat there until the 3rd shot was fired.

    To survive, you need to have a survival mindset. While shooting the gunman was justifiable, all those people needed to do to survive was run.

  3. robert, I think your insight is very good. we live in very intresting times, and the old bromides of the past are no longer valid. those who are alert are always better off than those who want to pretend nothing bad can ever happen.

  4. As usual the RABBI makes some great points, but in Florida you are not allowed to have a gun on school grounds without permission or as part of your job. Maybe the Supt. will make an exception to that rule.

    • Thanks for that info Joe, it does not surprise me. Regardless, those board members and participants showed and outstanding comprehension of the sheep/victim mentality. There was lots that could have be done, but was not.

      • The cop was NOT unarmed. He had a 38 revolver. He ran to get his 40 and a vest. If he did not think he could take a shot with his 38 at distances required at his assigned duty location (the School) he should have had is 40 all the time. If he thought that he needed a vest to do his job, he should have been wearing it at all times and not left in the car. The cop was incompetent and negligent. He admitted to firing blindly over the chairs “to keep the gunman down”. He fired those shots blindly in the direction of the hostages. The cop was as much a danger to the hostages as the gunman. The cop should have shot the gunman in the back the first second he laid eyes on him.

        • So the .38 was for his personal defense. When it came to the gear necessary to protect others, that was all out in the car. Just shows that he was thinking of himself first and foremost, and that the defense of others was secondary in his mind.

          That sounds pretty mean to say, but it is actually what we should expect from all law enforcement. They simply don’t get paid enough to truly stick their necks out for us. We should expect all cops to think of their own safety first and ours second.


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