15 March 2007

Boston is pretty safe, but when something does happen you are helpless

This past Wednesday night at around 8:30pm or so, I was with my girlfriend at a "Finagle-a-Bagel" downtown across from Boston Common. This is not a particularly scary place to be in Boston, so far as I could tell. As a newcomer, having only been in Boston since January, the Common appears generally open and safe, populated with mostly respectable types and just a smattering of panhandlers.

Justina and I were casually enjoying some soup after going to a couple of stores near Downtown Crossing. Part-way through our meal I spotted a girl wearing an Auburn University zippered sweatshirt, and alerted Justina to her presence. We both let out a "War eagle!" (the school battle cry) and the girl greeted us in like manner.

She and her two companions came over to talk to us and we proceeded to chat about Auburn, about the fact that they were in Boston for the first time, and so on. Right as our conversation seemed likely to start losing steam, we heard a bit of an altercation developing off to our right. She then said, "I think they are about to fight!" noting four or five people that seemed to be exchanging heated remarks at the other end of the kitschy little bagel franchise.

Without recounting all the details, let's just say that the scene was ugly. People were yelling profanity at each other, and a guy and a girl squared off and started swinging. The female's companion got involved and got a knife in the cheek for his troubles. His two adversaries fled the scene shortly thereafter, and the police, who actually arrived pretty rapidly were nonetheless too late to do anything other than file a report about the matter.

I am not a Rambo-type by any means, but when I lived in Alabama I almost always carried either a S&W snubnose .38 or a SIG-Pro .40. Had I and other patrons been legally permitted to possess a gun that night, I have no doubts that the assailant would not have found it so easy to make a clean getaway or perhaps even to actually stab anyone to begin with. Instead, we the bystanders were more or less unable to do anything. I was left with the sole option of just standing between my girlfriend and the altercation, ready to perhaps use a chair to dissuade those fighting from bringing the fight our way.

Don't get me wrong, Boston is a pretty safe city. Compared to cities like, say, New Orleans, which had as many as 96 homicides per 100,000 pop. (161 total) in 2006, or Washington, D.C., which had 35.4 murders per 100,000 pop. (169 total in 2006), Boston seems positively placid at only 13.4 per 100,000 (75 total) last year. The police officers are paid fantastic sums of money, and they were quickly to the scene that Wednesday night. Yet, they were not there in time to prevent someone from coming to harm. How could they be? It is a simple matter of necessarily limited information that leaves them as emergency responders.

I know that there are plenty of murders and stabbings where I've lived before, but since I've been twenty-one years old I've exercised my right to bear arms in order to be prepared, just like the Boy Scouts say. Unfortunately, it only takes one dangerous situation to hurt you, and it is a shame that we folks that live here in "the Hub" cannot lawfully carry a means by which to defend ourselves--that is, to stop a crime when it is happening.

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