Thursday, March 30, 2017

Batgirl and the DCEU

You may or may not be aware that I'm a fan of DC's Batgirl.

I'm not sure if I've made that clear or not.

If I haven't, I apologize.


I must not have made it clear up until now. At any rate, to retread that ground, Barbara Gordon is a character that I very dearly admire. In almost every iteration, her origin comes about in that she sees someone doing something about the crime and corruption that plagues her city and makes her father's life that much harder, and takes it upon herself to do something as well. And when that something brings about a tragic situation, she doesn't allow herself to be victim; she takes what she has left and makes something even more powerful out of it. In my opinion, Batgirl/Oracle/Barbara Gordon is one of the most powerfully conceived and written characters in the superhero genre, and I personally have a Batgirl in some form or another nearby to keep me going when times get rough.

News has broken today that DC is looking to expand their universe a little more, and as such is negotiating a deal with Joss Whedon to write and direct a Batgirl movie.

I'm very worried. I'm very worried and I don't want this to happen. As much as I'd love a live-action realization of Batgirl, especially one tied into Ben Affleck's Batman, I categorically do not want Joss Whedon within a country mile of this project.

Don't get me wrong; Joss has contributed a great deal of good to entertainment. Back in the day, when he did Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and Dollhouse he was on fire. He had a real talent for making believable and respectable heroes and villains out of both male and female characters, something that hasn't always been handled well. But lately... look, I like the Avengers movies, but that tone only works with Whedon's snappy, irreverent dialogue. Batgirl has bits of light-heartedness, but she faces very serious and very dark threats, and survives and thrives against terrible odds. Batgirl does not live in the Avengers' world.

I worry that Joss is going to adapt the Burnside Batgirl -- the one with the leather jacket and yoga pants and social media fixation, who fights cross-dressing gold lamé-suited villains -- and not the one who's been hardened by the world, who wears the composite armour and fights Dollmaker and Joker, the Barbara Gordon who once faced down DC villain Prometheus from her wheelchair with nothing but her escrima sticks and her wits.

I have no confidence in this project, unless I get verification that it's not Burnside and that Gail Simone is being brought in to consult on it. As much as I may disagree ideologically with Simone, she's contributed the most to the character, and has the most respect for who Batgirl intrinsically is, and I don't feel like Whedon will be able to faithfully recreate the character onscreen with it. Without Simone, Barbara's just going to end up being a 4-foot-11 kung fu waif. And that's not Barbara Gordon; that's Cassandra Cain.

Basically, Joss:
Not This
Do This

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Traveller Tuesday: Cepheus Engine Vehicle Design System

Short version: If you play Mongoose Traveller, get this book.
My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
Longer version: Mongoose cannot make a good vehicle book to save its life. The first version of the 1e Vehicle Books (split into Civilian and Military volumes) was a complicated mess involving cubic meters, mass per cubic meter, mass multipliers, and percentage of base volume. It was in fact so bad that the publisher had to re-work the design mechanics and issue it as a new version.

This combined version was all right in that it was merely an awkward if workable kludge instead of a tedious exercise in mathematics, using conceptual "spaces" -- the vehicular equivalent of using dtonnage to design a spacecraft -- instead of absolute volume. While a good idea in theory, the execution was terrible because each vehicle had a fixed number of spaces based on chassis type. For example, a light grav vehicle (like an air/raft) could have no more than 10 spaces; any more than that and it was forced into the heavy grav category, which increased its cost and decreased its performance. What's more, those spaces added up very quickly. I could never make the kind of vehicle I actually wanted; I just had to find a design I could accept.

I never tried the Mongoose 2e Vehicle Book, because I refuse to pay $30 for a PDF, and so should you. In fact, all of the 2e PDFs are overpriced.

But then there's the Cepheus Engine Vehicle Design System, and it is good. So very, very good.
Why is it so good?
  • It's based on the Open Game License Mongoose 1e game, not the terrible 2e version.
  • It's less stingy with spaces: you get 12 per dton of vehicle. 
  • It doesn't pigeonhole craft into categories. Instead, you just choose how large you want your vehicle to be using a handy chart that says "chassis code [whatever] displaces this many dtons, has this many spaces, and has a base cost of that much."
  • It tries to make vehicle design as close to starship design as possible. For example: performance is based on a familiar matrix of chassis and engine code. 
  • It's only five dollars. Actually, that's not quite true; it's "pay what you want", but the average price was $4.61 last I checked, so I rounded it up to $5, which is essentially my threshold for an impulse buy. Based on what I see here, I got my money's worth and then some; in fact, I was so happy I went and bought the Cepheus Engine core rules as well. 
This isn't to say it's perfect. The layout isn't what I'd call optimal, as charts aren't ordered in an intuitive way and the order in which material appears doesn't match the sample checklist at the beginning. But it's five dollars, and more than that, the vehicles you can design with it are better than the ones from the 1e book. 

As an example, here is a grav speeder done using the 1e Vehicle Handbook, and here is the same speeder using Cepheus Engine. Performance is nearly identical (the Cepheus version is actually slightly better), it only cost half as much, and -- this part is the critical bit -- I was able to design a craft I liked without tearing my hair out. 
Buy good games and good rules, not overpriced crap. The Cepheus Engine isn't crap. Buy it.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Erin's Perfect Prepper Vehicle

Blue Collar Prepping has a theme week going on: "What one vehicle would you choose if price were no object?"  And in proper Erin Palette style, I pick a car that identifies as... something else.

Go take a look!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #136 - Vault 7 Sorcery, REEEEing Ted Cruz, and Perfidious Senators

"To Wikileak" is apparently a verb now.
  • How can you run afoul of the TSA? Beth counts the ways.
  • Who is so bad that even his Mom turns on him? Sean looks at the crime, and the criminal, to find the answer.
  • Barron is back, and he brought a Sorcerer to talk about the Wikileaked Vault 7.
  • In the Main Topic, Sean and Erin remind people that they don't own the culture. Ted Cruz is allowed to be a geek too.
  • Tiffany screamed herself almost hoarse at the 19th annual Tactical Conference, and she's back to tell us about it.
  • Sure, you have a blowout kit on your belt, but what about for traumatic injury at home? Erin tells you what to put inside your at-home kit.
  • You've heard of the NRA A-rated politician from Florida who turned her back on gun owners? Weer'd puts her interview through a Patented Weer'd Audio Fisk™.
  • And our plug of the week is Mike Leon's book Rated R (The Postmodern Adventures of Kill Team One Book 1)
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript:
The At-Home Trauma Kit
Last week, Sean talked about the SFD Responder, an ankle holster for carrying a tourniquet, bandage and similar traumatic injury gear... and that’s great as far as a portable solution goes, but if you’re a prepper then you also need to be prepared for traumatic injury at home as well, such as a burn or knife wound from cooking meals, or an injury from power tools or yardwork, or even an animal bite if you have pets. 

Now the good thing about having a prep like this at home is that you have the advantage of being at home. This means you don’t have to worry about portability, because you aren’t carrying it with you; all you need to do is be able to grab your gear from wherever you have it. 

For most people, this will be near the medicine cabinet in the bathroom, next to where they keep their band-aids and pain medication. I call this my booboo kit, and I did a segment on it way back in episode 38. However, the bathroom may not be the best place to keep such things; if you have a large family, there’s a good chance that someone will be in the bathroom when you need to get to the trauma supplies, and the heat and humidity from baths and showers can reduce the life of medicines and supplies. 

Wherever you choose to put it, make sure it’s in an easily-accessed central location and that everyone knows where it is, what’s in it, and how to use it. What’s NOT in it is also important; since this is something I’m going to grab in a life or death emergency, I’m not going to stuff it with bandaids for booboos. If I need one of those, I can get them from the bathroom or first aid kit; this is for serious injuries. 

The three most important things I have in my kit are a tourniquet, and Israeli bandage, and a Trauma Pak from Adventure Medical. I love this pak, as it’s small enough to fit into a cargo pocket but is filled with good things like Quick Clot, nitrile gloves, duct tape, a triangular bandage and a LOT of gauze. With all that, I can handle most any injury. 

Also nearby is something called the iSHWASH Personal Eyewash System, which is an eye rinse unit that can be attached to a bottle of water and then squeezed to produce a shower effect. This is great for preventing blinding in case a harsh chemical gets in someone’s eyes, but also works as a way to wash out painful particles like dust, ash, pollen, etc that may be causing irritation. To make mine more useful, I actually bundled the iSWASH with an unopened bottle of water inside a large ziploc bag for fast access; see the picture in the show notes. 

Other things that would be useful to have in an emergency are bandage shears, in case you need to cut clothing off someone to reach a wound; a pen light with a pupil gauge to check someone’s responsiveness; and a head lamp in case you have to use this when the power’s out and you need both hands to help the injured party

Now I keep all of my stuff inside an airtight, waterproof box with a carry handle. Not only does this protect my supplies from water, pests, dust and the like, but because it has a carry handle I can grab it easily and take it wherever I need it, including out of the house if necessary.  

Now these suggestions are just for making do until the ambulance shows up; in a later episode I’ll talk about what long-term supplies you will need - mainly books - in case paramedics no longer arrive or hospitals no longer exist. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Operation Blazing Sword Storefront

For everyone who said that they wanted Blazing Sword t-shirts, I am pleased to announce that we have an online print-on-demand storefront up and running.

And it's not just t-shirts! We have lots of other formats as well.

There's also a horizontal banner that you can download from our Google Docs folder. The PNG is scaleable up to 10 feet in width, so anyone who wants to have one for promotional purposes -- such as a table covering at events like gun shows, conventions, shooting ranges, and the like -- can take the file to a professional printer, specify what size they want, and the printer can size it accordingly. If folks need something larger, the .AI file will go as large as you need, even up to billboard width or height.
Legal Disclaimer: You are free to use the Operation Blazing Sword logo so long as you do not profit from doing so. All funds that exceed expenses must be donated to Operation Blazing Sword. 
Buy yours today! From now until September, all proceeds from sales of branded apparel and accessories will be used in our $10K for 2A drive. So buy some stuff, support pro-Second Amendment nonprofits, and help embarrass Sean Sorrentino at Gun Rights Policy Conference 2017!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mass Effect: Andromeda - Thoughts and Impressions

How do I start this without feeling guilty?

I've previously spoken at length about my relationship with Bioware, specifically the Mass Effect series. I'd sworn off them after Mass Effect 3, being dissatisfied with the ending, monetization, and other aspects of the way the story and game were handled. I then made an off-hand comment about a drunken tryst with Mass Effect 4 when it hit $5.

Well, technically speaking, it did. Or, rather, with the EA Access program, I forked out the $5 necessary to start the program and get the 10 hour trial of Mass Effect: Andromeda. There's been a lot of controversy surrounding this game so far, as the preview build and promotional gameplay has been met with a less than stellar reception. There's been a drastic shift in gameplay, which is good, but there's also been an alarming drop in quality when it comes to the character models and facial animations, which is not good.

The game, if you'll allow me to get technical for a moment, is built on the Frostbite engine, which powers many of EA's current games from Dead Space 3 to Star Wars Battlefront to Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2. For all I may complain about EA, the Frostbite engine is a work of art, and renders some amazingly good-looking games... but Mass Effect: Andromeda, from what I've seen so far, is not one of them.

One of the things Frostbite does best is lighting, and Andromeda falls flat in that area. Literally -- the lighting is extremely flat, as if you compared a low-budget television soap opera to a JJ Abrams film. Andromeda looks like the former when you compare it to the excellent lighting and shadows in something like Dead Space 3. The facial models on the default character are cartoonishly exaggerated, and the NPCs are largely bland and generic looking. Characters will tell you grave situations and tragic tales without even a twitch in their facial expressions, and moments later your character will have the most bizarre expressions on their face. Considering the 4-5 years of development, it's like the series is moving backwards instead of improving in these areas.

Gameplay suffers from some pretty terrible bugs as well. In the limited time I had in the campaign (the 10 hour trial cuts you short and returns you to the main menu partway through a story mission on the first planet you land on with a prompt to purchase the game),
  • I got stuck in the terrain 4 times;
  • I experienced pop-in (which is when an NPC spawns in the area you're standing) in a very jarring manner, with NPCs hitting a t-pose before dropping into their programmed space; and
  • I experienced lots of clipping issues (where a character model will phase through a solid object). 
As for the style, it plays very much like Dragon Age Inquisition, which did not have these issues to any noticeable degree, nor did it have such problems with bland and poorly-animated faces.

There are some positives. The game has an interesting premise: a group aware of the Reaper threat in the original series constructed ark ships carrying tens of thousands of varying species of Milky Way residents to the Andromeda galaxy with plans of colonization. Something goes wrong, and only the human Ark makes it, linking up with the Nexus station that was sent ahead to coordinate immigration, and the "golden worlds" turn out to be not quite so golden. Your character, either Scott or Sarah Ryder (name changeable in character customization) is thrust into a position of authority they aren't necessarily ready for, and it's your job to scout for new worlds and ready them for colonization.

When it's not bugging out, the traversal and combat mechanics are quite good. You're far more agile and quick then previous games, and combat no longer has you hugging walls as often as the cover system has been modified and jump/boost jets have been added. Some of the characters are quite likeable so far... and some aren't. Cora, your second in command (the internet is furious that she isn't gay because of her haircut) has excellent voice acting and dialogue, and Vestra, the Turian who joins your squad on the first planetary expedition, is a charming rogue (against stereotype for the Turian race, but she's still no Garrus). The character creator is decent, and allows for a lot of variation in your version of Ryder (mine pictured below).
Justine Ryder, totally out of her depth
A tip from me: if you want to cut down on the goofy facial animations, make your character's lower facial features at least 50% smaller than the default Ryder's.

I will whole-heartedly endorse the multiplayer. Much like Mass Effect 3, it's a horde-mode layout, where you fight off waves of enemies interspersed with simple objectives, and you can play any one of a number of classes of characters from Engineers to Space Wizards (biotics). It's been trimmed from 10 waves + extraction to 7 waves including extraction which quickens the pace; this along with the improved movement and agility of your characters makes for a much more fast-paced and frenetic experience. I played the last game's multiplayer for an obscene number of hours, and can easily see myself playing this one's multiplayer as much, especially since it's also been incorporated into the story campaign as Strike Teams that you can access from the Nexus station. I had plenty of time to experience it, what with the campaign ending prematurely and I still had over half of the time left in my 10 hour trial.  If I'm completely honest, the multiplayer alone has probably raised my asking price of this game from $20 to $30.

All in all, what I'm seeing so far is a technically embarrassing game with an ambitious premise and a really solid multiplayer. It's basically an incompetently-coded Dragon Age Inquisition wrapped in a sci-fi skin, and I know why: the studio that actually developed this game is Bioware Montreal, which didn't exist until 2009, and only had previous experience assisting in the development of Mass Effect 3. It was Biowares Edmonton and Austin that did the heavy lifting on all of Bioware's previous (and good) games.

This is one of EA's flagship franchises, and it was handed to an untested, inexperienced studio that took a fantastic game engine and made a complete shambles of it. It's also receiving backlash on all sides, ranging from Cora's haircut-based sexuality to a trans character dead-naming themselves in their first conversation with you to their lead facial animator allegedly being a cosplayer with no prior experience, Andromeda's losing the PR campaign harder than someone trying to speed-run Mass Effect 2 (sorry, let me explain - if you don't take your time and prepare properly by doing loyalty missions, you lose crew members and could possibly die yourself during the final mission).

Should you buy this? No, not at this time. If the multiplayer has the legs that the previous game had, a year from now a ton of people will still be playing it, and it's absolutely not worth the $60 price tag they're asking now. Wait for a) a major patch and b) a sale. In the meantime, enjoy the plethora of comedy that's been spawned by it.


Edit: Bioware has announced a patch, but sounds very unsure about how to approach the much-derided facial animations.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Traveller Tuesday: Legally Dead in Low Passage

In my Traveller game, anyone who is cryogenically frozen is considered legally dead under Imperial law for the duration of their freeze. There are several good reasons for this, mainly to to preserve financial institutions and help enforce criminal law.
My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
Let us assume that you are a member of the Imperial Navy or Scouts, and your ship is critcally damaged. You send out a distress signal, set the power plant to run as long as possible while using as little fuel as possible, and crawl into a low berth to await rescue. Unfortunately, due to the vastness of the Imperium and the speed of light, you aren't rescued for a century. When you are rescued, you petition for 100 years of back pay, along with everyone else on your ship who survives. After all, you were in the service when you went into cryostasis, and you're still in the service when you wake up. It wasn't your fault that your century of service was spent in suspended animation, but the fact remains that you've lost time that could have been spent with family and friends, so you're due compensation. And with a century of back pay, you can retire from the service and never have to work again. Or perhaps you'll go into politics, funded by this handy war chest.

Well, no. The Imperium is a conservative society, and the entrenched nobility really doesn't like the idea of ships full of fresh, eager bodies becoming instantly rich through an accident. They also don't like the idea of someone with just enough income to rent a cold berth for a few decades to make some investments and then go to sleep, hopefully waking up with millions in stock options. (This would be akin to buying stock in Apple, Microsoft and Nike in the 1980s and then waking up today.)

No, when you are in cryostasis you are effectively dead, and so all forms of income revert to your next of kin and/or stop paying out (in the case of salaries and pensions). There is a bit of legal "wiggle room" built into the concept of low passage, in that such passage usually only takes between a week and a month, and the amount of paperwork to declare a passenger dead, only to then declare them alive again after they've arrived, is considerable and annoying. Therefore, most corporations have a 30 day "grace period" before they begin the paperwork. This can lead to inventive investors doing things like entering cold sleep for 3 weeks before being thawed out for one week in an attempt to extend their lives cheaply. However, this is known as financial fraud and is frowned upon by the authorities.
Sidebar: Financial Trusts
Someone will inevitably ask "Why don't people just create a trust to receive the finances, with the person in coldsleep being the beneficiary of the trust? This is a good question, and while there are probably loopholes to be exploited here due to my ignorance regarding finance law, there are two broad provisions which make this a less than ideal solution for the miserly

First, if it's a familial trust, then other people will have access to those funds while you are asleep. How much do you trust your kin? Because this is a great way to wake up suddenly poor.

Second, if it's just you in the trust, then someone needs to be managing it while you're legally dead. Someone like a financial adviser. Someone who knows how your money works, and for how long you're going to be asleep, and how to embezzle and hide funds.. or, alternately, someone who controls the payment to the people who are keeping you in cold sleep.

Remember, if you're obsessed with money, you're obsessed with keeping it and you're obsessed with making sure people don't take it away from you, so distrust (if not outright paranoia) is part of the package.
Criminal Law
When crimes are too severe for a fine, but not so severe that the demand death, the traditional punishment is either imprisonment or involuntary servitude. In effect, these sentences are saying "We are taking years away from you as punishment for what you took away from others." Invariably, some felons with rich friends or political connections would seek to do their time in cold sleep, thereby evading the actual physical punishment of the sentence. However, you cannot make a corpse do time, so under this rule the timer on the prison sentence is put on pause until such time as the prisoner comes out of stasis.

Interestingly enough, though. time spent in cold sleep does count towards the statute of limitations on crimes. This is because the statute of limitation applies to the crime, not to the person, and it's generally believed that if you were willing to lose that portion of the lives of your loved ones to avoid doing time, you've already paid your sentence. It's also worth pointing out that the most heinous crimes (rape, murder, slavery, genocide, treason, etc) have no statute of limitations to them.

Passage Between Star Systems
This is where the law sees the most use, and the reasoning for that is fairly straightforward.

Revivification Liability: If you're legally dead in low passage, then the ship's doctor who fails to revive you is not legally liable for any medical negligence. In fact, part of the act of purchasing a low passage ticket is signing a waiver saying "I acknowledge that I will be dead for the duration of my low passage."

Effectively Cargo: There are specific laws against treating sapient beings like cargo, most of which are anti-slavery in nature. If low passengers are dead, then they are legally cargo, and as such can be (and often are) stacked like cordwood, don't require as many crew to look after them, etc.

Abandoning Ship: There are also Imperial regulations for live passengers in the event of an emergency, such as "There must be enough escape pods or rescue balls for all of them" and "All passengers must be taken off the ship before the crew can abandon it." It would be ridiculous to demand escape pods for people already frozen, and lethal to everyone if they had to be defrosted before abandoning ship. Since they are considered cargo, they may be abandoned with impunity.

This is not quite as monstrous as it sounds, however; remember that emergency low berths exist as a method for crew members to await rescue. This means that a low passage berth is, effectively, its own non-mobile escape pod and requires only a trickle of power. Therefore, unless the ship was catastrophically lost (exploded, crashed, fell into a gas giant, etc), both the Imperium and any corporate entity under which the ship the flying will make good-faith efforts to locate and revive passengers and crew in cold sleep.

But what about the Frozen Watch?
Good question. I have three possible solutions:
  1. The Frozen Watch is a form of non-judicial punishment that is assigned to crewmembers. This is especially useful if the ship doesn't have room for a brig. Loss of pay is also a time-honored form of NJP which dovetails nicely with not drawing a salary while being legally dead.
  2. Crewmembers can also volunteer for the Frozen Watch, usually as a means of earning extra points towards promotion, or as a way of being RIFed out, or to avoid a worse assignment while waiting for a vacancy in a school or aboard a desired ship. In this case, the volunteer is presented with what is essentially a "signing bonus" that is equal or greater than the pay he'd miss. Given that most volunteers for the Watch are either junior officers or non-senior NCOs, the long-term effects of being declared legally dead for up to a year are minimal. 
  3. In the absence of personnel from 1 and 2, time in the watch can be considered just part of regular service. It's a crap assignment that no one wants (and again, no one with seniority has to spend time in "the cold barrel"), but everyone has to perform  as part of paying their dues. In this case, time in the watch is probably around a week, and the Navy just never files the legally dead paperwork because of the aforementioned administrative hassle -- essentially, "What happens aboard ship, stays aboard ship."

Monday, March 20, 2017

Thank You For Not Squeezing the Toothpaste

One thing I've noticed about myself is that whenever I talk about being transgender in situations where the topic is not specifically on the table (such as when I was a guest speaker for MSI), I reflexively apologize for bringing it up.

My thinking goes something like this: The topic of transgenderism makes people uncomfortable and I don't want to make them uncomfortable, especially when they didn't bring the subject up... but I have a really important and relevant point to address regarding the subject, so I'm going to preemptively apologize for making them feel uncomfortable.

I'm not sure that this is a socially healthy thing for me to do because 1) it makes it seem like being trans is something rude or socially unacceptable or otherwise not subject matter for polite conversation, and 2) it reinforces a feeling, however unconsciously, that I need to apologize for being who I am.

I don't want to constantly apologize for being me. I don't need to apologize for being me, because I am neither picking their pocket nor breaking their leg, and like I said the other day I have every right to be me and don't need to beg permission for it. However, neither do I want to be obnoxious about my trans nature, waving it people's face and bringing it up in every conversation like the stereotypical vegan crossfitter who announces it to everyone.

In fact, this whole "I am trans" is basically a necessary evil to me. I'd prefer just to drop the "trans" thing entirely and just be "woman", but before that can happen society has to stop seeing gender transition as something shocking, salacious and scandalous. While transition will never achieve the same level of non-event as changing your hairstyle or wardrobe (at least not within my lifetime), I'd be happy if it was regarded with the same lack of fuss as, say giving birth: a routine procedure that is a joyous event for family members and regarded as perfectly mundane by the rest of the world. 

Sadly, the world is not at that state right now, as shown by the recent "OMG we cannot let trans people pee in the same restroom as regular people, because who knows what kind of deviance they might perpetrate, so let's institute genital checks at the door" nonsense and other legislation that singles us out as freaks. 

So I bring it up in conversation when it's relevant in order to educate people. It's not a "Hey, I'm trans, applaud me!" thing, it's a "This is a teachable moment, let's see if I can help people understand" thing. And yet, I still end up apologizing, because I don't want to be that person. I've been told that the way around this is to thank people in advance for their understanding rather than to apologize, because that sets a positive tone which makes people more inclined to listen. 

With that in mind, then, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to make a point about LGBTQ rights and how they can be used to help the cause of lawful concealed carry. 

You may have heard about how Gays Against Guns (GAG -- isn't that precious?) has spoken against the National Reciprocity bill by saying “Federal reciprocity is a direct violation of an individual state’s rights to constitutionally protect its citizens." They then followed it up with a video (which I won't link but can be seen at this article) unironically titled "Reciprocity Is An Atrocity."
Refresh my memory: didn't some churches also not want to perform same-sex marriages?
I find this is a curious position for any LGBTQ group to adopt, because do you know what else certain states banned but were forced to accept through the route of national reciprocity? Why, that would be same-sex marriage licenses. I imagine if that was up for referendum again, suddenly -- magically! -- GAG would be completely against state's rights and completely for federal reciprocity. 

So the next time you see GAG or George Takei or anyone else saying reciprocity should be abolished, tell them that they're campaigning for a law that will set a precedent for their marriages not to be recognized nationwide, and ask them if they really want to squeeze that metaphorical tube of toothpaste. 

Thank you for allowing me this teachable moment!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #135 - The Spotlight Effect

I love the thrill
In the white light
  • What's it like to be a woman in the firearms industry? Beth tells us about how she has to prove herself every day. 
  • A fire, a fire extinguisher, and a knife are the what; Sean takes a closer look at the who. 
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon. 
  • In the Main Topic, Sean and Erin talk about getting over that feeling that EVERYONE is watching you as you learn to carry concealed. 
  • Tiffany is on assignment and will return next week. 
  • We know there's no reason to read them, but Erin says that newspapers actually still have uses. 
  • He's half of the "Armed with Reason" duo, and as Weer'd will show, he's not any more intelligent or reasonable in audio form than he is in print. 
  • And our plug of the week is the Striker Control Device, aka the Glock Gadget. 
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript:
The Many Uses of Newspaper
Newspapers just aren’t taken as seriously as they once were. Between lack of readers, cost of production, and the 24/7 news cycle which is better suited to online reporting, actual newsprint is going the way of the dodo. But that doesn’t mean newspapers aren’t of use to preppers -- quite the opposite! The prepping value of a newspaper, though, is in its material and not what the rag says. 

There’s an old joke from the middle of last century which says that certain papers are only good for lining birdcages, wrapping fish, and toilet-training dogs -- and these are all good uses for the material. Newspaper is made from wood pulp, which is very absorbent, so depending on the cleanliness of the paper you can use it as an impromptu towel for drying off, or for wiping up spills, or even as field-expedient toilet paper.

But one of the best uses for old newspaper is for drying out wet shoes. Stuff them with crumpled up newspaper and leave them overnight, and in the morning the moisture will have moved from your shoes to the paper. This is a great trick to know if you’ve gotten wet and can’t start a fire.

Speaking of starting a fire, it ought to be obvious to everyone that newspapers make great firestarters. Finely-shredded bits of newspaper can serve as tinder; thin strips can serve as kindling; and rolled-up papers can even serve as fuel, if you have enough of them. Just be aware that newspaper doesn’t have much in the way of energy density; it burns quickly, unlike a log.

But newspaper can keep you warm in other ways. If you crumple it up and stick it under your clothes, it can act as insulation by trapping warm air next to your body. If you’re settling down for the night, you can further protect yourself against the elements by putting a layer underneath you to insulate you against the cold ground and absorb any moisture, and then a layer on top of you like a blanket to trap more heat and protect you from the wind, rain, and snow.  (Side note: If you’re out in the woods, you can achieve the same effect with dry leaves). You can also use newspaper to keep your home warm by wadding it into nooks and crannies and creating insulation, or taping it over windows to prevent drafts.

And finally, you can use newspaper to create a weapon. I know this sounds crazy, but apparently soccer hooligans in the UK were bringing newspapers to games and using them to create improvised clubs called “Millwall Bricks”. Watch the video in the show notes, and you’ll see that with some rolled and folded newspaper, a rock, and some taper, you can transform trash into a tomahawk that is capable of splitting a gallon milk container and denting a 55 gallon drum.

There are many things you can do with newspaper once you realize that it is, essentially, a very thin sheet of wood. While newspapers themselves may soon become obsolete, for as long as newsprint exists, there will be many uses for the material.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Being a Concealed Carrier Made Me a Better Transwoman

aka "How I Stopped Worrying That Everyone Was Staring At Me"

In this week's upcoming episode of the GunBlog VarietyCast, Sean and I talk about the Spotlight Effect and how it effects everyone the first time they carry a concealed weapon... except that it didn't happen to me at all. This is a longer version of my side of the story.

Many years ago in the early 00s, I was living the Washington D.C. metro area and I would frequently attend a goth club called Midnight. [1] Being in my 20s, going to a goth club included not only putting on the requisite black clothing, but also involved other things such as pseudo-occult symbols drawn on my skin in magic marker and sticking bits of chrome-plastic to my face with spirit gum (sort of a poor man's facial piercing that could be removed the next day, which is important if, like me, you worked in a conservative banking environment). [2]

If you've lived or worked in D.C. for any amount of time, you realize two things very quickly: The streets of D.C. are not driver friendly [3], and that the Metro system, for all its faults, is very very good at moving people into and out of D.C. Combine that with the fact that unless you have a job in the area you will pay out the ass for parking (either at meters or at private garages), and that if you're going clubbing you might at some point decide to enjoy an adult beverage or two or twelve, and it becomes pretty clear that if you're going clubbing in the capital that it's better to use public transportation than private.

I did mention that I was all dressed up in black with markings on my arms and fake piercings on my face, yes? [4] In case it wasn't obvious, dressing like this tends to attract rather a lot of attention from fellow Metro passengers. Some of it was disgust, some of it was judgement, some was just regular I've never seen anything like this before startlement and some was genuine people-watching, but all of it made me feel like a bug under a magnifying glass. 

But here's the thing: despite all the staring, only once did I ever have anyone try to start shit with me (and in that case, I was with friends so it didn't turn physical because we didn't engage with him). And I learned a few things from this experience:
  1. People may stop and stare, but most won't say or do anything. 
  2. There is a powerful strength in realizing "Yes, I'm dressed unusually, but I'm not doing anything illegal. If anyone tries to stop me, they are the ones in the wrong."
  3. You'd be amazed at what you can do if your attitude isn't "Please allow me to do this" but rather "I'm doing this thing because it's my right."
Now if you're a concealed carrier, I suspect those three points are also lessons you learned during your first month or so of carry. I didn't have to, because being a goth made me a better concealed carrier. Yes, I know, I am weird.

Want to know what's weirder? Being a concealed carrier made me a better transwoman. Carrying concealed -- not having a pistol, mind you, but the act of carrying itself -- made me more confident, and that confidence has carried over so that I feel it even when I'm not carrying. For example, when I visited Maryland earlier this month, I went to brunch with friends of mine while dressed in a skirt and blouse, and according my friend Cathy, the server called me "ma'am" without blinking. While some of you might say that's just professionalism on the server's part, the difference is the "without blinking" part: If she was taken aback but still called me ma'am, that would be professionalism; doing it without blinking, i.e. without even noticing I was passing, means I "leveled up" in my How To Be A Woman In Public skill. And the biggest reason for that is what I learned as a concealed carrier.

After carrying concealed for any length of time, most of us realize that the average person is so self-absorbed that they won't look for concealed weapons (and probably wouldn't even notice if your pistol was exposed) and that the only people who really look for concealed weapons are other concealed carriers and police officers. [5]

The fears that trans and crossdressing people have --
  • "Will that man in line behind me notice the bra strap under my shirt?" 
  • "Will that woman notice I'm not as adept in heels as she is?" 
  • "Will people notice my beard shadow/adam's apple/deep voice?" [6]
  • "What do I do if a stranger asks me if I'm really a man?"
  • "What happens if a police officer pulls me over and asks for my ID while I'm en femme?" 
-- are nearly identical to the fears that newly-minted concealed carriers have:
  • "Will that person notice I'm carrying?"
  • "I keep adjusting my holster, did anyone notice?"
  • "Am I printing?"
  • "What do I do if a stranger asks me if I'm carrying?"
  • "What happens if a police officer pulls me over while I'm carrying?"

And the answers to both sets of questions are pretty universal:
  • Who cares? You're not breaking the law. 
  • Probably not, but keep practicing; you'll get better. 
  • Probably not, but unless you're in a no-printing state like Texas, who cares?
  • You smile sweetly and tell them that it's none of their business. 
  • You smile at the officer and hand over your ID (in duty to inform states, hand over your CWP as well), because -- aside from whatever you did that got you pulled over -- you aren't doing anything wrong. 
I just think it's odd and funny that concealed carriers and transgenders/crossdressers, who we have been exist at far different ends of the spectrum, have the same damn fears when they start out and learn essentially the same damn lesson: So long as you've put some work into passing and don't draw attention to it, no one is going to notice or care. 

So my advice for anyone who wants to get over their fear of carrying in public is "Try crossdressing. You'll be surprised at few people notice, and how few care if they do notice because most of those who notice are doing the same thing you are."

[1]1707 L Street NW, in case it's still there, but I don't think it is. I talked about my experiences at Midnight in this blog post.

[2] I was in my late 20s and it seemed the thing to do. I'm not apologizing or making excuses, because I'm not ashamed by this. I'm just explaining what was going through my mind at the time.

[3] D.C. was built on a malarial swamp by a Frenchman. I have also been told that L'enfant designed the streets so that an invading army could not easily reach the capital, and my driving experience bears this out. Then there's the fact that when I was there, the street signs were so poorly lit that (in the days before cell phone GPS) you couldn't easily tell if the next street was where you needed to turn until you were practically right on top of it, meaning that if you were going at the speed of traffic you'd need to pull a VERY hard right turn or risk having the car behind you crawl up your ass. Combine ALL THAT with the fact that D.C. is simply rotten with one-way streets and "no right/left turns" and you get a city where, if you miss your turn or make a wrong one, you're screwed for at least 15 minutes.

[4] There may somewhere be pictures of me all gothed up. No, you will not be seeing them. Again, not because I am ashamed, but because this was before I realized I was trans.

[5] When I was attending MAG40, my roommate and I were in the hotel breakfast area playing "Spot the concealed carrier." We scored 100%.

[6] Yes, these questions are male-to-female centric, because honestly no one in our culture gives a damn if a woman dresses as a man.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

I Have Important Information That I Will Be Releasing

... or so that's what she said. Currently, there are two narratives going on regarding Rachel Maddow and the tax returns.

For whoever may have missed it, Rachel Maddow tweeted this:

This tweet got 85 thousand retweets and over 165 thousand likes. Less than an hour later, she tweeted this:

17 thousands retweets. 36 thousand likes. The point that I'm making here is that Rachel Maddow worded a tweet as if it were an atomic bomb she was about to drop on the President, only to later clarify to a much smaller audience that was already dedicated to tuning into her show that it was something completely irrelevant from over a decade ago that had absolutely zero detail.

As to the media narratives I mentioned earlier: Right-leaning media is having a laugh over it, as evidenced by The Daily Mail and The Daily Caller, while Left-leaning media is gamergating their own audiences, attacking them for getting hyped over being promised that they were getting a smoking gun, seen here at The Huffington Post and The Mary Sue. More reasonable, less extremist outlets are trying to dissect and report on what's happened, and I have to hand them some respect for that.

I'd still like to point out that The Hill's piece on Maddow, getting 4.1 million viewers for the biggest television version of clickbait that I've seen since Geraldo Rivera's underground adventure, garnered them less views than an average PewDiePie video.

I think, though, that the best coverage of this has to go to Stephen Colbert. I miss Stephen from his days pretending to be the Right-wing version of John Oliver (I'm still disappointed that John Oliver isn't a character like Colbert was). Enjoy below!

That's it for me this week. I spent most of it off-schedule for undisclosed reasons, so I hurt all over. I'm going to go take a nap. I'll probably sleep better than Rachel Maddow is right now.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

WNW: Alas, Poor Alexa?

What do you get when you combine Amazon's Alexa with a three-axis talking skull? This:

I feel like it needs more atmospherics to become truly disturbing. Perhaps an enclosure to give the illusion that the skull is floating; perhaps an artificial flame effect to evoke the appearance of a bound, damned soul.

The creator (artificer?) lists the specifications here, if you want to build one of your own.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Operation Blazing Sword Patches

I believe there was a desire for Blazing Sword patches?

This is a prototype of a 4" tall printed canvas OBS patch:
If you would like one, please contact William Hilton at Orders will be accepted through the weekend -- he's placing the production order on March 20 -- so get yours now!

Each patch costs $9 each and includes shipping. Any overages will be donated to Operation Blazing Sword. 

EDIT: the deadline has been extended until April 3. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #134 - Condiments and Cutlery

In Mordor on the Potomac, only criminals can carry guns.
  • People are so fixated on being "Nice" that Beth thinks they've lost sight of the real goal: being Good.
  • When a suspect ends an hour-long standoff by shooting himself, is that a good resolution? Sean tells you who the suspect was so you can decide for yourself.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • In the Main Topic, Erin tells us about her trip to Maryland Shall Issue.
  • Tiffany is on assignment and will return next week.
  • It's good for your tea and it's good for hypoglycemia - Erin tells you about honey in your EDC.
  • When someone tries to open an indoor gun range in Northern New Jersey, the anti-gun nuts lose their minds. Join Weer'd as he listens to their proposed "Reasonable" restrictions.
  • And our plug of the week is for War Stories Podcast.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript:
Hypoglycemia and Honey
I had an interesting experience when at MAG40: one of the students, who is diabetic, started experiencing hypoglycemia, and I had that prepper moment of “OH I HAVE JUST THE THING FOR THIS!” glee. 

For those who don’t know, if you have diabetes you are prone to two types of blood sugar problems: too much and too little. 

Too much blood sugar is known as hyperglycemia. As  a diabetic friend of mine puts it, “Hyperglycemia is when your sugar hits 400 or so, and you get a little crazy, then you pass out, and unless you get insulin, you die.”  Most preppers don’t have access to insulin - you need a prescription for it - and because it’s light sensitive and requires refrigeration, you can’t carry it around in your first aid kit. There are some shelf-stable things which help, like glipizide, but it’s also prescription. So unless you’re diabetic yourself, or a licensed EMT, if  someone else experiences hyperglycemia the only thing you can do is call 911 and hope an ambulance gets there in time.

However, the other side of this tightrope is hypoglycemia, which is “your blood sugar drops through the floor, you get crazy, then pass out and die” according to that same friend. But unlike hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia is very easy to fix: just give that person some sugar. Now, the fastest way to do that is with a glucose IV, but again, unless you’re a licensed professional with medical gear, you won’t be carrying that around. But there are other ways to get that sugar into their system quickly. 

The key word here is “quickly”. Many sugary snacks are made with sucrose, also known as table sugar. Sucrose is actually a compound of two other sugars, glucose and fructose, and before those sugars can get into the body they must be separated via a digestive enzyme within the small intestine. Now there are many bad things to be said about high-fructose corn syrup, but one good thing about it is that is doesn’t need that enzyme to get into the body. So if you have a soda nearby, that’s a good way to get sugar into a hypoglycemic person, but soda cans a large and not really a convenient part of a first aid kit. 

Which brings me to what I had in my first aid kit at MAG40: a sealed tube of honey. Honey is amazing for different reasons: one of those reasons is that it doesn’t go bad, ever. Another reason is that is contains both glucose and fructose, but they aren’t linked, meaning that they absorb into the body faster than sucrose. So when I noticed my friend wasn’t well, and people were looking for sugar to give her, I ran to the blowout kit in my range bag, got the stick of honey, cut the end off with a knife, and squeezed the honey into her mouth. 

I’m not going to say that it saved her, because there were plenty of other people there helping, but I know for a fact it didn’t didn’t hurt her. More importantly -- which is why I’m sharing this with you folks, because I’m not telling this story as an “Oh, aren’t I awesome” moment -- it showed me that it wasn’t dumb to have a container of honey in my medical supplies. 9.3 percent of Americans have diabetes, so odds are good that you know someone who has the disease and might need help with a hypoglycemic episode. Be  prepared for that!

You can buy 100 sticks of clover honey for only $16.95 from Amazon. They’re 6.5 inches and contain 5 grams of honey each, so they fit easily inside a purse, backpack, or first aid kit. They’re shelf-stable and won’t go bad in high heat or humidity, so make them a part of your everyday carry. Even if you never need to help a diabetic, you can always use them to sweeten to your coffee or tea. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

He Will Not Divide Us REEEE He Will Not Divide Us REEEE He Will Not Divide Us REEEE

Two great disappointments happened to me recently.

Disappointment the first: Shia LeBouf's planned four-year "art" installation #HeWillNotDivideUs relocated to Albuquerque after the Museum of the Moving Image kicked him out when he was arrested for assaulting fellow protesters. Disappointment the second: he was gone from Albuquerque inside of a week and I missed it entirely.

I had a week's vacation earlier in February, as you may have noticed from my absence, and I had meant to go see the installation, if only to have a laugh at his expense. I'm all for public protest, as long as it's peaceful protest (see my recent rants on Antifa), and if Shia wants to spend the next four years cosplaying as a homeless person in downtown Albuquerque then by god I want to witness it in person when our own union of homeless people find him.

Trolls flooded his original installation at the museum in NYC, as expected. For a city with over eight million people, you've got to have at least a few tens of thousands of trolls, and even Twitch streamer Brittany Venti got in on the act. But the breaking blow came when Shia mistook one of his supporters for a troll and assaulted him, resulting in his arrest.

Seriously normies, get off Brittany's stream.
Please keep in mind that I cannot stand Shia LeBouf. His role in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull put a damper on a movie that was already completely unnecessary, and my love of the sentient robots of the Transformers franchise was insulted with Michael Bay's movies. Moreso even than the humping dogs, annoying parents, robots peeing on people, and racial stereotypes was Shia LeBouf, with his smug stupid face overacting his pants off shrieking incoherently and bashing things at every opportunity. My distaste of him was so much so that I considered the last Transformers movie, Age of Extinction, to be the best of a bad franchise (which runs contrary to popular opinion) if only because the main human protagonist was replaced by a bland Mark Wahlberg. Aside from these I have never seen Shia in anything else, save an extremely strange and slight discomforting music video where he rather aggressively dances in a cage with a prepubescent girl.

So yeah, when the trolls came for him, I was not disappointed. Please see reference material below, and a fair warning of people acting the fool.
So Shia upped roots and moved to Albuquerque, the biggest city in a rather sparse Blue state, where he thought he'd be safe and welcome. I'd made plans to visit the installation on a Wednesday during my vacation, but it turns out that there'd been gunshots in the vicinity (just off of 7th and Central, off of old Route 66) just days prior. The local news reported on it, and their statement was that he left after gunshots were reported in the area.

Welcome to the ABQ, Shia; didn't you see Breaking Bad? Gunshots are kinda the norm here. If you can't take a little small arms fire, you won't last long in Albuquerque. Honestly, I'm surprised we're not more progressive. Our cops shoot everyone, not just the brown people.

Shia's Homeless Person Cosplay
So I'm genuinely disappointed. I wanted to see the #HeWillNotDivideUs installation in person. I wanted to laugh at homeless-cosplaying Shia. But I missed my chance by mere days. And I think that makes me dislike Shia even more: more than being the stain on two beloved franchises and an all-around annoying human being, his cowardice at a normal occurrence in flyover country deprived me of a good laugh. I can only imagine that, somewhere right now, Shia is walking down a lonely highway with the closing theme of the old Hulk TV show playing into the wireless earbuds of his latest model of iPhone, having utterly failed to connect to the common person.

Update: /pol/ has found it. Shia moved the livestream to an undisclosed location and, using the position of the stars and the flight paths of three planes, /pol/ has discovered that what remains of #HeWillNotDivideUs is a white flag with the slogan on it and a camera pointed at it, somewhere southeast of Greeneville, TN. This was discovered in less than 24 hours, and the results posted less than 4 hours ago. The proof is in the pudding. I have to wonder if the white flag is symbolic of anything. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Range Time as Tax-Deductible Donation

For a while now I've been working a way for Operation Blazing Sword instructors to count the expenses incurred from taking an LGBTQ student shooting as a charitable donation. I'm pleased to be able to give you an answer now, courtesy of OBS Legal Counsel:

Multiple Contributions
Generally, if a donor makes multiple contributions during the year, each of which is less than $250, no substantiation form is necessary. Nevertheless, the donor must observe the minimum recordkeeping requirements, such as retaining canceled checks or simple contributions. See below if a donor makes multiple contributions during the year and more than one is equal to or greater than $250, one substantiation can be used for the total amount. Treas Reg 1.170A-13(f)(1).

Written Acknowledgment of Donor Expenses
Donors who incur out-of-pocket expenses of $250 or more when rendering services to a charitable organization and intend to deduct these expenses must also obtain written acknowledgement from the organization. The acknowledgment for expenses incurred need only describe the services provided by the donor and the value of good services provided in return (or a statement that none were provided); it need not include the date of the services. Treas Reg 1.170A-13(f)(10).

Example: A youth leader attends an annual youth event, incurs expenses for food, lodging , and travel exceeding $250. To deduct these out-of-pocket expenses, the individual will need a written statement from the youth organization describing the event and the leader’s participation.

What This Means For You
  1. If you take an LGBTQ student shooting and your expenses (ammunition, range fees, targets, etc) are less than $250 per trip, then you just claim that on your taxes. You'd better keep a record, though. 
  2. If you spend more than $250 per trip (or maybe you're making banners with the OBS logo on them for a county fair or whatever), then you need to send us a copy of the receipt. We will then send you a thank-you letter acknowledging your donation.
This will cover any LGBTQ shooting sessions since last summer, and you have this information well before tax time. If you need a letter, just email me and I'll be happy to accomodate you.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A Transcript of my MSI Address

To my brothers and sisters in occupied Maryland, I bring you greetings from free America! Shortly after becoming a 2nd Amendment rights activist, I swore that I would never set foot in a state that did not respect my inherent right to armed self-defense. As you can see, I have broken that oath, but I have done so with the best of intentions: to bring you a message of freedom, of solidarity, and of hope. I don't know if I could live in a state like this, but I'm glad that you do; so many gun owners leave states with restrictive firearm laws. While I cannot blame them, by leaving they make it easier for further restrictions to be passed; you, however, have chosen to stay and to fight for the right to keep and bear arms.

My name is Erin Palette, and I am the founder of Operation Blazing Sword and the Diversity Outreach Coordinator for Florida Carry. I like to refer to myself as "a Venn intersection of oddity", because  my political positons are seen by many as mutually exclusive: I am a gun owner who believes in LGBTQ rights, and a transgender woman who believes in the right to keep and bear arms.

The reason this may seem odd to you is because Americans have for decades been told that gun owners exist on the far right, and that the LGBTQ community is on the far left, and between these two positions is a stark cultural divide and therefore both sides can never agree on anything. This is of course pure nonsense: if you believe as I do that both gun rights and gay rights are civil rights, you see that there is quite a bit of overlap. Come to the Libertarian side, it's great.

Given my audience, I think I can skip my argument regarding why gun rights are civil rights, yes? Excellent, on to LGBTQ rights.
Ah, I see that some of you are shifting uncomfortably. Don't worry, I'm not here to wag my finger at you or lecture about gay marriage. I'm just going to give you some information you didn't have.

According to a 2012 poll, approximately 3.4 percent of Americans self-identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. To put that into perspective, as of the 2010 census 4.7% of Americans are ethnically Asian! However, despite being such a small percentage of the population, we are in fact disproportionately vulnerable to violence. According to a 2014 study by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), 20-25% of LGBTQ people experience hate crimes within their lifetimes.

A full quarter of only 3.4% of Americans are likely to be victims of violent crime, including assault, rape and murder – the most spectacular example of which being the Pulse terror attack in Orlando last year – and so, given this, you would think that the LGBTQ community would decide the best way to keep itself safe would be to learn how to use a gun and carry a lawfully concealed weapon... but it doesn't, and I'll explain why.

But first, a bit of a sidebar here. I understand that saying LGBTQ is a mouthful. I can do it because I've practiced it. But if you don't want to stumble over it like President Trump did during his campaign – and God bless him, he tried – here are two things you can do.
  1. Think of it like the name of a Star Wars character: Elgee Beeteeque. Any geeks here? If you can say the name of Jedi Master Ki-Adi-Mundi, then you can pronounce LGBTQ. Who wants to give it a try?
  2. If all else fails, just say "The queer community." Use the term queer because it's not specific to sexual orientation or to gender identity, and it's an umbrella term that can encompass a lot of people without either specifically defining them or excluding them. 
So now if anyone asks you, "Hey, what did you learn at the Maryland Shall Issue meeting Saturday, you can tell them "I learned that the queer community is a Star Wars character."

All right, back to why the queer community eschews firearms. Remember when I said that only 3.4% of Americans are LGBTQ? That's a small sample of such a large country, and like most demographics, we like to hang out with each other – in fact, it's necessary for a lot of us if we're ever going to find partners, husbands or wives. While the internet is great for this sort of thing, please keep in mind that the internet is a relatively recent invention, wheras people seeking homosexual partners have been around for much longer than that, and for much of that time it was not only culturally unacceptable but also illegal. Therefore, it it follows that a gay man seeking other gay men would not stay in a rural area where it would be impossible to find a companion, but would instead move to a big city where the attitudes are more cosmopolitan and sheer population density put the odds of finding a mate in his favor.

As queer demographics favor the urban of the rural, so do queer politics, and this resultes in supporting the politics of the Democratic party which also exalts the city over the countryside. This support was richly rewarded in the 1960s, 70s and 80s when the Democrats became the champions of the gay movement.

As we all know, the Democratic party is not favorably disposed towards the right of the individual citizen to keep and bear arms, and so the political culture of the LGBTQ community also began to see gun control as desirable and gun ownership as violent and gauche. Thus, the reluctance of queer Americans to arm themselves for lawful self-defense is the result of identity politics – although to be perfectly fair, using identity politics to advance the status of such a small and easily victimized group is quite understandable.
Then the Terror Attack upon Pulse happened on June 12, 2016, and everything changed because the queer community saw themselves attacked as a demographic. Prior to this, violence against LGBTQ individuals was seen as precisely that – individual. While it was understood that hate crimes happened, the perception was that they happened to queer persons in specific circumstances; in other words, it was seen as a very personal form of attack. An excellent example of this is what is known as "gay panic":  Your honor, I was just minding my business in this bar when that gay man came up and started making passes at me, and I was just so disgusted I panicked and beat him. There's a similar version known as "trans panic": Your honor, I took this girl back to my hotel room, and when I lifted her skirt I saw a penis, and I was just so disgusted that I panicked and beat him. 

But the Pulse Massacre was different; the shooter didn't attack a specific queer person, he attacked every person in that club. This shocked our community, not just because it was brutal and barbaric and cowardly, but also because we realized It really could happen to any of us, at any time, in any place.

Now I'd like to take a moment to make a very specific point here. I do not believe the LGBTQ community is in more danger now that it was before Pulse; this is rather like saying that America was in more danger from al-Qaeda on September 12, 2001 than it was on September 10. No, the danger was always there; it just required a shocking act to shake us from our reverie and get us to see it.

Speaking of terrorism, after the Pulse Terror Attack, something remarkable happened: the Democratic party – the party of gay rights – threw the queer community under the bus by refusing to call what happened at Pulse a hate crime or a terrorist attack. Many in my community realized that the party which they had supported would not protect them because it feared the political backlash of calling the Pulse murderer a Muslim killing homosexuals in accordance with his religion, or of suggesting that he was questioning his own sexuality and lashed out in his own form of "gay panic", and felt betrayed. More than a few queers looked at how long it took the police to stop the killing and thought You know, instead of being at the mercy of a madman for hours, maybe I'd like the personal agency to defend myself. This was a watershed moment in the history of queers and guns.

But remember, the queer community at large hates the notion of citizens engaging in armed self-defense, as shown by the post-Pulse remarks of George Takei and the rise of anti-gun LGBTQ activist groups like New York-based Gays Against Guns. There is such stigma against owning a firearm that admitting you are a queer gun owner is known as "coming out of the gun closet" and it carries nearly identical results to coming out last century: social ostracism, loss of friendships and/or jobs within the community, and even a technique known as "naming, shaming, and blaming".

So gun-curious LGBTQs find themselves in a precarious situation: in order to learn, they must out themselves as wanting to shoot guns before they have the opportunity to truly commit to gun ownership. Further, to whom do they go for instruction? Most queer gun owners are deep in the gun closet. Moreover, the gun-curious cannot easily get instruction outside their community; just like we have been taught that the LGBTQ community hates us and wants to forcibly disarm us, they've been taught that gun owners are all – sing along with me if you know the words – right-wing heterosexual white males who of course just HATE "dem fags" and want to see them all dead. So gun-curious queers don't feel SAFE, let alone comfortable, going to a shooting range and getting instruction, or walking into a gun store and asking advice, because they've been told that gun owners are so hateful and violent that they'd as soon shoot a queer as look at one.
This is where I come in. On June 13th, the Monday after it happened, I noticed something remarkable: gun owners across social media were posting not only messages and pictures of support, but they were also offering to take to the range, FOR FREE, anyone who wanted to learn how to shoot in self-defense. They were offering to provide everything: the guns, the ammunition, the ear and eye protection, the targets, pay for the range fees – EVERYTHING – because human life was precious and everyone, including their political opponents, deserved the ability to defend themselves effectively. And I was amazed that during all the finger-pointing, people who were supposed to be ideological enemies with the victims – people who, according to the media, should have been chortling about fewer votes against gun control – were instead reaching across the political divide to say "Hey, you have value. Your life matters to me. I want you to be able to defend it. If you want to learn, I want to teach you."

Now as I've said before, my feet are in two different camps – the 2nd Amendment activism camp and the LGBTQ rights camp – and I thought, "These offers are beautiful, but their intended audience isn't going to see them. I just happen to be one of the few people who has the ear of both groups. I'm going to compile a master list of all the people offering to help so it can be seen and shared by the queer community."
And so I began typing up a list of the names, cities and states, and contact information of the volunteer firearm instructors on Facebook. I expected that I'd get a couple dozen names and that would be it. Well, I started writing at 2:30 in the afternoon; when I finally crawled into bed 12 hours later, the post had become a Google map with around 100 instructors in various states across the country, and I'd acquired assistants to add the names for me because they were coming in faster than I could keep up with. In the first few days after Pulse, I would regularly wake up with over 100 new emails in my inbox.
That was the birth of Operation Blazing Sword, and it has only continued to grow since then. We now have over 1,420 trainers in our database; they are in every single state of the union – yes, even Hawaii – as well as the US Virgin Island and even Canada. We are international!
Right now, our goal is very simple: to offer free firearm safety education and training without judgement to anyone who wants it, regardless of their color, gender, sexual orientation, biology, or manner of dress. This wording is very important for several reasons.
  1. Education –  The left says they don't believe in abstinence-only sex education, so why do they insist upon abstinence-only firearms education? We disagree with that approach and believe that knowledge is critical to make an informed decision. We don't pressure our students to buy a firearm; if, after getting instruction, they decide that firearms aren't for them, that's fine – they've still made a decision based on facts and experience, not fear & what they've been told to feel by the media. Moreover, they've still learned the lessons of safe gun handling (such as Col. Cooper's Four Rules) which is important knowledge for any adult in America. 
  2. Free – After any gun-related tragedy, sales of firearms and ammunition increase and both the NRA and the gun lobby are accused of “Selling to Fear” and “Profiting off death” – but our instruction is FREE. If it's free, we can't be selling anything, Operation Blazing Sword is a nonprofit organization so we do not and literally cannot profit from any of this.  Also, the cost of training – firearm rental, ammunition costs, range fees, instructor time, etc – can be a barrier to entry for students who do not know if they want to try this. It's one thing to try something new if it costs you nothing; it's completely different if trying something new carries with it a $50 or more price tag. This reluctance is only increased when there is already social pressure against learning about guns, as I mentioned earlier. Making this basic instruction free removes another barrier to learning.
  3. Anyone – While Operation Blazing Sword's message is tailored to reaching out to LGBTQ people, we will in fact teach basic gun safety and operation to anyone who is legally able to hold a firearm. We do not discriminate; we are simply making an extra, specific effort to get the word out to the queer community that they are welcome to fight the cultural conditioning that had told them that they aren't welcome. But extra effort does not  mean “only queers are welcome”; if a straight white man wants training, we'll gladly do it.
Now I am often asked “How many queers has Operation Blazing Sword taught to shoot?” and the answer is that I don't know, because I respect their privacy! I'm not going to force  them to out themselves to me. However, some students are so enthusiastic about being empowered – or by their new, fun hobby of shooting – that some have contacted me to thank me, or to praise a trainer. I personally know of 5 students who have gone on to acquire concealed carry permits, and I operate on the principle that for every known student there is at least another who wishes to keep quiet. My biggest success is in fact Operation Blazing Sword's first ever student, a transgender man in North Carolina. After instruction, he bought a pistol; acquired a concealed carry permit; bought a hunting rifle and permit and began harvesting deer; and he has even started his own OBS chapter in Raleigh, spreading the message to other gun-curious queer students and helping to teach them.
Speaking of chapters, I need to clear up a very common confusion: we are not a branch of the Pink Pistols. We are sister organizations with similar goals but very different methodologies. For example:
  1. They are specifically a social organization for queer shooters; we seek to pair students with teachers regardless of orientation.
  2. They are local, we are national. Pink Pistols have no national leadership, only city-level chapters, and some states have no chapters at all. There is no Pink Pistol chapter anywhere in Maryland – the closest that I can find is a restricted Yahoo group that requires membership before one can join, which makes, y'know, attending a meeting rather difficult – but there are 18 OBS instructors in MD alone, including your own John Mountjoy.
  3. Our focus is on initial education and training; Pink Pistol chapters are more focused on being a shooting club. This is good because they keep LGBTQ shooters interested in the hobby and active in politics through events and camaraderie. My hope is that after we train hew gun owners, those people go on to join – or found! – Pink Pistol chapters.
Another frequent question I get is “What are your goals for the future of your organization?” And that's a wide open question. In the immediate future, I'd like to be able to offer fully-funded safety seminars, range days and concealed carry classes on a city scale – such as by buying out a shooting range in Orlando and making its services free to anyone who wants Blazing Sword instruction. Futher in the future, I'd like to branch out to other demographics who find training difficult, such as the the elderly  and the handicapped, and teaching them firearm safety.
If you would like to donate to Operation Blazing Sword, you have several options:
  1. Paypal link – you can send us money via
  2. Send a physical check to 800 Belle Terre Parkway #200-302, Palm Coast FL 32164
  3. Or take someone shooting for free!
Thank you for your attention. I will now open the floor up for any questions you may have.

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