“You Need A Gun”

I have a vivid memory from about age 8 of walking through the streets of Boston with my Step-dad. I remember being terrified as I looked at the big buildings, the fast taxis, and observed the masses of people walking the streets. People live here?! I wondered, knowing that any second something terrible was about to happen. It didn’t. Still, I wasn’t too keen on cities until years later when I lived near San Francisco.

Flash forward to today.

I walk comfortably through the streets of my city, no longer afraid. I am aware but not fearful. I feel safe.

Sometimes my life these days is so much that of a city dweller that I astound myself. I shop for food at an overpriced, inner city market. We get takeout too many nights of the week. We park our cars on Friday and don’t move them until we leave for work on Monday. We pay extra for a parking spot in a lot 3.5 blocks from home. We run into friends at the dog park and go out to wine bars on weeknights. Our buzzer doesn’t work so we are constantly running up and down our 2 flights of stairs to greet the delivery guy. Our lock on our door is one of those city kind of locks. Sometimes it makes me feel like SJP from Sex and the City.

I’m getting used to my life here. It feels like home.

So when a retired Philly cop recently told me “you need a gun if you live in Philly”, I was completely taken back. No! I thought. I’ve worked hard to feel like I’m a part of this community. I’ve quelled my fears and come to a place of feeling safe. Don’t put that fear back in my mind!

I insisted to him that I don’t feel like I need a gun and that I personally never intend to be a gun owner (note: this is not a gun control discussion). Guns just aren’t for me. He looked me dead in the face and told me that I’m naive.

This banter went back and forth for a few minutes (it was friendly, I swear). He asked me “What about home invasion or burglary?”. I responded with “Frankly, there are way better people on my street to rob. If I was going to pick someone to rob in our neighborhood, I wouldn’t pick us, the itty bitty 3rd floor walk up. That just makes no sense.”

I realize that the whole “put yourself in the mind of a robber” strategy might not be the best and it’s not one I’m particularly proud of but seriously, you’d have to be dumb to break in to the building with 5 teeny apartments full of med students (and us) vs. the house next door where they own the whole house.

Basically, this would be very very true on our front steps.

the neighbors have better stuff

You can find it here.

With my “better people to rob” comment, he backtracked a bit, asking about my neighborhood. He later shared with me that he thought my neighborhood is actually fine and that “you’re right, you probably don’t need a gun there.” I know. It was a strange conversation and I was certainly a bit shaken by it. Am I naive to feel safe here? I still wonder. Should I feel unsafe? What does it mean that I just don’t?

Like I said, it does feel like home. I’m grateful for that.

  • So I live in Texas, where guns are the accessory that everyone keeps in their pocket [not me, though]. I live in the suburbs but after our house was robbed do I think we need a gun? No, because it simply doesn’t make you feel any safer. I’d rather have a dog because it can actually hear burglars & I don’t believe a gun can. Does my husband own a gun? Yes. The only time we have shot the gun is in a gun range at a target.

    I was recently made aware that a dog was shot in a dog park about 45 minutes from where I leave, for simply growling at someone who kicked him. He kicked the dog and then shot it. So I don’t think many people besides law enforcement should have guns. I think there are too many ignorant people, regardless of taking a “concealed handgun” license exam or not, that do not need to own guns.

    So I am with you on the gun thing. I don’t think it is necessary. Get pepper spray, run, and be aware of your surroundings. I walk with the least amount of cash as possible because credit cards can be replaced and cancelled before purchases are made.


  • I live in Memphis, which is the ranked no. 2 for organized crime. There’s a shooting or home invasion (even in the suburbs) almost every single day, sometimes 2 or 3 times a day. When I first moved here – I live towards the ‘burbs, since that’s where I work – I was kind of apprehensive and felt a bit unsafe. But now I walk around without my pepper spray on my keys. I don’t really go to any bad areas and never alone at night. I do carry a knife with me, but that’s just as much for protection as it is for functionality (you don’t realize how many times someone needs to open something and no one has scissors around).

    I was talking with some friends though and we agreed we should at least take the gun safety course and apply for our handgun carry permit, should there ever be a moment where we feel we need to buy a gun and carry one. I hope it doesn’t happen, because guns are expensive, but it’d be nice to know I can safely operate one.

  • Rose

    Growing up, we never had guns or shot guns or did anything of that nature. For the place I lived, we were part of the minority. It’s a rural area with a strong hunting community. I never had much thought on guns. Now, my boyfriend is part of that hunting community and we have several guns in our home locked in a gun safe. He collects guns, some he purchased but a good portion were passed down to him. He travels for work and a lot of times, I am home alone during the week. I like knowing that I have some form of protection if god forbid something happened. That being said, he just got his conceal carry permit so that he can wear his handgun when hunting. Personally, I have a problem with concealed gun permits. Where do you draw the line? The second I feel like I need to carry a gun on me, there is a problem. You should be able to feel safe in your area/home without carrying a weapon for protection and maybe that’s naïve thinking but I liked to believe that I am safe without a gun.

  • I want you to know that first, you are one of my favorite bloggers. Your posts always interest me. I read every single one even if I don’t comment on every one. Your tone is interesting yet leads to conversation.
    I love this post topic because I’m afraid. I wrote a post recently about an app that you can use to help if you’re in a bad situation. Dallas is a big city and there is crime everywhere, even in my “nice” neighborhood. We do have a gun. It makes me feel weird to have it but I do like that we have it. but it 100% not for everyone. my best friend hates them and I understand why. I really think it’s a personal choice

  • I wouldn’t worry if I was you. I’ve lived here for over 20 years. I feel that a gun would cause more problems than it would solve. 🙂

  • I am not afraid. I bought the house I grew up in. At the same time, some of my best friends are police officers. They tell me about the crimes that NEVER make it to the news that are right here in my so called “safe” town. I bought a gun. My husband taught me proper gun techniques and safety. We go to the gun range and practice safe use sometimes as a date (it’s fun!). My confidence has gone up. I know that no matter what comes my way, Robber or poisonous snake or the scary coyotes that have been carrying away small dogs in our neighborhood, I can handle it.

  • That is an interesting comment for him to make to you. I’ve lived in Chicago for a few years and have had some stuff stole but I have a hard time thinking that I need a gun or that someone is constantly going to break in. If I had that mindset I would always be paranoid and would have such a hard time concentrating on everything else in life!

    I enjoyed this post!

  • I think there is joy and community found when you enjoy your home. Fear is something that can trap you. Many law enforcement and first responders have seen some of the worst things and it hardens their heart a bit. They see the bad all the time – more than you and me. I think that when you appreciate your area and enjoy it (still being aware) you are more thankful for what you have and also put those around you at peace. A smile on the sidewalk can be a much larger blessing than a frantic rush by. I think it is so good to be aware but don’t live in fear, fear only robs you of today.

    Also, gun wise. Get a gun and learn how to use it if you want. Or don’t if you don’t feel comfortable. That is your choice.

  • Cat

    One of the commenters above pointed out that you were talking to an ex-cop, who unfortunately has seen a whole lot of the sad and scary parts of a city, and likely it has given him a bit of a skewed perspective. Personally, I’ve seen the statistics and know that it’s far more likely that a gun will be turned on YOU, the owner, in the event of a home invasion, than you will be able to protect yourself with it. I think a medium to large sized dog is even better protection because it’s a deterrent – that barking is enough to keep someone from even entering the house in the first place.

    Thanks for starting this interesting conversation! It’s a great topic.


  • I’ve had these same sorts of conversations with people during the eight years that I’ve lived in Baltimore. I don’t have a gun, nor do I have any desire to own one. I feel as though I’m perfectly safe, but some people tell me that I’m being naive. In the time we’ve lived here, we have never been a victim of a crime other than having our cars being rooted through and change stolen, and that was because we forgot to lock it. However, we know people who have, and there’s often one thing in common with those people– they live here fearfully or they didn’t use common sense. Fear is a strange sort of propaganda, and those that would argue that you absolutely need a gun, are the same individuals that often make their claim with that propaganda of fear. I don’t need a gun because I’m not living my life in constant fear. Yes, I am aware of what crimes happen in my neighborhood, and no, I don’t need a gun when I’ve already taken the necessary steps to make sure those things don’t happen. And to me, adding yet another gun to the mix only makes matters worse. Plus, we have an 80 pound chocolate lab that has a much more mean sounding bark than her actual demeanor. That goes a long way in the city. 😉

  • lex

    I’ve never seen, held or heard a gun/gunfire which is truly amazing and I do not take for granted! This is especially impressive considering I live in Chicago where the gun violence is completely out of control. I really hope I can maintain that track record

  • I’m with you. I live in Chicago, and work in one of the “worst” neighborhoods in the city so I’ve been told that I need a gun or a taser or something like that too. Personally I don’t feel the need for one because I don’t feel comfortable with one. I feel like it would most likely be used against me quicker than I would be able to use it to protect myself. I lock my doors and am aware of my surroundings. I know the dangers and what all happens in the city. But like you, I’m aware but not afraid.

  • I went to college in an ‘unsafe’ area where we were always getting emails that there were muggings blocks from where I lived. You just make sure to never put yourself in a position where you might get mugged (no walking alone at night in sketchy areas).

    As far as home invasion… I keep a racquet close to my bed and have a pretty mean swing and can navigate my home with no lights so I’m sure I could do some damage.

  • It is funny how you say that you grew into feeling comfortable in the city. I feel like as I get older, I get less comfortable. It’s interesting! But I am with you – having a gun in my own possession would not make me feel more safe. Other precautions (like the SJP-style locks!) are good for me 🙂

  • I grew up around guns. I didn’t shoot them all the time, but my dad owns guns, my granddad owns guns, they don’t scare me when the person handling them knows what they’re doing AND has common sense. That comment about someone shooting a dog because they kicked it, those people are everywhere and we can’t control them… My husband is always talking about getting a gun and I told him that’s fine but there are guidelines that I’ve always had to follow in my parents house, that will be held up in our own house too. If we’re going to own a gun, know how to shoot it, go to the range, take a class, know what we’re doing. And, get a safe. There’s no reason for it to be out in the open all the time, that’s when it ends up getting used AGAINST you. But I agree with Helene, it is a personal choice and everyone feels differently.

    And (since this comment isn’t long enough) you almost can’t have a conversation about guns without discussing gun control, but from the comments I read, you seemed to have done just that. It’s refreshing.

  • This is so so interesting. I grew up in a “bad” area of south Dallas, so I am no stranger to the fact that crime and danger are literally always just around the corner. We like to think of our homes, or our neighborhoods, or our work places, or our police stations and hospitals, or hell, even our country as “safe” places. But the fact is, there’s just no such thing as being completely safe. Nowhere in the world does that exist. The funny thing is, I realize that COMPLETELY, but I am still not a fearful or paranoid person. My friends and family tell me all the time that I’m not paranoid enough, and I trust too easily. The fact is, you can spend your life terrified and on edge, or you can live it and just work as hard as you can to accept the fact that you can’t control everything that happens to you.

    Since I’m from Texas (and my dad was a cop) I’ve been around guns all my life. I know how to use one, but I don’t think they are “fun” (like so many people from the south do) or personally have one or carry one, and I don’t ever plan on doing so. My husband has guns that he uses for hunting, and he also keeps a handgun in his nightstand. Guns are in my home, and I’ve never thought of it as strange simply because they are in the homes of everyone I know. It’s so interesting the culture of our location and our upbringings affect the way we think as adults. Great post! I love reading so many different points of view!

  • Elizabeth

    My dad had one shotgun for home invasion protection (we lived in Austin – very safe city – ya know, hippies/peace/love), but I didn’t grow up around guns/hunting. I now live in a West Texas small (cooouuuntry) city and my husband owns so many guns he has two safes…BUT, he knows the ins & outs of each gun. It’s actually pretty amazing. He carries concealed when he can and I feel very safe when I know he’s carrying. We do have a dog who has a threatening bark, so I’m sure that helps, but if someone is determined to break in, I’m totally okay with knowing how to use a gun to protect myself and my family. Honestly, I don’t understand anti-gun laws because the crazies are going to have guns and try to kill people no matter what. Might as well have an effective way to protect myself and those around me.

  • A conversation that I think happens often. I live in the NYC area and I love our neighborhood and community. I watch the news and weird stuff happens anywhere. Cities, small towns – you can’t live your life in constant fear. Plus, guns… well, that’s a whole different topic. I’m so happy you guys are loving your new home and feeling comfortable.

  • Living in Australia being told I would need a gun isn’t something I would hear and I live in a pretty safe neighbourhood thankfully although a few years back we had bikies and drug dealers living in the complex but they never bothered us and we didn’t bother them. Ok the dug dealers are still here been here a long time and they don’t bother us it is what it is and as long as we keep to ourselves and just give a little wave and nod when we passed them on the driveway all is good. Hell I have even gone out once and forgot to close the back door but all was good when we returned not drama and nothing missing

  • I live in London, and although we don’t have to worry so much about gun crime, knife crime is a big issue.Its worrying, but at the same time one of the comments above about the cop seeing a heap of bad stuff is true. We are lucky to not see that day in day out, and as long as we are aware of our surroundings, I think its OK to opt for not owning a weapon.

  • What’s interesting to me is all the commenters who are saying they live in dangerous neighborhoods in cities that I had no idea even HAD dangerous neighborhoods (Memphis, parts of Texas, etc). It seems like we’re all on edge because of the local news and local reputations about certain neighborhoods. It’s also interesting that we’re all women commenting. I wonder how men perceive their safety in these cities we’re writing about.

    I live in a neighborhood on the North Side of Chicago, and it would be naive for me to think that I’m totally safe all the time. But I also have to roll my eyes at people who assume I’m dodging bullets on my commute to work. It’s like any other place, and bad stuff can happen anywhere.

    Common sense goes a long way. I don’t walk by myself down dark alleys at night. I installed an extra deadbolt on the door of my ground-floor apartment. I have a dog, too, who barks at any noise on our front or back stoop, so that does make me feel safer. I would NOT feel safer with a gun, mostly because I don’t know how to use it, and I’d be terrified of it getting turned on me.

  • Don’t you know that you can’t write about guns without it turning into a gun discussion? Haha!

    I have a gun. Most of the time, it’s on my nightstand. Sometimes it’s in my purse. Sometimes it’s on my hip – when I go outside to my unattached laundry room at night, because we live in the middle of nowhere and coyotes are rampant. Sometimes it’s in the passenger seat of my car. I don’t carry a gun because I’m “scared” (except of the coyotes) I carry one because I can, and will, use it if I need it. Have I ever shot anyone/thing with it? Nope. Would I? Even a dog? Yes, absolutely.

    I do think there are people who don’t need guns, and those are the (in my opinion) ones who are ignorant about gun use and gun safety. If you’re scared of guns or don’t feel like they won’t make you feel any safer, then don’t have one. But that doesn’t make guns or gun owners/users all bad. Owning a gun doesn’t make someone a bad person, being a bad person makes someone a bad person. It’s actually a little sad that people think that having laws in place to “control” gun use/ownership is going to stop gun related crimes.

    Anyways sorry for the rant! I’m glad you’re loving Philly and everything that comes with the city life!

  • I feel part of his mindset is he’s seen the worst of the worst every single day of his career. That cops are trained to size up everything in borderline negatives, the worst possible occurrence. I think you are almost on the other side, but by having that banter you were able to come to a middle ground that maybe your part of the city it wasn’t necessary.

  • Being from the south, gun ownership is no strange thing. I grew up amongst avid hunters and general gun enthusiasm (paired with equal amounts enthusiasm about gun safety and proper ownership) within my own family and within the general community.

    Being a single female college student, living alone for the first time, I often times feel scared when I’m alone (hate that, but it’s true). My college town isn’t exactly known for criminal activity. In fact, it’s generally regarding as safe, clean, and an excellent spot for both collegiates and families alike. That doesn’t quell my desire to eventually own a gun. I feel it’s important to protect myself and my home at all costs. I hope and pray I never would have to use it. However, I would like the option. I never want to be at a disadvantage if that ill-fated day were to come.

    I’m with you though, my neighbors and so many others in the community have WAY better stuff than me (a poorly college senior who has a twin bed and a fold out card table as two of her main furniture staples). It wouldn’t make sense to rob me, I’ll admit it. But, I’ve often learned that real life does’t have to make sense. Break-ins and so much worse happen in college towns – happen everywhere.

    I feel like it’s important to feel safe on a personal level. If that includes responsible gun ownership, then great. If it doesn’t, that’s also great. Protect yourself, your home, and your family how you feel is best for you no matter what.

    Great post!

  • South Philly

    Did you read what you wrote? At least you admit the flawed logic. “Put yourself in the mindset of a robber”… Crime is usually a career reserved for people not in their right mind. So yes, your neighbors might have better stuff- including an alarm system or a protocol prepared after deciding to buy and live in a house city. But five girls coming and going from a place sounds even more promising if you’re after a couple high ticket items (five girls=five computers) and an easy target (FIVE GIRLS). Where do you live, graduate hospital? What makes your neighborhood safe? Word of mouth? “Feeling” safe? Start by learning about the areas bordering your neighborhood or the traffic that goes thru it and you’ll see that there is intense shit happening around the corner at all hours. Just because it hasn’t happened to you doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Mostly be careful.

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