NEW ORLEANS – Sixty-four-year-old Vivian Westerman rode out Hurricane Katrina in her 19th-century house. So terrible was the experience that she wanted two things before the 2006 season arrived: a backup power source and a gun. “I got a 6,000-watt generator and the cutest little Smith & Wesson, snub-nose .38 you ever saw,” she boasted. “I’ve never been more confident.” People across New Orleans are arming themselves â€” not only against the possibility of another storm bringing anarchy, but against the violence that has engulfed the metropolitan area in the 19 months since Katrina, making New Orleans the nation’s murder capital.
The number of permits issued to carry concealed weapons is running twice as high as it was before Katrina â€” this, in a city with only about half its pre-storm population of around 450,000. Attendance at firearms classes and hours logged at shooting ranges also are up, according to the gun industry.
Some people are losing faith in the system to protect them.
Earnest Johnson, a 37-year-old chef who lives in Kenner, bought his first gun recently and visits a shooting range regularly. “Things are way worse than they used to be,” he said. “You have to do something to protect yourself.”
Kevin Cato, a 41-year-old contractor, bought a .45-caliber handgun for protection when he is working in some of the city’s still-deserted areas. “But it’s not much safer at home,” Cato said. “The police chased a guy through my yard one time with their guns out.”
It’s too bad that people are having to relearn this lesson again, but at least they are learning it and arming themselves. The government isn’t able to protect you. The only way to have the government guarantee your safety from criminals is to have a police officer in every home. Somehow I don’t think that’s a wise solution.
In any case, I think I’ll stop here because a picture is worth a thousand words, and I’d like to save myself the work:
Westerman, an artist who lives in the city’s Algiers neighborhood, is prepared to use deadly force.
“I’m a marksman now. I know what I’m doing,” she said. “There are a lot of us. The girl next door is a crack shot.”
A pack, not a herd.