Gun safety laws are self-defense

Another week, another couple of mass murders made possible by guns. Not to mention all the mundane murders, suicides, and “accidents.” But we can’t do anything about any of that, thanks in large part to those who insist “people have the right to defend themselves.” Well, yeah. We do. But the thing is, we all do.

Our gun laws assume that everyone without a criminal record is a “good guy with a gun” until proven (often lethally) otherwise. But realistically, we’re also giving the irresponsible, the untrained, the abusive, the hot-headed, and the deluded who think they’re warriors easy access to firearms. In NRA World, if you want to defend yourself against those people, you get yourself a gun of your own. Period. That’s their only answer. If you’re unable to use a firearm, or unwilling to shoot another human being, or just a toddler in a home where guns aren’t stored properly, you don’t get a defense.

In a civilized society, we would have better ways to protect ourselves. One of those ways is reasonable gun regulation — training, licensing, registration, insurance, safe storage requirements. That would be self-defense for everybody, not just those willing to injure or kill a fellow human. (And willing to spend money on the gun industry’s products, naturally.)

But it’s the NRA’s country; we just live in it. Except for the ones who don’t get to live anymore.


My tribute to File770’s tedious but persistent Sad Puppy troll.

No blog is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the conspiracy,
A part of the plan.
If one lurker be exhausted by the lies,
CHORFdom is the less.
As well as if the hive of villainy were.
As well as if the SFWA
Or Rachel Swirsky were.
Each rolled eye is a win for me,
For I irk the foes of mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom buwaya trolls,
I troll for thee.

Why I write

The Terrible Minds writing challenge this week is to write about why you write.

I think I write to try to make sense of the world. It’s like out one of those Zen desk sandboxes. It’s got lumps, and rocks strewn about, and it looks like hell. Writing is like taking a little rake and smoothing out the lumps, stacking the rocks pleasingly, making patterns that just seem right. I’m seeking some kind of placidness. Which, now that I see that on the page, explains a lot about why I have trouble finishing things — I never feel like I fully understand anything. I could always know more, could always explain it better. And even if I think I’ve got my one tiny sandbox raked fairly well, does it really matter, when there’s a whole world full of messed-up sand out there? It can be paralyzing to think about.

Most of what I write is nonfiction. In my day job, I summarize scientific research for a lay audience. My task there is to reach in, pull out the bits of information most relevant to the reader, synthesize them, and present them in such a way and with enough context that they make sense. I’m pretty good at that. I’m not thrilled about my style (inasmuch as you can really have your own style in this kind of writing), but I’m good at explaining.

My other nonfiction can be broken into roughly two categories: noodling around, trying to understand something (like this post), or persuasive writing. Which is really just me noodling around trying to understand something, then trying to get it to make sense to somebody else the same way it does to me.

When I write fanfic, it’s usually because there’s a piece of the canon that just doesn’t sit right with me. The characters aren’t acting the way I would expect them to act. The plot is riddled with holes (of the sort that even I, someone who doesn’t primarily read/watch for plot, can’t ignore). The narrative sets up a development that it never pays off. So I write a story around it until it makes sense to me.

Original fiction doesn’t fit into this paradigm terribly well, which may have something to do with why I haven’t written much of it. Fiction seems like it’s the province of the chaos muppet — create more conflict, more problems! Your protagonist needs those sweet, sweet obstacles to overcome! I have to mess up my little sandbox, which really doesn’t come naturally to me. I know you have to mess things up to make something new, but I don’t wanna. But maybe it will help to at least know why it’s so hard. Maybe I can come up with some way to fool my brain into making a mess so I can clean it up.

That’s weird, isn’t it?

I write because the world is confusing. I want to take the chaos, create some structure and order and meaning in my head, and then put that back out into the world to make it make a little more sense. This whole model may be totally wrong or arrogant, but it’s why I write.

God, I never really asked myself this question before and it makes SO MUCH SENSE. (Which is exactly what the theory would predict, now isn’t it? I’m good.)


the subject was armed with black skin
she brandished angry words
she was reaching for her humanity
in that moment, we feared for our authority
we had no choice but to use deadly force


What a day. Marriage equality in the morning, the President eulogizing a slain Black pastor in the afternoon, rainbows at night.

What a week. The ACA survives. The Civil War moves one step closer to an end, as we finally agree to stop collectively pretending that the Confederate battle flag signifies any noble cause.

What a month. If there were any doubt that we were living in the time of a new civil rights movement, the killing of nine martyrs in an historic Black civil rights church put them to rest.

There haven’t been many times in my life when I’ve been able to say, “This is what living through history feels like.” This is one of them, for good and ill. And living through it means doing all of those things that you never think of, years later, when you’re the one reading the history. Going to work. Sending the kid to camp. Getting news of a loved one’s cancer. Thinking about ways to kitten-proof the house. It doesn’t feel like it should all coexist. I want to remember what it was like, all of it.

on gun-free zones

Written on Facebook, in response to some stat about 92% of mass shootings supposedly happening in places designated as gun free zones. The stat comes from John Lott, and the methodology used to arrive at it isn’t specified, but here, have the link anyway.

Places like schools, churches and government buildings have been targets for mass violence since before there was such a thing as “gun-free zones.” They’re targets due to their significance, both actual and symbolic, in our society. Especially in the case of schools and churches, the reasons they are significant are the same reasons the people there often don’t want guns brought in. They represent innocence, and peace.

I’d guess that most if not all of the people in the basement of Emanuel AME last Wednesday would not have been carrying even if allowed to do so. Some people can’t reconcile walking around prepared to kill another human being at all times with following a savior who preached peace and love for all. I’m not a believer and their reasons aren’t mine, but I understand them. It’s sickening that the only response we as a society seem to have is “Too bad. There are millions of guns out there, lots of them are in the hands of the deranged and hateful and incompetent and careless, and we’re fine with that, so you’d better get your own.”

ETA: David Frum (yeah, Axis of Evil, I know) wrote an eminently sensible article in the Atlantic yesterday about ways that we could, if we actually wanted to, reduce both homicides and accidental gun deaths in this country. Most of us do want to — including most gun owners. And yet somehow, our entire country is in the grip of people who don’t give a crap about thousands of lives needlessly lost.

Putting my trust in Future Me

Like many, many people, I have an inner editor problem. I never finish 90% of what I start because instead of thinking about what comes next, I just keep thinking about how what I’ve already written can be made better. It’s all well and good to say that you need to free write or do sprints or drink (the linked post jokes about imbibing as a strategy, but it’s one of the few that actually helps, in my experience) or whatever, but 1) it’s a lot harder to actually do it and 2) those are all short term strategies. It’s exhausting to have to overcome the fucker every single time I try to write. What I need is a mindset change.

The other day I was wittering over some paragraph, trying to make it perfect, when I realized that I was acting like if I didn’t get it right now, I never would.

I think this impulse to edit in the moment instead of plowing ahead is, to some degree, motivated by worry that I won’t catch and fix what’s wrong with it when I go through on my next pass. But Future Me is actually a pretty good reader and editor — she’ll figure it out. So when I get stalled on a sentence that doesn’t flow right, or a scene that doesn’t quite tie into the theme of the story, or even a premise that I’m not sure is working anymore, I need to remind myself that fixing that stuff isn’t my job. It’s Future Me’s job, and she can handle it. I need to leave that job to her so that I can get on with doing mine.

Heinlein was more prescient than anyone knew

Elections are won not by converting the opposition but by getting out your own vote, and Scudder’s organization did just that. According to histories I studied at Boondock, the election … turned out 63 percent of the registered voters (which in turn was less than half of those eligible to register); the True American party (Nehemiah Scudder) polled 27 percent of the popular vote…

–Robert A. Heinlein, To Sail Beyond the Sunset, 1987 (h/t Glenn Hauman)

You know what this means, right? Robert Heinlein successfully predicted the Crazification Factor a full 18 years before it was described by Tyrone and reported in the literature by John Rogers. The man really was a genius.

Flash fiction challenge: pick an opening sentence and go

I’ve decided to start trying the writing challenges at Chuck Wendig’s blog. This week’s Flash Fiction Challenge was to pick an opening sentence from the ones submitted the prior week and write up to 2000 words. Thanks to the story hive for the inspiration.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0

“I’m on the highway to hell,” I belted out and carried on with the CPR. They said you were supposed to sing “Staying Alive” to set the proper rhythm for chest compressions, but I was a realist. Anyway, it wasn’t like I was going to do any worse than any of the sad bastards scattered around me.

The Revolutionary Brotherhood had been setting off these bombs in the city center for weeks, any place they could sneak one in. I was surprised there was still anyone out and about to get caught by this one. I figured everybody would either be deployed or hiding in their homes. Me, I was neither. I’d never be on active duty again with this leg, and home … well. No reason to hang around there anymore. Maybe it was the same for these folks. Or maybe they just needed to try to pretend everything was normal.

The old guy I was working on didn’t even look like he’d been hurt — probably was walking by and had a heart attack. Most people around here weren’t so lucky. Their deaths were coming the sticky and painful way.

I lifted my head a bit to listen for sirens, and all of the other sounds I’d been blocking out came rushing back in. People yelling and screaming, the creak of metal as blasted supports threatened to buckle, the whoosh of flames. God, it was hot.

No sirens though. Maybe they weren’t coming. Maybe they were busy with another attack. Maybe there was nobody left. I tuned it all out again.

I gave up the chest compressions and tried rescue breathing. The guy had vomited a little bit. I had to tune out taste and smell so I didn’t do the same. One breath. His chest didn’t rise. Another. Nothing.

Back to the chest compressions. I was too tired to sing anymore, so I just chanted in my head. Fuck this, fuck them, fuck you, fuck this, fuck them, fuck you… I ignored the ribs breaking under my hands, tuned out my sore wrists and burning shoulders. I just focused on pushing and chanting until I couldn’t feel any of it anymore.

I didn’t know they were here until an EMT waved her hand in front of my eyes. I looked up. The sky was dark. There were fires in the distance, a lot of them. I wasn’t sure if the sun had set or if they’d just bombed it out of the goddamn sky.

I looked down. The guy was dead. Probably had been for a while.

I lifted my head toward the EMT, but I didn’t really see her. Just the old man, and my parents, and my brother, and those people lying around us in the street. Fire and blood and bone and staring dead eyes.

Then, mercifully, I didn’t see anything anymore.

Trolls suck — now with added SCIENCE!

From the Department of Research That Tells Us What We Already Knew: “Internet Trolls Really Are Horrible People.

The research, conducted by Erin Buckels of the University of Manitoba and two colleagues, sought to directly investigate whether people who engage in trolling are characterized by personality traits that fall in the so-called Dark Tetrad: Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others).

I’m sure it will come as no surprise to anyone that trolls won the Shitty Personality Quadruple Crown. It’s pretty much in the definition of being a troll: you enjoy posting stuff that upsets people.

But I can’t help wondering … these are trolls we’re talking about here. What’s to keep them from trolling the researchers? Trolls are exactly the kind of people who’d think it was funny to game the personality test to make themselves look like psychopaths. Except that to enjoy that, and to know that you were screwing up the research and decide to do it anyway… you’d pretty much have to fit the definition. So, trolls, even if you think you’re just pretending to be assholes, you’re still assholes.