In the midst of ongoing unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, following the police shooting of an unarmed black man, authorities in another embattled American city — Detroit — are advising residents to buy guns to protect themselves, because the police are spread too thin.
One top authority, Police Chief James Craig, who is nicknamed “Hollywood” for all the years he spent in the Los Angeles Police Department — and a seeming love for being in front of television cameras — has repeatedly called on “good” and “law-abiding” citizens of the city to arm themselves against its criminal element. And, as the UK’s Guardian newspaper reports, that plea has not gone unanswered:
Patricia Champion, a 63-year-old lifelong Detroiter, a grandmother and retired educator, decided to get her concealed pistol license – a CPL – two years ago after her son said he was increasingly worried for her safety. Champion, a resident of northwest Detroit, mostly keeps her gun, a 9mm Glock 19 that set her back $600, in her house.
‘A good investment’
“That’s why I got it: because I’m going to be in the house. Now, if somebody chooses to come in and I didn’t invite you, between the Glock and the dog, you’re gone. If one doesn’t get you, the other one will,” she said.
“The police are not going to protect you when something is being perpetrated on you. They may turn up after the fact and run after that person, but you have to protect yourself,” Champion added.
Her fears of facing a threat in her home are not made up or unfounded. In addition to having one of the worst homicide rates of any large U.S. city, Detroit also experienced nearly 13,000 burglaries in 2013 alone. With around a quarter of a million households, that means Detroiters have roughly a 1 in 20 chance of having their home robbed.
And, to folks who have already been victimized by crime, being permitted to carry a weapon, whether concealed or open, is not just very comforting. It is part of a pragmatic reality of life today in the Motor City. Wayne County, which includes Detroit and its metro area, counted 83,950 active concealed weapon permits as of Aug. 1, meaning there is one permit per 21 households.
Strapped for cash, the city of Detroit only employs 2,300 cops, a figure that is unchanged from a year ago before the city underwent bankruptcy, but that is still not enough. Most residents believe that they essentially must rely on themselves for protection, security and even survival.
Rick Ector, a Detroit-based NRA firearms instructor and former Chrysler systems analyst, says that, to him, it is quite simple: “You are your own first line of defense.”
However, not all has gone well with the additional presence of firearms. In mid-August, Detroit Police chased and shot two men after allegedly watching them purchase a gun illegally. And, as further noted by The Guardian:
In a city where houses sometimes sell for $500, buying and maintaining a gun is a significant expense. For those who choose to earn concealed pistol licenses, like Champion, the application fee is $105 and courses might set you back anywhere between $100 and $250. Purchased guns cost interviewees of this story between $450 and $700, with accessories; including ammunition, add another possible $200-$300.
‘I am going to beat my fear’
Still, many see the cost as worth it.
“A good investment,” said Champion.
“There’s a lot of stuff going on around here. We watch the news, and every day it’s something,” added 37-year-old Tanisha Moner, a former hospital administrator.
When she was 17, she says, she was raped and robbed at gunpoint at a pay phone in the city. Four years later, then 21, Moner was attending Wayne State University in the city and was working as a manager at a local Burger King, to earn some spending money. One morning, as she counted money in her office, she was robbed again at gunpoint and left in the restaurant’s freezer. After that incident, she said she became very afraid of guns and loud noises.
“Finally, two years ago I said, I’m either going to let my fear overcome me, or I am going to beat my fear. So I got my [concealed pistol license] in the event that something else should ever happen,” she said.
She now carries her $650 fourth-generation Glock 19 most places she goes.