Alderman Charles Quincy Troupe said police are ineffective, outnumbered or don’t care about the increase in crime in his north St. Louis ward. St. Louis has had 157 homicides in 2008, 33 more than last year at this time.
“The community has to be ready to defend itself, because it’s clear the economy is going to get worse, and criminals are getting more bold,” Troupe, 72, said Tuesday.
Troupe said that when he and residents approached a district police commander last year, they were told “there was nothing he could do to protect us and the community … that he didn’t have the manpower.”
I have such mixed feelings about this.
First of all, he’s totally right. Violence is out of control here, particularly gun violence, and the police downtown are completely overwhelmed.
But I’m not sure that a hysterical clarion call for every citizen to “lock and load” is the solution.
I’ll explain why…
1. There is one firing range downtown. One. It has ten lanes. And unless you happen to stumble in on a class day, you almost always wait for a lane. Even on a weeknight. (And that’s before this alderman opened his yap.) It’s easy to get a lane on class day, because everyone sees 253,873 cars in the parking lot and leaves. Good for me, bad for impatient newbies who really need to practice. Old ladies like me and your granny, we’re ok with sitting on the couch with a book, or browsing the lovely merchandise for half an hour while we wait. But 20 year old kids? No way.
2. It’s hard to get a concealed carry license. Not hard to get qualified, but a lot of footwork and money. Which is smart, because it weeds out the folks who don’t really want it, but it also makes it hard on working class people and parents who really do want it. I don’t live in the city, but in the county, it’s like this: You have to take a class first, which is like $150, where they teach you the basic laws and make sure you can load and shoot both a pistol and a revolver competently. Then you take the form from the class, take time off from work, and run it down to the main police station (you can only go to one specific station) where you fill out their forms, pay another $65-100, and they fingerprint you. Then you wait 45 days (or less) for your ok letter in the mail. Then you take more time off work, and go back to the one police station with your letter, and they certify it. Then you try to get a copy of your birth certificate, if you don’t have a passport. More time and money. Then you take more time off from work, and go to the DMV and pay for a new driver’s license with your CCW endorsement. And they take your picture, so do something with your hair, for pete’s sake.
The people who live in these crime-infested areas aren’t made of money, and the current economy isn’t improving their financial status. Many of them will hear this panicked statement and scrape together the money to buy a cheap pistol, sure. And some of them will end up like this awesome lady, doing it the right way. But how many of them don’t own their own businesses, and can’t really spend another $300+, find a babysitter for the 9-hour class, and take all that time off from work, to learn safety lessons and good aim, and get a legal permit? How many of them are going to half-ass it, instead? Carry concealed illegally, and leave their brand new shiny pistol sitting on the coffee table where the kids can “play” with it, because no one told them it was unsafe? How many will buy a gun that they have no intention of ever actually using, except as a threat, and have it used against them?
I’m absolutely pro-2a, and pro-CCW, but I’m not sure intentional scaremongering is the right way to encourage it.