This came from the gun email list at work from Brennan B. Published with permission:
I had just moved to the U.S. and was attending U.C. Riverside at the time of the L.A. riots. An RPD cruiser got flipped and burned in the shopping center across the street from my apt. Roommate worked in an auto parts store over in Rubidoux (the closest thing Riverside’s got to Compton) but he wasn’t on shift those days. We acquired plenty of beer before the stores closed and spent much of that time in lawn chairs on the roof drinking, listening to a portable radio, and watching the city burn. It was nothing if not picturesque, especially after sunset. I don’t have much to tell first-hand, but his work’s monthly staff meetings involved meeting up at our place, talking plenty of smack and drinking plenty of beer, so I heard all that they had to say on the subject.
Prior to this, the auto parts store where my roommate worked had been getting robbed pretty regularly every 3~6 months. Less than a year before the riots one of the employees got beaten because the robbers didn’t believe that he couldn’t open the safe or get more than $20 out of it at a time. Shortly thereafter the store manager and assistant manager, Carlos and some Korean guy whose name I forget, both got handguns and started carrying them regularly. Everything was completely black-market, no paper trail, no permits, no nothing. Like most folks in that neighborhood, honorable intentions or otherwise, I presume they saw little point in applying for a concealed carry permit since they would of course get denied anyway… and if they were ignoring that one particular asinine gun law, why bother with the rest of them? Hard logic to argue against in a neighborhood where following the law very likely meant compromising one’s life, and apparently no beat cop in his right mind was interested in driving around demanding to see people’s CCW permits anyway.
Anyway, some guy tried to rob the store shortly thereafter on a day when both managers were on shift, and one was crouched down stocking behind some shelves. In no time the robber got bum-rushed, disarmed, pistol-whipped, dragged out back at gunpoint, beaten like a piñata and left in the dumpster to sleep it off and reconsider the poor decision-making process that had brought him to that unhappy point in his life.
Then when the riots hit a mob came into the parking lot with Molotov cocktails in hand screaming that they were gonna burn it all to the ground. Carlos and whassisname came out to discuss the issue with their pistols tucked Mexican-carry into the front of their waistbands in plain view, and asked who wanted to light up first. The mob abruptly decided they had something more important to burn down elsewhere and went on their way.
Though I never asked, I was completely confuddled as to why these guys risked their lives like that for an employer that didn’t treat them particularly well in the first place and, had the regional office ever caught word of such goings-on, would certainly have fired them all in a nanosecond, done everything possible to sell them out to the police for maximum jail time, and anything else that might make an appropriate example of such vigilantism. I also wondered if the regional manager ever pondered the question of why those few stores in that mini-shopping center were the only ones for blocks around that didn’t at the very least have some broken windows. …in fact I remember hearing that something like 80% of the [national chain] Auto Parts in Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties got torched, and this one was in one of the worst neighborhoods of any of them.
It was only much later that I realized it had nothing to do with loyalty to their employer. Rather, it was for themselves and the workers for which they felt genuinely responsible. I think they simply recognized that they spent a large portion of their waking lives there, and that no one was going to take care of the chronic crime for them, so they finally decided to let the neighbors know not to bring trouble around their doorstep anymore because they were sick of dealing civilly with uncivil individuals.
Objectively speaking, their revised approach to the problem seemed to work out pretty well. My roommate transferred to another store but kept in touch. We even still occasionally hosted some staff meetings from the old store, and word was that work life had become blessedly boring following those two confrontations.
There really is no socially acceptable moral to this story. Actually in retrospect I have to say this saga planted one of the many seeds of cognitive dissonance in my mind that [much] later blossomed into a full-fledged rejection of the “guns are bad, m’kay?” stereotypes that inform us as to what sort of people carry guns (especially illegally), and how tragically this was all supposed to have turned out both times. Though I’m still not inclined to press my luck with the black-market guns and unlicensed carry.
I think the moral to the story is that morality and the law only have a slight positive correlation and there is sufficient data to support the hypothesis that willfully breaking the law is sometimes the correct thing to do.