The building across from our apartment houses the Baghdad offices of a political party. They have at least two armed guards patrolling outside with their Klashnakov rifles 24/7. Most offices, apartment buildings and hotels (and even places of worship) employ full-time armed security guards. It is a culturally acceptable in this part of the world for people to have at least a rifle or pistol as part of their household possessions. The U.S. forces here in Baghdad are of course armed with a bit more in their arsenal than rifles and pistols. And last but not least is the small number of insurgents whose weapons lack the sophistication of the U.S. forces, however, they never seem to lack for ammunition to use what weapons they’ve got. I have no way of knowing this, but on some level I’m convinced that I’m living in the most heavily armed city in the world.
Excluding criminals, terrorists and psychopaths, my sense is that most people would describe their need to possess a weapon in terms of safety. I don’t have any specific instances of that here in Iraq, but back in America I have heard that from a number of people. I’ve heard, “I need a gun to feel safe in the areas of the city I have to work in.” I’ve also heard, “I want to make sure my family is safe, so that’s why I keep a gun in my house.” So the link between guns and safety might be a relevant point here in Baghdad as well. I’m trying to imagine what it would be like if we had a pistol or rifle in our CPT apartment here. Well, first I would need to imagine that we all had been trained in the use of the weapon. Having a gun and not knowing how to use it would be like having a car and not knowing how to drive. But assuming we did have training, would I feel safer than I do now? As with our neighbors at the political party office, I would assume we would need to keep the weapon “on display,” so to speak. My sense it that people feel that letting “the bad guys” know that they have a weapon acts as a deterrent. So would I feel safer? I am clear that I would not feel safer.
But heck, if I’m wrong and if in fact guns do create a feeling of safety, then I’m already living in the safest city in the world right now, so what do I have to worry about?