Not the odds, but the stakes

Wil Lewis escaped poverty in Guatemala when he was adopted at age 7. Loving parents raised him in Wisconsin, where he found his two passions: photography and the woman who would become his wife.

He attended art school in Milwaukee and moved to Chicago two years ago. He was looking forward to starting a new job Monday, finally ending the rat race of freelance photography.

Lewis, 28, and his wife moved into a new Rogers Park apartment just two weeks ago. They were thinking about starting a family.

On Saturday, gunfire upended their plans. Lewis was standing in the 1300 block of West Devon Avenue about 3:20 p.m. when a gunman approached on foot and shot him in the back, Chicago Police said. He was pronounced dead less than 40 minutes later.

“He was looking to start a family. He was talking about having children,” said Warren Rader, a close friend and fellow photographer. “Everything was going right for him.”

Full story here. (h/t Mike Cox)

A young man, who overcame so much, his life was opening up and looking so incredible — so much ahead. And senselessly killed in what appears to be a gang battle; an innocent man caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Here’s the crazy thing:

Rader recalled a conversation he had with his friend in Milwaukee a year or two ago, before Lewis moved to Chicago.

“We were talking about conceal-carry gun licenses and how much nonsense it was and how unlikely it was that you’d ever get into a confrontation . . . He just thought it wasn’t something an everyday person would have to deal with,” Rader said.

It is true. The odds of getting into a confrontation aren’t high, especially if you live your life by a simple set of rules, e.g. don’t go to stupid places with stupid people and do stupid things, and be in bed by 10pm (h/t John Farnam). But even then, as Lewis’ tragic story shows, you can try to do everything right, and yet tragic things can still happen.

It’s important to realize…

It’s not about the odds.

It’s about the stakes.

9 thoughts on “Not the odds, but the stakes

  1. But even in this scenario CC doesn’t help you at all. You’re dead before you even know that you’re in a fight. Better SA may have helped.
    So, to turn the question around a bit why do you choose CC for your personal defense yet at the same time eschew a light Kevlar vest that could save you from random pistol shots in the back?
    What cost puts the vest on the wrong side of the cost bennie ratio while being armed passes the test?

    • Who says a vest is on the wrong side of the cost/benefit ratio?

      I think it ultimately comes down to an individual’s choices based upon their context, needs, means, and assessement of those things. Some people see no reason to care about their personal safety at all. Some people might carry OC spray and think about basic awareness. Some that carry a gun think that a 5-shot snub is enough, whereas others want to carry a primary gun, a backup gun, and 147 rounds of extra ammo. Some hunker down in their compounds and won’t leave because it’s too dangerous out there. Everyone draws the line in different places based upon their assessments and what trade-offs they’re willing to undertake.

      • It’s on the wrong side of mine (and yours, I’m assuming) so I’m really trying to think through it to decide if that’s a rational decision.
        As Bob mentions heat and comfort are issues. I suspect there could be legal issues in some areas too. (Small crimes becoming felonies because you’re wearing a vest. Dunno. I’m completely ignorant on that area of law. ) But sweating a bit more is a lot more comfortable than a bullet in your spine.
        So, I’m forced to conclude that despite the stakes the low odds are the driving factor for me. If my odds of getting shot on any given day are on the order of 1:5000 then I can’t justify a vest’s costs.
        A cops odds are probably on the order of 1:500 Which is a whole different scenario.

        • There’s perhaps other things too.

          How will you be perceived? Granted not everyone will know you’re wearing, but depending upon those that will know… how will that be perceived? And will that perhaps cause more harm too? Failing relationships can take a far greater toll on one, and that may be a larger certainty than if you’ll someday eat a bullet.

          But like you say, a cop is going to have far greater chances of needing a vest because they go into harms way and by the nature of their job will come into contact with people with guns that are willing to shoot those guns at you. So a vest is pretty much a requirement.

          There’s a lot that goes into our choices. We just have to choose what is right for us.

        • Peter,

          As Bob mentions heat and comfort are issues. … But sweating a bit more is a lot more comfortable than a bullet in your spine.

          It isn’t just comfort that is the issue; literally for some people it is a medical/life issue. I have asthma. It is aggravated by the heat.
          I generally switch firearms in the summer so I don’t have to wear heavy shirts or cover garments — trying to keep the heat buildup as low as possible because I could have a deadly asthma attack otherwise.

          Wearing a vest, even a light weight vest, would probably raise the risk of an asthma attack greatly. (This is one of the reasons I don’t carry Pepper spray also)

          Hsoi’s comment on perception is also another factor. Generally you can easily obscure the fact you are carrying concealed; think you could get away with hiding a vest day in and day out?

          And if you can’t – how will your friends, family, co-workers etc see you?
          Paranoid perhaps, not trusting them?

          Bob S.

  2. I would say “It is not JUST the odds…..”
    Because as we get older; the odds of being the victim of a violent crime go up.


    But even in this scenario CC doesn’t help you at all. You’re dead before you even know that you’re in a fight. Better SA may have helped.

    Something that I’ve noticed and many other people have commented on is how much their situational awareness improved once they started carrying. In the long run, not a single thing might have made the difference but it is possible that being armed might have changed how the victim acted.
    I know for me, I increased my awareness. I started positioning myself to see the streets, doors, etc even more than before I started carrying.

    So, to turn the question around a bit why do you choose CC for your personal defense yet at the same time eschew a light Kevlar vest that could save you from random pistol shots in the back?

    For me the reason simply boils down to: I can carry concealed easier than I can wear a vest.
    Texas in the Summer, dress code at work, etc; all make it difficult to wear even a light weight vest and not be outed.

    Bob S.

    • “Just”. A fair modification.

      You are right about awareness, because usually if someone is going to start carrying a gun, they have also begun to acknowledge the dangers out there, how they have an entire change of mindset, etc.. It all goes together.

      But Peter’s comment is still valid unto itself, because no matter how many guns, knives, OC spray, training, code yellow awareness, whatever we want to believe… we can still just fall victim to bad timing, bad luck, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But could a vest have then mitigated those issues? Of course, I could also argue you could mitigate things by not moving to Chicago… So we’re back to my comment about trade-offs.

  3. After considering this for the rest of the afternoon I think that I’m going to have to disagree with your thesis on this one, Hsoi. As non-police civilians the odds are the driving force. The stakes are relatively constant from person to person. (Your life is always on the line in a violent crime) The odds, however, vary wildly.
    A battered wife who has just had divorce papers served to her psychopathic, meth dealing, gang leader, used car salesman husband who threatened to kill her if she ever thought of leaving him has quite poor odds of being free from violence in the near future. She’s probably making a rational decision to sleep in a kevlar vest with an AK-47 by her side in the locked underground tornado shelter of an obscure co-worker.
    I’m a mechanic who works in 100° heat while surrounded by similarly like minded (and surprisingly well armed) co-workers. My commute is 2 miles, past (literally) 7 churches in the suburbs. The odds of me needing a vest are super low; even though my stakes are the same as the fictitious woman above the odds. Like Bob, the vest would be a liability for me given the perceived odds.
    If the odds were much much worse then I would accept additional costs to improve those odds but there is nothing you can do to improve the stakes.

    • You know… you’re right.

      I think this goes back to what Bob wrote… that perhaps the better way to phrase it is “it’s not JUST the odds, but also the stakes”. The odds matter, but the stakes matter too. Because most people, when it comes to discussion of “why do you carry? are you paranoid?” are only considering the odds. It’s the stakes that ultimately drive us, but how we drive is driven by the odds.

      Would you agree?

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