After New Orleans, a liberal reconsiders guns for self protection

Time to get a gun?

Along with our powerlessness against nature and the fecklessness of the government's response to a crisis, a third frightening aspect to the tragedy of New Orleans has been the breakdown of civilization in the disaster zone that accompanied the snapping of the so-called thin blue line.

Among the questions it prompts in my mind is one that is old and unresolved: Should I own a firearm?

Thirteen years ago, when Los Angeles was up for grabs during the rioting that followed the acquittal of police officers charged in the Rodney King beating, the images of shopkeepers unprotected by police staving off looters with rifles knocked me off my comfortable anti-gun perch. Who wouldn't want a firearm under those circumstances? And who knows where such circumstances will occur next?

It's hard to bring this up again without sounding like one of those cackling vigilantes who would gladly shoot someone swiping a bicycle out of his carport, or one of those basement-bunker survivalists besotted by paranoia.

I resisted back in 1992 and still rely on 9-1-1 and a pitching wedge under the bed to protect my family. But the rapid descent from crisis to chaos to anarchy in New Orleans was another reminder that paranoia can come to look like prudence in hindsight.