The need for self-defense on the Loop

| Staff Columnist

I live north of the Loop in University Terrace. It’s an area known for its elevated crime rate, and recently, worried about the safety of myself and those I care about, I purchased a 2,500 KV “defense flashlight.” I believe it to be a great investment, and I think all students who live north of the Loop should similarly equip themselves.

When others learn of my acquisition, which is colloquially called a stun gun, many raise their eyebrows and direct questioning stares at me. One expressed an abhorrence of what he believes are tools of violence. I disagree. Sufficient means to defend oneself are an absolute necessity for those who live in my neighborhood. Consider this: in the past semester and a half, there have been five muggings or attempted muggings, two of them armed, a carjacking, a small riot and a double shooting within two blocks my home. With the exception of the riot and shooting, these crimes have all been perpetrated against students; the University does not tell residents when locals are victims of crime. These are also, notably, only the crimes that have been reported. The area is undeniably dangerous, and while other precautions can and should be taken, I do not always have the luxury of not venturing outside alone after nightfall.

I’m often asked why I opted for a stun gun as opposed to another form of defense. A stun gun is, quite simply, the best option. In all the reported muggings this year, only one student was equipped with a defensive object, in his case, a knife. Upon presenting it to his would-be mugger, the man fled. By all accounts, however, the student simply stood there, silent and immobile. The student should be applauded for standing his ground, but I question anyone’s ability to use lethal force, and I wonder what the result would have been had his mugger been undeterred. A knife can become a liability.

A stun gun offers no such drawbacks. If it is taken from me, it becomes useless; a small key attached to my wrist must be plugged into it for it to operate. Further, mine, at least, is just as intimidating as a knife. It is 14 ½ inches long, and when fired, makes a loud, crackling noise as well as emitting a threatening blue jolt of electricity. The entire spectacle is unnerving. It is also non-lethal, so the moral dilemma of murder is taken out of the equation. If I am attacked, I need not worry about killing anyone. A brief, sharp jab brings the assailant to his knees, immobilizing him for a good 5-10 minutes.

This is another advantage the stun gun has over other defensive products. If I must use it, its use ensures that my attacker is brought to justice. Several of the muggings that have occurred in and near my neighborhood were, by all accounts, perpetrated by the same people, and to my knowledge, no arrests have been made. Had one of their victims been equipped with a stun gun, they would at this point be residing in a dank, cramped cell, not roaming the streets free to prey upon other innocents. In such a situation, I believe it is my duty to see my assailant punished, and to prevent his repeating the act, if I can. Pepper spray and mace are perfectly suitable for self-defense, but they leave an attacker with the ability to escape. Knives, guns, and other lethal weapons are great, but only if they are used properly. I know I would have misgivings over taking a life unless I knew mine or someone else’s to be immediately threatened.

Many of Washington University’s students are not confronted with crime. Many of them haven’t heard of those listed above. To them, purchasing a stun gun seems excessive. As one leaves campus in a couple directions, safety diminishes rapidly. North of the Loop is one such place; a professor who lives there told me he is averse to going outside at night at all. I hope I am never the victim of a crime, but if I am, it is my right and my responsibility, to myself and to others, to defend against an aggressor.

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