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Friday, June 24, 2016

Guest Post: I Feel So Helpless About Orlando

Forty-nine people died early last week.

I live in Michigan, the cul-de-sac of the United States. Nobody comes here unless they meant to,  or else they got lost in Ohio and didn't hit a deer on the way. Our outdoors are great, the beer is fantastic, and the city life is alright if you don't mind driving past an endless field of corn to get to it.

Not much happens here either (at least not in terms of people dying at a mass murderer's hand) and for that I'm both thankful and incomprehensibly pissed off. My life is as safe as it gets; I'm a reasonably young, healthy, straight white adult male who lives in one of the safest cities in one of the safest states in one of the safest countries in one of the safest eras we've ever known.

And yet as fortunate as I am, as fortunate as we all are, forty-nine people's lives were still brutally cut short by intolerance, hatred, bigotry, and violence.

And for that I feel so fucking helpless.

I can't even begin to imagine, in the sheltered womb that is my life, how the LGBTQ community must feel about this. An icy hand of evil has reached up from the past to claim wonderful, innocent souls. Why? No, seriously, why?

Because the people at Pulse committed the horrible, unforgivable crime of loving someone?

Because the people at Pulse were somehow disgusting monsters for having a different identity?

Because the people -- no, wait, that's the whole problem. To this misguided asshat, they weren't people. They were reduced to nothing but their “sins,” deserving only of death, certainly not of mercy. But they were people and they didn't deserve this.

And I feel so fucking helpless because even with all my advantages, I can't personally stop evil from reaching out and striking at a community of people who are beautiful and worthy of life, and yet live in fear.

And I feel helpless because every time something like this happens, social media blows up with so many candles and prayers you'd think there was a PartyLite convention at a church. We all leap to the ramparts to defend our castles of logic and reason, and damn you for being heartless or damn you for trying to solve violence with a vote, or loathing with a law, like it'd actually do anything. Meanwhile, the bodies cool in morgues and I am left feeling helpless in the face of ridiculous, senseless horror.

Some indeterminate time later, the whole cycle starts anew, because not enough of us personally reached out past our keyboards to damn well do anything to help.

Look, my position is pretty clear, and it's trying to fix a problem like hatred and bigotry with a politician's pen is like trying to put out a fire by yelling at it. If you do nothing to address the source of the fire, you've done nothing to remove its effects. Banning objects to control behavior doesn't fucking work and you all know it, because it didn't work for alcohol and it didn't work for drugs and it didn't work for guns and just knock it off already! And yeah, I know we're all making a lot of noise about banning people now, too, but the Internet has no borders and that isn't going to work either. Hell, it didn't even work when the Internet didn't exist. If you want to know more, look up the Japanese internment camps. What a godawful legacy that was.

My position is also pretty clear on how I feel about the LGBTQ community, or at least I hope it is: people are all wonderful, complex, flawed and fantastic, all at the same time. I'm not some paragon of virtuous thinking, but it never made any good sense to me to hate a person for what they are or who they love. We are all weird, wounded, and wild, and if I have any right to life and happiness, so do you, no matter who “you” are.

Assuming you're not the asshole who murdered forty-nine fabulous people, that is. I hope you saw the truth of things before you perished, you miserable moron, but I don't regret or mourn you. You ran out of chances, you misguided and stupid person, when you murdered another.

That's right, even the killer is a person. Not because he's done anything special to deserve it, but because if we dehumanize even the worst of us, we risk dehumanizing the least of us. And that leads only to more of the violence we saw on Sunday. I won't perpetuate it.

Despite how I feel, though I'm not helpless. Not really. And for that, I am profoundly grateful.

Instead of another long virtue-signaling diatribe or stupid meme about what “should be” or how nobly offended I am about what just happened, I can actually do something. We have a tremendous surplus of speech, but we also have a terrible deficit of action. If any of the actions I'm taking today do anything at all to help, then I'm more lucky than I have any right to be. And if just one life is spared by my efforts then it's more than I could hope or dream.

I'm donating blood tomorrow, because wounded people keep needing blood and they can damn well have every drop I don't need right now. I couldn't do it earlier because my schedule sucks and so do donation center hours, but I'll get there tomorrow, probably right around the time they'd actually need some more to replace what was used. Lucky them, I'm O+ and that's a popular flavor.

I found out you can't easily donate to the Pink Pistols, but you can volunteer your time, and that'll have to do for now. Even a straight guy can pass out flyers, even if they're suuuuuper pink. Or I can help teach people who want to defend themselves. I'm not saying they should have to, or that it's their fault if they don't. I'm just saying if they want to, I'll damn well help where I can.

I've joined the Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners to improve the rights for people in my state to protect their lives however they wish, and I was one of the first 50 people to sign up for Operation Blazing Sword. Human life is a tremendously valuable thing, and it's worth protecting in whatever way is needed. If a good, law-abiding person chooses a firearm to do so, then I'm going to work harder to make that possible for them. There's no good reason the least advantaged of us should suffer at the hands of those most advantaged. And I'm not just chucking money at them, either; I'm going to volunteer my time, any time that the Pink Pistols, if they'll have me, don't consume.

I will seek out more training not just to defend life, but also to preserve it. I will train harder to defend against violence and also to save a life if it happens to myself or another.

I will strive to make my life, my home, my words and my actions a true “safe space” for people who need it. I'm not talking about what the phrase “safe space” has become these days; I'm talking about what it used to mean many years ago. I promise that if you are gay, trans, whatever; my home, my car, my office, even my shoulder, is a place you can go for refuge if you are in danger. Because you are a person and you have value.

Most importantly though, I will speak and act against hatred, against bigotry, against intolerance. No person should fear for their lives based on who they are or who they love. I promise I will stand against hate by speaking out against it, not just on Facebook where it's easy, but in person and in public where it actually matters. The solution to speech one finds abhorrent is more speech refusing it, with every word an expression of compassion, of justice, and of outreach.

I am also asking you (you beautiful, wonderful, capable person reading this) to do the same. All my strength doesn't amount to much against the problems we face. But if you help, even a little, even anything at all, we can nudge the world to better.

Can you speak out against intolerance and bigotry, even when it's tough and personal? And can you speak to our youth so that they might learn tolerance and compassion better than we did?

Can you donate blood? They were full yesterday, but they'll need more, a constant red flood of it, until all are healed. And can you keep donating even months and years from now?

Can you go beyond what I'm doing now, and return again to ask me to do the same as you have?

Do one thing, at a minimum, right now, if you can do anything at all. Social media won't save lives, but action will. Let's help.

Raymond Garety III

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Nightmare of Everyday Life

I woke from a blissful slumber yesterday, just an ordinary day.

Moments before waking, my phone's alarm went off like a nuclear shockwave, jolting me from that blissful slumber into terrifying reality, leaving me shaking for hours.

I lifted the covers, and immediately the cool air from my air conditioning left ice crystals forming upon my delicate skin.

I swung my legs off of the bed and immediately pulled a muscle in my groin, sending fire shooting through the nerves of my body, leaving me incapacitated and weak.

I hobbled to the toilet and had a morning pee, which left me dehydrated from loss of fluids. I felt as if I had just trudged for days through the Sahara desert.

I stepped into the shower and the hot water scalded me, leaving me with third degree burns across 90% of my body.

I dried off after my shower and felt what little skin remained sloughed off by the roughness of the towel.

I brushed my teeth and felt the bristles of the brush, powered by the frightening motor held within, tearing massive chunks off of my gums and chipping through the enamel of my teeth.

I sipped delicately at my morning cup of coffee, and felt my lips being seared by the unforgiving molten lava in my Frozen mug. I can still see Elsa's smiling face, mocking me.

I got dressed carefully, the rough fabrics of denim and cotton seizing my body hairs and plucking them out ferociously, as if I were in some Vietnamese torture camp.

I stepped outside of my apartment, and immediately went blind as the mid-day sun shone ultraviolent death rays into my eyes.

I stumbled to my car and fell into the seat, turning the key and having a heart attack in fear as the terrible roar of the four-cylinder death engine of my Corolla turned over.

I drove carefully out of the parking lot of my apartments, enduring the whiplash and partial paralysis of the speed bumps spitefully shaking my car.

I dished out my life savings buying a sandwich at gunpoint from Subway, as they filled the loaves of bread with poisonous materials that would likely render me sick for days.

Returning home, I switched on my work computer and settled into the slavery of my day job, prepared to be humiliated beyond belief for having to work for a living.

In short, yesterday was a day like any other day. I write this as tribute to the sheer suffering and torment that Mr. Gersh Kuntzman subjected himself to when he fired the terrifying AR-15. I have just a few select words about this issue:

Gersh, you are no martyr for having fired a rifle. Knock it off. A 7 year old can fire that thing with no problem. Look, here's a 7 year old firing it.

And either the blood vessels in your skin are worryingly delicate, or your shoulder is fine.

And you did not have "Temporary PTSD." Speaking on behalf of only myself, but echoing what is surely the sentiment of anyone who has ever suffered from this, you don't just get "temporary PTSD" and then recover a few hours later. This is the most insulting use of the term since, and possibly more-so than, Melody Hensley's "Twitter PTSD."

As for your follow-up rebuttal, I'd like to say that what you said regarding masculinity and femininity is just as, if not moreso, misogynistic than anything that was said to you following your original article. Women are just as capable of handling firearms like grown adults (even when they're only seven years old) as a man. To draw a correlation between women and your experience with an AR-15 "bruising" you is insulting to any woman who has ever handled a firearm -- from the ones on funny YouTube recoil videos to the professional shooters who hold records and can fire and reload firearms faster than the human eye can easily track.

So congratulations, Gersh. You managed not to kill anyone when holding that 'death machine', but you certainly shot someone: Yourself. In the foot. That's a metaphor, by the way. Not a scary death threat, since we're on the topic of grossly wild exaggerations.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Operation Blazing Sword: Our First Success Story

The first part of this story comes from Sean Sorrentino, one of the very first people to sign up for Blazing Sword (in fact, he was promising his help before I began collating the list which later became OBS, so he actually predates it):
My first student with Operation Blazing Sword. I think it went well!

This is 25 rounds at 4 yards and 15 at 7 yards. Slow fire, .22LR out of a Ruger 22/45 with a Volquartsen trigger. This was my student's first time with a handgun. Group could be covered easily by a small woman's fist.

Now that all the gun geekery is out of the way, this shooter is a member of the LGBT community who came out specifically because of Orlando. This person only knew to contact me because of Erin's map.

I have two more people planning on coming to shoot soon. They would have come tonight except one had to work late unexpectedly.

The location is Triangle Shooting Academy near RDU airport. Thanks to Josette Chmiel who works there for negotiating us a special discount because the owner believes in this project.

The student is waiting on a NC Pistol Purchase Permit, and is eyeballing the Glock 19, the M&P9C, and the SIG P320 Compact. We will go back and shoot the three of them on another day.
But that's not all! His student, John Doughty, weighed in with his side of things:
Had an awesome time today at Triangle Shooting Academy in Raleigh with super welcoming and helpful instructors and staff. They are very generous with their time and committed to helping the LGBT community stay safe. Do recommend. They are great. I was given a chance to shoot a Ruger target pistol on the range and to handle several other guns recommended to me.

Facility is clean, safe, nice and friendly. Sean is a great instructor and Josette on staff went out of her way to make sure everything went well. Even the facility owner stopped in to say welcome. I felt completely safe and was given excellent training and advice, very generously.

When my purchase permit comes through (I applied for it today just before going in for the class) I'm definitely buying here, their prices are fair and they really went out of their way to be welcoming.

I guess my shot grouping didn't suck too much for a first handgun attempt. Spread about the size of my fist. At a whole 4 and then 7 yards on a baby target drawn in magic marker, this is not exactly big brag fodder. But hey, you gotta start somewhere. I managed to stay coloring in the lines and didn't shoot anything outside the big circle anyhow.

Sean:  Good job. Keep it up.

John: Excellent shooting for a first-timer! Welcome to our community.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

And Then The Media Happened

Hello, my darlings! I'm still getting caught up from the delightful insanity that was last week. But thing have settled down enough here at Chateau Palette (or perhaps I've just delegated enough) that I have time to get caught up with what has happened since my last social update.

I showed up at Volusia Top Gun (which is a VERY nice gun shop/shooting range, by the way -- I highly recommend it)at 10 am to meet with Stacey Dooley of BBC 3. Stacey is a cute blonde, five-foot nothing, maybe a hundred pounds if she's carrying a bowling ball. She was quite friendly, understanding of my concerns, and went out of her way to put me at ease.

After we'd gotten the camera gear set up and I was mic'd (and I made a point of letting everyone know I was recording audio as well so I wouldn't get Couriced), we had our safety briefing and went onto the range. 

They took some stock footage of me loading magazines and shooting with my Glock, and then Stacey and I "met" on camera and I introduced her to pistols, starting with my .22LR single-action revolver. 

I will say this for the lady: she had EXCELLENT trigger discipline. Her finger was pressed along the frame whenever she wasn't actually shooting. She also didn't muzzle anyone, although a few times it did veer off to the side instead of downrange. 

Unfortunately, her stance and posture were terrible. She was standing with her strong leg cocked out to the side like a model on the catwalk, was doing the expected "chick lean" backwards, and didn't quite grasp the concept of "look at the front sight through the rear sight", so all of her shots were too high. The RSO eventually asked if he could take over, I said "Yes please!", and he got her squared away before too long. 

Out of 6 shots, two of them were on paper: at about 1:00, well outside the furthest ring. After that, she decided she'd had enough. I offered to let her shoot my .380 Colt Mustang, but she demurred. While I don't think the recoil hurt her, there were other people on the range shooting some pretty high-caliber stuff and the noise made her visibly flinch when she wasn't on-camera. 

There were some pictures of my other guns and their calibers, and a brief segue with my AR that didn't really go anywhere. 

Now that we've all gotten that frisson of fear out of our system, let me explain what I mean. I was showing her the difference in how calibers looked -- .22LR vs .380 vs. 9mm vs. .223, and how even thought .223 is longer you can see that the bullets themselves are pretty close to the same size -- and she said something to the effect of "I can see why carrying a pistol can be a good thing; why do you need something so much more lethal like this rifle?"

I could have answered this a lot of ways: I could have talked about need vs. want, or "I have the right, that's why", or "You have the pistol to fight your way to your rifle." or any number of things. But I didn't, because
  1. Whether deliberate or not, I felt we were veering toward "Evil assault rifle" stuff;
  2. I didn't want to get into the weeds regarding gun control etc because I wasn't prepared for that discussion -- after all, I was there to talk about what it's like to be LGBTQ and own guns; 
  3. and most importantly, A BBC reporter said that she could see the need for carrying a pistol for self-defense. At that point, I felt I'd won, and saying anything else could only make things worse, so I just said "I don't feel comfortable having that debate with you" and shut up.
After that, we adjourned to a quieter venue where we had a nice sit-down chat. Again, Stacey was very pleasant and accommodating, and I found myself genuinely liking her. We talked some more about guns and gun violence (with again, more questions that could be construed as "Don't Americans need to do something about gun violence?" and I essentially said  "I don't have the answers for that, but I'll be happy to connect you to someone who does."), as well as what it's like to be an LGBTQ gun owner, how owning a gun doesn't make you a vigilante, and that Operation Blazing Sword proves that both sides of a political divide can come together after a tragedy.

I probably wasn't as smooth as I needed to be, but it was my first time. I give myself a B overall: some questions I absolutely nailed and some I stumbled on, but I didn't fumbled any of them. I'll do better next time.

I got the feeling that Stacey genuinely liked me. When we were done and she offered her hand, I told her "Do you give hugs? Because I hug," and she said "Oh I absolutely hug!" and not only did she hug, she also rubbed her hand up and down my back.

So I'm pretty sure that I'm going to get a fair shake from the BBC, but we won't know for certain until the interview is aired.

After that, I came home to discover that I, and Operation Blazing Sword, had been mentioned in The India Times! Here's the money quote form the article, titled America's Gays & Lesbians Are Buying Guns In Record Numbers, And Gun Owners Are Teaching Them How To Shoot!

In my books, this is much real and credible than the solidarity candle light marches and open letters that happen after any attack on minorities in America. 

Unfortunately there is no link to my blog in that article... but there is a link to our interactive map! And the best part is, we're international, baby!

I was pleased to discover that David Kopel, of the Volokh Conspiracy, wrote an article for the Washington Post that not only mentioned me and Blazing Sword in the first paragraph -- but there's also a link to my Blue Collar Prepping post about it!

The rest of the article, titled The history of LGBT gun-rights litigation, then goes on to talk about other people and things, and that's okay. This movement isn't about me, and I'm just thrilled to get a mention.

Joe Huffman's blog, The View From North Central Idaho, had a really nice graphic made by Stephanie!

I also got an email from Stephanie with this picture:

And this may have happened before Sunday, but that's when I first noticed that Blazing Sword (okay, sometimes we're a Project and sometimes we're an Operation -- frankly I'm not picky) had its own page on the Pink Pistols website. Thanks, Gwen!

And that brings us to yesterday, when I was "interviewed" by Cary Harrison of the Progressive Radio Network. I say "interviewed" with bunny rabbit ears because it wasn't so much an interview as it was for the host to pontificate rapid-fire and then ask me a question in the hopes I would give him soundbites. I'm pleased to announce that I hit every answer out of the park, and while I likely didn't convince any of his regular listeners, he sure didn't score any points off me nor did he convince anyone on the fence.

Oh, and don't you love how he throws the West Hollywood gay community under the bus by essentially claiming that most of them are meth addicts and/or are likely to commit felony perjury by lying on a form 4473?

If you'd like to listen to just my segment without wading through the rest of it, my podcast editor Sean Sorrentino has got you covered

And that brings us to today, where nothing special happened -- just the usual emails and Facebook notifications and coordinating with other members of the media for interviews.

I've apparently become a minor news celebrity and I still don't know how this happened. Living right, I guess?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Gunnies Helping Gunnies: Let's Beat Cancer a Third Time

The gun community is no friend to cancer.

Between Kilted to Kick Cancer and the various friends and family members we have lost to it, I believe the general consensus toward it (as elucidated by Barron) is "Fuck cancer sideways with a rusty chainsaw."

If you feel that way as well -- congratulations! Now's your chance to do something about it!

Help Dawn Faust Bibby Beat Cancer

Not only is this woman one of us (as is her husband, John), but she's already beaten cancer twice. Won't you please help her beat it a third time?

Photo by Oleg Volk; gun is Kel-Tec CMR-30

In 2009, I was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. I beat it -- but it cost my 401k plan, my job, my home and a husband of 6 months. His parting words were, "This cancer thing is not what I signed up for. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll be gone when I get home”.

In 2014, an MRI found 22 metastatic tumors in my brain. My local doctors gave me 6 months to live. Thankfully, I found Dr. Aizik Wolf in Miami who is a magician with Gamma Knife. He destroyed every tumor in my brain and 18 months later there is no cancer in my brain nor any cognitive impairment.

Now in 2016, I need your help to beat cancer a third time. I have been diagnosed with advanced tumors in my lungs, bones and liver. Again, the local doctors have written me off. Another physician in Miami, Dr. Beatriz Amendola , has the ability to beat this with a procedure called Varian Edge . This machine combined with drug therapy is greatly effective. However, my insurance company has denied coverage, If I want to live, I must pay CASH. The Varian Edge alone will cost at least $150,000. There will be CT scans, PET scans, MRIs, the drug regimen, co-pays and of course transportation and time away from work for my husband.

This is why you are so important. By donating to this fund and by sharing my message you inspire me to fight even harder and you will make the finances of what needs to be done possible. With your help I can beat this disease again. I am a survivor. I have a great husband who has been my champion through this entire cancer journey. Please help me have more time to enjoy with this great man and the love we spent a lifetime to find. I have a caring support structure, four amazing kids, fabulous friends and a tremendous will to live. What I need today, is your help raising money and getting the word out. Please help if you can, no amount is unappreciated or too small.

If any excess funds are raised, they will be donated to St. Baldricks Children's Cancer charity. Because cancer in kids is inconceivable!!

Please donate if you can. I have.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #96 - It's On Like Voltron

Form feet and legs! Form arms and body! And Adam and Sean will form the head of the GunBlog VarietyCast!
  • Erin Palette gives us the lowdown on her new and exciting life as National Coordinator of the LGBT Friendly Firearms Trainer map. And she wondered if she was ever going to make a difference! We all knew better, didn't we?
  • It's amazing how many people try to write laws about things they just don't understand. Tiffany Johnson brings in well-respected firearms trainer Tom Givens to give an exact definition of an "Assault Rifle", and why that definition matters. 
  • Everyone remembers their "First Time." Beth Alcazar tells us about her first time. Her first time carrying a gun in a holster, that is...
  • You'd think being a "Chief Technologist" for the FTC would mean you were safe from getting your phone hijacked, right? Wrong! Barron explains how, when it comes to security, people are once again the weakest link.
  • And Weer'd finds us a doozy. It's either an amazing example of a pro-gun group hiring a woman to write the most awful song in the universe in order to parody the gun-grabbing mommies, or this is further proof that some of these people have zero idea about how they sound. Give a listen and let us know what you think!
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and now on Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here
Thanks also to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

And a special thanks to our sponsor, Law of Self Defense. Use discount code "Variety" at checkout for 10% off.

Upcoming Law of Self Defense seminars:

  • August 7 - North Carolina specific - Raleigh, NC
  • August 13 - Oregon and Washington specific - Sherwood, OR
  • August 20 - Tenessee and Kentucky specific - Nashville, TN
  • September 10 - Alabama specific - Talladega, AL
  • October 1 - Pennsylvania and New Jersey specific - Bensalem, PA
  • October 16 - New Mexico and Texas specific - Las Cruces, NM

Friday, June 17, 2016

I Keep Forgetting to Mention #IllTrainWithYou

I didn't make them. I'd love to mention who did, but I was asked to keep that identity anonymous.

Can we make #IllTrainWithYou a trending topic?

The Fine Print

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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