November 19, 2003

When Life Imitates Journali...

When Life Imitates Journalism: On Oct. 10, as mentioned here before, the LA Weekly ran a story about Silver Lake gang violence, contrasting the gangbangers' brutal world with the "bonhomie-boho" lives of "urban hipsters" who "obliviously sip café con leches at the Tropical Café and discuss Tsar's latest show at Spaceland."

This situation was taken to be rhetorical. But what's weird is that Tsar played last night at the Silver Lake Lounge, which is right next to the Tropical Café, and two friends of mine standing with me & a dozen others on the sidewalk got mugged by three brazen Latino gangbangers who used enormous knives to separate a smart blonde girl and a skinny rock bassist from their purse and sixteen dollars, respectively.

What's weird (to me) is the question of gun control. My pal D. and I followed the three pudgy ass-wipes from about 100 yards, sweeping their path for discarded possessions (we eventually recovered an empty purse and some receipts). Each one of those little puds would have ended up quite badly in a one-on-one, no-weapon situation with either of us; their physical superiority depended solely on their willingness to successfully brandish an apparently impressive blade. As D. and I collected the discards, we noticed the little pricks across the street, calmly getting into their (probably stolen) just-off-the-lot silver Mercedes, with their giggling girlfriends. I pulled around the four-part intersection to try and get a good look at their non-existent plates, but I didn't want to get too close on the off chance that they might have a gun that they wanted to use. If we would have had a gun, and had overcome our jittery nerves (a longshot at best), we would have had a prime opportunity to at the least shoot out all their tires, at most cause them physical harm. Instead, we chased them, then they chased us, and it all dissipated too quickly to do much of anything useful or satisfying.

With a gun, the situation might have easily turned more deadly. Without one, these little pricks could steal a purse and menace a great young woman in broad night-light, and not even feel like they needed to run away from the crime. No grand conclusions here, and to be honest I find guns to be too horribly powerful for personal use, but incidents like this (which are actually quite rare for East Hollywood) make you wonder.

Posted by at November 19, 2003 12:06 AM
Comments

last year i got jumped in north berkeley (a few blocks from bWg's house) by three dudes with a fourth waiting in a getaway car and got the shit beat outta me for about $100 in cash and a $5 bart ticket. . . if i'd had a gun i have no doubt in my mind that i would've shot in their general direction 'til the clip was empty, not giving a shit whether or not i killed 'em - and that's assuming they didn't yoink it from my ass first and use it against me. . .

with a gun somebody probably would've died that nite. . . if it'd been me, that would've been it, i'd be dead and they'd be long gone (i know that 'cuz the cops couldn't do shit when i called 911 - fuck, they actually gave me attitude for calling 'em and not the bart police). .. if it'd been *them*, their friends and family would've known who i was and where i lived and the violence probably would've escalated as the days went on. . .

without a gun i got my ass handed to me on a silver platter, i lost some cash, i was out a $300 hospital bill (no health insurance), and i get a little freaked out anytime i see a stranger start walking towards me at nite. . . i know there're people who'll disagree with me but after playing the incident over and over in my mind, i'm convinced there couldn't've been a better conclusion to the whole ordeal. . .

like you, i also don't have any hard and fast conclusions. . . when i look back on that nite i still get an adrenalin rush and in some ways i wish i'd had a gun but the vulcan in me knows that if i'd had one, my life would've been a lot more complicated the next day. . . either that or i'd be dead. . .

Posted by: bloopy at November 19, 2003 03:30 AM

That sucks. Did you guys have interaction with the police afterwards? I'm not suggesting this would have solved anything, I'm just curious.

Posted by: henry at November 19, 2003 05:13 AM

Bloopy -- Do I know you? Just curious. Your reaction sounds similar to mine when I got mugged (literally, not metaphorically) in DC on Election Night in 2000....

Henry -- Yeah, the cops were great. From the Rampart station, don'tcha know.

Posted by: Matt Welch at November 19, 2003 07:24 AM

I should point out for concerned friends that no one was hurt, everything's cool, etc.

Posted by: Matt Welch at November 19, 2003 08:16 AM

henry:
yeah, called 911 (berkeley police) and after describing what'd happened they proceeded to berate me for not calling the bart (i.e. subway) police 'cuz it occured on a bart parking lot. . . and so i hung up on their asses and called the bart police. . . when the bart cops came they were nice and all but i knew the muggers had a car and'd be loooong gone by then. . .

and when they got a call saying that other cops'd found some suspects we drove over there but i was thinking, "i'll bet they just picked up some random group of four black teens who just happened to be hanging out and who don't fit my fucking description at all". . . sure enuf, and embarrassingly enuf, that's exactly what they did. . .

matt:
we have friends and acquaintances in common (off the top of my head a few would be would be bWg, dougiegyro, broome) and i know who you are but i'd be pretty fucking suprised if you knew who i was. . .

many near misses tho'. . . tried to get a job at the nexus but was denied. . . and almost went to prague back in the day. . . the main reason i had all that shit to say about playa del carmen yesterday was that i decided to go solo down in mexico and central america rather than hook up with friends in prague and try to get a job at prognosis. . .

the only two ways i can think of that you might know me even in passing is if bWg ever mentioned me or if you'd heard of me in my hogboy worcestershire alias when i ran for AS president at ucsb and, consequently, got interviewed by the nexus editorial staff and got photographed with my pants down sitting on a toilet with a newspaper in front of my face when the answerman asked the candidates what their favorite bathroom on campus was. . . thing is, i know you'd left the nexus a couple of years earlier so you've probably never heard of that. . .

oh, and i have no connection with anyone whose nickname ended with "2x4" either. . . :^P

Posted by: bloopy at November 19, 2003 08:42 AM

Silly thinking all around: if you had guns, if they had guns, great shootout, bystanders get killed, like Beirut or Baghdad or an Arnie movie. What a movie-goer's dream, "shoot out the tires".

Look, the less guns around, the better. Just listen to yourself and your commentors: they are all ready to shoot someone to death for waving a knife to get some money. There's a reason robbery with a knife does not bring capital punishment -- just as robbery with a CEO's job and a lot of retirement accounts to hustle ALSO does not bring capital punishment.

The best reaction is, lets pay more for police. But then you have to have . . . the car tax!

Posted by: paulo1 at November 19, 2003 11:51 AM

paulo1 -- oh, I had no desire to shoot these dudes at all, and frankly wouldn't have even shot the tires if given the chance. I'm just kinda talking out loud, and in fact reaffirming that me + guns = bad, even if it's damned annoying that a twerp can gain temporary superiority by brandishing a deadly weapon (and knowing that you won't).

Posted by: Matt Welch at November 19, 2003 01:57 PM

Gun control is a fascinating topic in economics. Using price-theory we can look at potential costs and incentives for both victims and criminals. This TCS article is an excellent base for those of you not naturally disposed to dissecting gun-control vis a vis economics.

I recommend this one as well.


Chew on this a bit:

One fascinating aspect of this drastic rise in license fees is that Bentsen actually proclaims and welcomes its effect as a device to cartelize the retail gun industry. Thus, Bentsen, in the non sequitur of the year, complains that there are 284,000 gun dealers in the country, "31 times more gun dealers than there are McDonald's restaurants."

Posted=6996">alex z. at November 19, 2003 08:01 PM

Matt -

Gun ownership is indeed a personal issue. Your concern for a rapidly escalating situation is a point well taken. However, I was struck by the tone of resignation in your note:

"Without one, these little pricks could steal a purse and menace a great young woman in broad night-light, and not even feel like they needed to run away from the crime."

So that's it, then? Without any effective deterrent, these punks are free to terrorize the streets at their leisure. How many more people do the get to rob without fear of any negative consequences?

Why do you think you would have to actually use the gun? Perhaps all that was needed was to show you were armed. Isn't it possible they would have made the quick mental calculation "gun beats knife" and ran away? All the punks did was reveal the knife. They didn't actually use it.

I think it is a fantasy of the anti-gun crowd that the proliferation of guns will result in a large number of wild west shootouts. I don't see the moral equivalence of an armed attacker and a white collar criminal. I think the concern for the well-being of a punk with a knife is misplaced. He forfeits his rights the moment he brandishes the knife in the robbery.

Posted by: Tim Irwin at November 19, 2003 08:41 PM

OK, was freaked out when you said you were thinking you wished you had a gun. Then I remembered when I was in Budapest and Denisa and I got attacked by a drunk guy who first had her pinned in a ravine and then had me by my jacket and I couldn't get free. As soon as he punched me in the face and I got free, my first instinct was to run back *at* him. Luckily Denisa pulled me away and the drunk guy walked away. But my adrenaline instincts were totally to go back for more.

Posted by: Amy Langfield at November 19, 2003 08:43 PM

And Bloopy - what are you talking about *tried* to get a job at the Nexus? Anybody could get a job at the Nexus. You just had to turn in your story within a week or two of the deadline.

Posted by: Amy Langfield at November 19, 2003 08:46 PM

I don't feel unsafe, having never been menaced in Southern California, ever. Just talking out loud about crap.

Posted by: Matt Welch at November 19, 2003 08:50 PM

Amy -- I didn't wish I had a gun, at all. Maybe I should write different for New Yorkers....

Posted by: Matt Welch at November 19, 2003 08:52 PM

Your post says a lot about why it's not a good idea to carry guns around. Yeah, those robbers suck, but it's not enough of a deal for anyone to get shot over. That would just fuck things up a lot more, and someone would lose their life over a petty crime.

Posted by: ice ice maybe at November 19, 2003 09:21 PM

I suppose the question is whether you regard threatening someone with a knife as a "petty crime", innit? I'm afraid I some need convincing that anyone who proposes such a thing is doing anything other than trying to appear cooler-than-thou in the face of urban chaos. Which is fine, assuming one seriously expects women, the infirm, and the elderly to share one's knifey-spooney hipster 'tude.

Posted by: Colby Cosh at November 20, 2003 12:52 AM

amy:
oh, ummmn, i wasn't trying to get a job as a reporter - dunno if you noticed but i can't write for shit. . . my tenuous grasp of grammar is pathetic on a good day, i struggled to pass english in college, and i might as well live in the outback for all i know of current events. . . my inability to write is painfully obvious if you try to make sense of my blog, which, i might add, probably isn't really worth the effort. .. nah, i was trying to get a job doing graphics and layout but when i checked they already had everyone they needed. . .

Posted by: bloopy at November 20, 2003 03:41 AM

Matt,

You're a big kid: you make your own calls. Allow me to point out, however, that a personal sidearm need not necessarily even make more than a perfunctory appearance in a scene like the one you describe. Believe me: when the thing becomes so attenuated, just the sound of a safety slipping off can be a very impressive experience.

"I think you gentlemen are doing business in the wrong neighborhood, tonight."

There are no guarantees. Personally, I am always ready to start shooting on principle. "This is my shit, and you can't have it. Now, do your worst and let's get on with it."

(shrug) Could just be me.

I'm glad everybody got away with their hides.

Beyond all that, I'll only say that waterheads who don't capitalize English are rotten candidates for firearms operations.

Further affiant sayeth not.

Posted by: Billy Beck at November 20, 2003 05:38 AM

knifey-spooney?

Posted by: Matt Welch at November 20, 2003 08:55 AM

"I see you've played knifey-spooney before!"

(Matt -- comes from a Simpsons episode set in Australia. Some Aussie comes up to Marge and does the Crocodile Dundee thing, 'That's not a knife, *that's a knife!*' only it's a spoon, which Marge points out, to which he retorts 'I see you've played knifey-spooney before!')

But on-topic: What about non-lethal weapons, like mace or a taser?

Posted by: LYT at November 20, 2003 11:16 AM

Luke -- Check out blogblogblog.com; MC Brown has a bunch of pictures with me wearing an LYT shirt, drunk in the afternoon.

Yeah, the mace & whatnot are good for the ladies. If I live. If I lived in some crazy damned place, like D.C. or Mexico City or Johannesburg, I might carry such things, but L.A. as you know is an oasis of largely crime-free calm.

Posted by: Matt Welch at November 20, 2003 11:40 AM

Hi Matt: I like your posting on the frightening episode outside the S.L. As Victim #1 of this perilous crime, alls I can say is I'm happy to be here writing this blog response. no really...I changed my locks because to this, and am surprisingly traumatized from this unexepected crime, lucidly remembered. I am extremely grateful that there were no guns involved! I don't want to lose my favorite love man D and the great man Matt. What would I do without you guys? I hope these thuggys get what they deserve, and if if weren't for you and your quick detective work, there wouldn't be a chance of that being possible.
Thanks again ever-much :) one quick note: remember: no one is safe. I never thought that this would happen to me, growinol.com">LW at November 20, 2003 12:05 PM

LW -- Hi, and welcome here! I hope you can find a way to forget it ... alcohol, maybe?

Did you change the car locks, too? And though it wouldn't have made a difference in this case, Emmanuelle carries some kind of incapacitating spray, and it makes her feel better about walking around in world of hoodlums....

Posted by: Matt Welch at November 20, 2003 12:54 PM

I think the issue that this brings up, and I don't think anyone else has mentioned it yet, is that these people got mugged because those kids KNEW they didn't have guns. Why do people put stickers for alarm companies on their windows at their houses even when they don't have an alarm, because everyone knows that if a guy is gonna rob a house and he's faced with a house that probably doesn't have an alarm and one that might, guess what house he's gonna hit? Gun control laws don't stop bad guys from having guns, they are bad guys who don't care about the laws right? What they do is give pricks like this an edge because it's a safe bet that the normal guy on the street isn't carying anything bigger than their knives. Time to blog about this...

Posted by: sean bonner at November 20, 2003 05:11 PM

Matt and friends: I'm so sorry, that sucks! Reminds me of a time a huge ska band (like 12 people) at my high school -- bloopy, remember the Uptones? -- were all mugged in the Cow Palace parking lot. It sounded funny, but it wasn't to those who were there, I'm sure.

Revenge fantasies are awful. I should know, I've had them many times even when they weren't at all warranted. I've also had the shit kicked out of me by mobs of pointlessly angry and anonymous men twice and mugged, although thankfully not for 20 years, and nobody was punished at any of them. I know that if anybody had had a gun at any of those incidents, nothing good would have come of it.

But as long as there is debate brewing here about gun control, I'd like to point out who gets murdered in this country and why:

-- Over 50 percent of homicides in America (all types) from 1976-2000 are of people killing people they know. Having a gun in the house can easily turn a nasty fight or breakup into a murder scene. A mild-mannered yet severely depressed 40-something lawyer I knew decided a month ago to kill his ex, her boyfriend and himself with a rifle. I don't think he could have likely physically accomplished this without a gun. But, he had one and he did.

-- African-Americans are six times as likely as whites to be murdered than whites. The annual murder rate for whites is 5 in 100,000, and the odds of being murdered this year go way down if you are not poor, alcoholic, under 24, in a gang or married to an unstable person.

-- The rate of homicide for police officers has seen a long, steady decline -- but when they are killed, it is almost always with a gun.

-- 57 percent of gun deaths are suicides and nearly 60 percent of all suicides are comitted with guns. The latter number goes up to nearly 70 percent when talking about young people. Obviously, many of these kids could have slit their wrists, but...

-- According to the Dept. of Justice, the biggest trigger for homicide is "argument", and of these, 60 percent involved a gun. How many of these arguments were important enough to kill over? How many wouldn't have ended in death if a gun hadn't been available? Of gang-killings, 95 percent involved a gun, and teenagers are much more likely to die in gang-violence than older people. How many of these kids might have grown out of the "thug life" if they hadn't been killed (or been killers). I know, I know, I'm a bleeding heart liberal...

-- For those who say "well, it can't get worse," that's bull, IMO. In 1996, there were 1,029,814 aggravated assaults in the United States and 19,685 murders. Give every "decent American" a handgun and maybe everybody would be so scared of everybody they'd stop killing, right? Well, it hasn't worked in Iraq, where everybody who wants one has a kalashnikof and the murder rate is through the fucking roof...

-- There are no statistics I can find on the number of people who pulled out a gun and scared off a would-be mugger by "clicking off the safety" on their well-oiled mauser, winning plaudits from their admiring lady friends. I suspect it's small.

Sorry about all the numbers, I probably got carried away...

Posted by: Christopher at November 20, 2003 08:07 PM

It is a good point that if the muggers thought your friends had guns, the mugging might not have happened. One reason why there is less street crime in Texas than in England.

Posted by: Cathly Seipp at November 20, 2003 08:50 PM

Attn: Colby Cash,
Hi it's me, Mr. Spooney Spoon. Thanks for picking up on my cool hipster 'tude where I was trying to act like I'm never scared of guys with knives. I had become concerned it was lost in the nuance.

Posted by: ice ice maybe at November 20, 2003 08:57 PM

In Prague, I recently got yelled at by the garbage man for closing the front door to my apartment building. (I didn't realize it but I guess they were in the back getting the garbage bins or something.... I just thought somebody had carelessly left the door open). And the guy was really, really nasty and abusive about it.

Now I have nothing against waste management engineers as such, and persons in such positions have as much a right to get nasty as anybody else. But I remember thinking: That's not right. And then I thought: Would this happen in New York? If this guy thought I might go apeshit on him for being an asshole, would he get so nasty to me in the first place? Wouldn't he at least think twice before taking out his bad mood on me? And isn't thinking twice generally a good thing?

But he knew there was no chance of me getting nasty back, because we were in the Czech Republic, where taking abuse lying down is a national pastime.

My point isn't to weigh in on the guns issue. (I'm pro-gun control and generally a bleeding heart liberal.) All I'm saying -- and it's a pretty academic point -- is that good old Christian pacifism can have unpleasant results when it becomes widespread and taken for granted.

Posted by: Scott MacMillan at November 21, 2003 08:24 AM

Christopher,

Not to turn's Matt's blog into some kind of left-right gun control bitchfest, but the number of people who scare off muggers and assailants with guns is not small.

It's hard to get a reliable number, because in most cases the gun isn't fired and the cops aren't called. The NRA likes to say 2 million a year, which comes from a study a few years back by a Florida State professor. At any rate, it's definitely in the thousands.

Posted by: Tony at November 21, 2003 09:18 AM

From "Can Citizens Use Guns Competently?", Clayton E. Cramer & David B. Kopel, October 17, 1994 (footnotes removed):

...The best evidence we have about what happens when people have carry permits is the experience of the 1/3 of American states that issue such permits routinely. From these states, the most detailed data are those compiled by the Dade County (Miami) police. As discussed above, the police kept track of every known incident involving the county's more than 21,000 handgun carry permitees over a six-year period. In that six-year period, there was one known incident of a crime victim having his gun taken away by the criminal. There were no known incidents of a crime victim injuring an innocent person by mistake. In some cases the handgun permit holder was successful in preventing a crime, and in some cases not, but in no case was any innocent person injured as a result of mistake by a permit-holder.

Another study examined newspaper reports of gun incidents in Missouri, involving police or civilians. In this study, civilians were successful in wounding, driving off, capturing criminals 83% of the time, compared with a 68% success rate for the police. Civilians intervening in crime were slightly less likely to be wounded than were police. Only 2% of shootings by civilians, but 11% of shootings by police, involved an innocent person mistakenly thought to be a criminal.

The Missouri research does not prove that civilians are more competent than police in armed confrontations. Civilians can often choose whether or not to intervene in a crime in progress, whereas police officers are required to intervene. Being forced to intervene in all cases, police officers would naturally be expected to have a lower success rate, and to make more mistakes. Attorney Jeffrey Snyder elaborates:

Rape, robbery, and attempted murder are not typically actions rife with ambiguity or subtlety, requiring special powers of observation and great book-learning to discern. When a man pulls a knife on a woman and says, "You're coming with me," her judgment that a crime is being committed is not likely to be in error. There is little chance that she is going to shoot the wrong person. It is the police, because they are rarely at the scene of the crime when it occurs, who are more likely to find themselves in circumstances where guilt and innocence are not so clear-cut, and in which the probability for mistakes is higher.

Posted by: Lynxx Pherrett at November 21, 2003 02:00 PM

Hi, Matt,

Did you notice me tiptoeing quietly past this thread?

Aren't you glad?

Posted by: Bill Quick at November 22, 2003 09:41 AM

Bill -- Not at all! We have a healthy variety of views here.... Except for my own, that is.

Posted by: Matt Welch at November 22, 2003 10:10 AM

If you get a nice revolver, it's not THAT much money, and you are considering maybe v class="comments-body">

If you get a nice revolver, it's not THAT much money, and you are considering maybe the person beating you intends to kill you, not just steal your wallet. I've always considered getting a firearm, but there is no conceal-carry law in D.C., and our immediate neighborhood is pretty quiet. I don't see the immediate benifit where I live.

But, to each his own. If I lived in a bad neighborhood, I wouldn't take much time in considering the pro's and con's. I'd go get one post-haste.

Posted by: Greg at December 3, 2003 08:58 PM

Actually, last year some zombie-fied bum-like man tried to get in my house through the sliding door. Luckily, the night before I remembered to lock it(it had accidentally been unlocked for a week) and that morning he walked up to it. I freaked, forgetting I locked it. He pulled to no success. I looked around for something to defend myself were he to bust in(it's only glass people!) and I would have gone for the knife block. Luckily, he was too stoned to do that, and just went back and forth from the front door to the sliding door until the cops came.

Posted by: Greg at December 3, 2003 09:06 PM
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ife on a woman and says, "You're coming with me," her judgment that a crime is being committed is not likely to be in error. There is little chance that she is going to shoot the wrong person. It is the police, because they are rarely at the scene of the crime when it occurs, who are more likely to find themselves in circumstances where guilt and innocence are not so clear-cut, and in which the probability for mistakes is higher.

Posted by: Lynxx Pherrett at November 21, 2003 02:00 PM

Hi, Matt,

Did you notice me tiptoeing quietly past this thread?

Aren't you glad?

Posted by: Bill Quick at November 22, 2003 09:41 AM

Bill -- Not at all! We have a healthy variety of views here.... Except for my own, that is.

Posted by: Matt Welch at November 22, 2003 10:10 AM

If you get a nice revolver, it's not THAT much money, and you are considering maybe the person beating you intends to kill you, not just steal your wallet. I've always considered getting a firearm, but there is no conceal-carry law in D.C., and our immediate neighborhood is pretty quiet. I don't see the immediate benifit where I live.

But, to each his own. If I lived in a bad neighborhood, I wouldn't take much time in considering the pro's and con's. I'd go get one post-haste.

Posted by: Greg at December 3, 2003 08:58 PM

Actually, last year some zombie-fied bum-like man tried to get in my house through the sliding door. Luckily, the night before I remembered to lock it(it had accidentally been unlocked for a week) and that morning he walked up to it. I freaked, forgetting I locked it. He pulled to no success. I looked around for something to defend myself were he to bust in(it's only glass people!) and I would have gone for the knife block. Luckily, he was too stoned to do that, and just went back and forth from the front door to the sliding door until the cops came.

Posted by: Greg at December 3, 2003 09:06 PM
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