While we try to keep Bearing Arms focused narrowly on firearms-related matters, the simple fact is that life is messy, there are many times where firearms are just one component part of other, larger situations.
The city of Berkeley, Missouri, sent out a warning to residents about the possibility of civil unrest once the grand jury decision into the shooting of Michael Brown has been released, and has suggested precautions that residents should take to ensure their safety. I suspect that similar notices are being issued by both companies and communities where the potential for rioting is elevated.
The Berkeley warning is rather generic, and reads as if it were written for a natural disaster, such as an expected snowstorm.
It advises residents to have plenty of bottled water on hand (a gallon per person, per day), several days worth of non-perishable food, and a full stock of medications (including prescription drugs). It advises to keep gas tanks in your vehicles filled, and your cell phones charged.
It also provides guidance on contingency planning that suggests normal travel may not be possible. All of this is solid advice.
Missing for this warning is the fact that we are not talking about an act of nature, but the possibility of a man-caused roaming disaster. Instead of ambivalent nature taking its course, the threat here is cognizant, and full of anger. The question is whether that anger will be focused or unfocused, and how it will be directed and contained.
The August riots in Ferguson were unfocused and relatively spontaneous acts of looting. We may expect the same sort of directionless and random rage if the grand jury declines to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, or if they opt to indict him on anything less than the murder charges that they insist must be.
There is the possibility, however, that some of the more calculating and malignant forces (there are anarchists and revolutionary groups known to be involved in Ferguson’s “riot prep,” and perhaps elsewhere) have put some thought into how to exploit the chaos of a riot to their advantage, and make things even worse.
There may be attacks on the electrical grid to plunge entire areas into darkness, with attacks on electrical substations, power lines, and transformers.
There may be scattered arson campaigns designed to stretch fire and police resources to a breaking point.
In a worst-case scenario, there may even be attempts to move rioting from the business districts (where riots typically occur) into residential neighborhoods.
While we think that the City of Berkeley has been more proactive than most in issuing this alert to residents, we feel that they simply lack the experience and context to give fully competent advice. The simple fact the matter is that very few Americans of this generation have seen a failure of civility.
While there is some memory of the 1992 riots, there have not been any realistic guidance issued to citizens anywhere on how to survive such events.
In addition to the list suggested in the link above, here is our advice on how to prepare your family for a worst-case, man-made disaster scenario in your town.
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