I've written many times about issues related to personal security. In particular, I've quoted the sage advice of John Farnam on how to avoid getting into situations that threaten your security. Since it remains as true as ever, here it is again. (To see the original, click here and scroll down to the entry for 19 Mar 03.)
The best way to handle any potentially injurious encounter is: Don’t be there. Arrange to be somewhere else. Don’t go to stupid places. Don’t associate with stupid people. Don’t do stupid things. This is the advice I give to all students of defensive firearms. Winning a gunfight, or any other potentially injurious encounter, is financially and emotionally burdensome. The aftermath will become your full-time job for weeks or months afterward, and you will quickly grow weary of writing checks to lawyer(s). It is, of course, better than being dead or suffering a permanently disfiguring or disabling injury, but the “penalty” for successfully fighting for your life is still formidable.
Crowds of any kind, particularly those with an agenda, such as political rallies, demonstrations, picket lines, etc are good examples of “stupid places.” Any crowd with a high collective energy level harbors potential catastrophe. To a lesser degree, bank buildings, hospital emergency rooms, airports, government buildings, and bars (particularly crowded ones) fall into the same category. All should be avoided. When they can’t be avoided, we should make it a practice to spend only the minimum time necessary there and then quickly get out.
There's more at the link.
In the light of the terror attack in New York City this week, where a pickup truck was used as a battering ram to run over cyclists on a bicycle path, we should use Mr. Farnam's advice to reconsider what might be a "stupid place" in an age of terrorism. We should also note the increase in violent crime in many cities, the escalation of random violence in public places (e.g. the shooting at a Walmart in Colorado yesterday, leaving three dead and the gunman still on the loose), more prevalent political intolerance (often expressed violently), and other risks, and plan accordingly. It's all very well to say that we should not allow terrorists, criminals and violence to intimidate us into changing our way of life. It's fine and dandy to say that anything else is cowardice, "letting the terrorists win" or "giving in to crime" or "being intimidated by violence". However, if you follow such advice, remember that it's also a surefire, guaranteed way to increase your risk of becoming a victim.
I urge you, dear readers, to evaluate your own risk profile based on where you live, potential flashpoints for crime and/or terrorism and/or confrontation in your immediate vicinity, and the nature of culture and society in your area. Some places will be far more prone to such risks than others, of course. For example:
- If you live in inner-city Chicago or Baltimore, your chances of becoming the victim of violent crime are exponentially higher than someone like myself, living in small-town Texas.
- If you live in a place that's become an icon of all America stands for, such as New York City or Washington DC, you're almost certainly at greater risk from terrorists (who want to attack such icons because of the publicity they will generate) than those of us living in less symbolic locations.
- If you live in an area with a recent history of political volatility, such as Berkeley, CA or Charlottesville, VA, your chances of running into violent political demonstrations are significantly higher than someone living in an average farming community out in the midwest.
Another factor to consider is whether you're on or near a major road or rail link, one that might be targeted by terrorists in its own right, or might be used by others to get to and from a place where they plan to demonstrate, or riot, or commit crimes. Any attack involving that link might suck you in, whether you like it or not. There's also the risk to you if you use public transport such as Chicago's 'L' or New York City's subway system. That's not a safe option if crime increases (as it apparently is in both cities, according to news reports).
Basically, if you're aware of the risks that you might confront, you can plan to avoid them as far as possible. If you can't avoid some of them, you can prepare yourself for them, and take steps to reduce your vulnerability and/or defend yourself if necessary. However, if you don't analyze your situation and plan accordingly, you're essentially operating in Condition White, an easy victim. (If you aren't familiar with the Color Code of situational awareness, you should be. Go read about it at the link.)
I can't assess your risks for you, or suggest the best way for you to deal with them. That's in your hands. However, I can and do encourage you to do so right now, if you haven't already done so. It's become a cliche to say "Forewarned is forearmed", but it remains as true today as ever it was.