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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

When Guns are Good

Chileans protect, feed themselves after quake

TALCAHUANO, Chile (AP) - One man swings a thick metal chain. Another grips an ax. An older gentleman favors a wooden pole. And a 20-year-old spoiling for a fight has prepared a garrote - a menacing wire tied between two handles - to confront any intruders.

These and hundreds of other survivors of Chile's devastating earthquake have organized neighborhood watch groups, arming themselves and barricading streets to protect their damaged homes from looters. The groups have stepped in as police were overwhelmed by looting and soldiers were slow to restore order after an earthquake and tsunami.

"We take care of ourselves here," said 51-year-old Maria Cortes. She stood watch in Poblacion Libertad - "Freedom Community" - a gritty collection of small duplexes along an industrial road in the port town of Talcahuano. About 2,000 people live here around a common area three football fields long.

Yah know, this reminds me of Charlton Heston's experience. His Hollywood neighbors let him know that they did NOT approve of his love of firearms, but during some high-profile murders and some riots, those same folks asked him if he would loan them a weapon -- they'd feel safer. If I was in Chile, I'd feel a heck of a lot safer with a gun than a pole or a garrote or an axe. Human nature ain't nice, and at least in the short term you can't depend on a government to bail you out when the fecal material hits the rotating blades. "The eruption of banditry shocked the nation and put President Michelle Bachelet on the defensive. Chile's much-praised urban rescue teams were hampered by slow-to-arrive equipment - and the looting of their local base in Concepcion." (Me)