breaks your goddamn heart

— So did you hear about Thousand Oaks? The mass…
— Yeah.
— You hear about the kid who survived the mass murder at Vegas only to…
— Yeah, I heard. Tel Orfanos.
— Is that his name? You see the video of his mother talking to…
— Yeah. Saw it.
— Breaks your goddamn heart.
— Yeah.
— Guns, man. I dunno.

— Thing is, the shooter? He wasn’t mentally unstable enough to be committed. So he could legally buy and own a…
— Just stop.
— What?
— Just fucking stop.
— What?
— Stop with the ‘nobody knew he was that disturbed’ shit. I’m sick of hearing it.
— I’m just saying maybe there should be some sort of law where people who aren’t unstable enough to be committed but are still pretty fucking unstable should…
— There is.
— There is what?
— There IS a fucking law. In California. Right now. A gun violence restraining order law. It allows law enforcement to temporarily disarm somebody who’s shown dangerous behavior, even if it’s not extreme enough to commit them.
— Seriously?
— Yeah. They passed the law after the Isla Vista mass murder.
— Which one was that? I can’t keep track of all…
— Elliot Rodger.
— Why do I know that name?
— He’s the patron saint of the incel movement.
— Aw, fuck.
— Yeah.
— So they…
— Yeah. After this guy went on a killing spree because he hated women California passed a law to disarm angry dangerous people who’ve demonstrated a capacity and a propensity toward violence.
— But they haven’t enforced it?

— No, I guess not. I wonder why. Maybe the law is just unpopular?
— Let’s ask Tel Orfanos’ mother.

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march 4 our rights, sorta kinda, maybe

You guys, did you know gun rights are human rights? No? Well, the reason you don’t know that is on account of you weren’t one of the thousands hundreds dozens of people who showed up at the thirteen (13!) student-led ‘March 4 Our Rights’ events last weekend.

You probably think the only student-led gun rallies are those led by gun-hating high school drama students with skinny arms or bald brown lesbian heads who want to take everybody’s guns, melt them down, and turn them into dildos and instruments to be used in abortions. But no! Some students love guns. And they totally love the Second Amendment. Also, America.

The March for Our Rights in Washington, DC (well, it was hot that day, and people were tired from staying up late and torturing pets by shooting fireworks on the 4th of July).

The Chairwoman and National Director of ‘March 4 Our Rights’, Xena Amirani, said her movement is “organic, which is in stark differentiation with the marches held by Parkland gun control activists.” Organic, you guys! Like avocados. You can tell the movement is organic and totally trendy because just look at how they replaced ‘for’ with the numeral 4, just like the cool kids do. And as everybody knows, all those anti-gun rallies and marches are phony and paid for by the two Georges (Soros and Clooney) who want the American people disarmed in order to…you know, something.

Chairwoman Xena Amirani with organic flower.

Sadly for Amirani, her prediction that “thousands of students” would take part in the ‘March 4 Our Rights’ were maybe a tad optimistic. Or delusional. Maybe three dozen people attended the D.C. event. About 35 people showed up at the Chicago rally. And in Palm Beach, Florida there were only 13 (including the organizer, the three speakers, and the parents of the speakers). The organizer of the Palm Beach rally said,

“I don’t know why more people didn’t show up. I think a lot of conservatives are just afraid to show up for public events.”

I don’t know…maybe they wouldn’t be quite so afraid to show up for public events if there weren’t so many crazy fuckers running around Florida toting concealed firearms? Also maybe people didn’t show up because most folks think we don’t really need to keep arming those crazy fuckers. Just an opinion.

In case of domestic enemies. Or brown people. Or in case…what’s that guy got in his knapsack?

The problem, according to these students, is that their views are not being taken into consideration in the debate about school shootings. They just want to be heard. Instead, their call to “take back our gun rights” is met with a chorus of “What, are you fucking nuts? Take back your…just fuck off, okay?” Their complaints of “I’m being SO discriminated against and my friends don’t want to spend time with me anymore just because I love America and guns more than I care about them getting all shot up probably by a mentally ill immigrant and stuff, it’s not fair” receive shockingly little sympathy. Their heartfelt plea to part of the conversation is so often turned away by inconsiderate others who are unable to concentrate on the conversation because they don’t know who the fuck is carrying and what have you got in that backpack, anyway?

You see, gun rights advocates just want to start a dialog. Just a friendly dialog. A dialog in which they’re carrying a gun. Just in case you’re carrying a gun. A friendly dialog, so long as nobody makes an unexpected move. Or looks like they might make an unexpected move. Because c’mon, you can’t trust people; they might be some crazy fucker from Florida.

spink spink spink

Okay, I’ve come up with a plan to put an end to mass murder events. After the most recent mass killing (and it’s the sad nature of mass killings that the phrase ‘the most recent’ becomes meaningless almost immediately — so just to be clear, I’m talking about the mass murder of journalists and support staff at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, MD on 28 June), I knew we had to do something. I mean, thoughts and prayers just aren’t getting the job done.

I think we need to try a new approach. Bracelets of Submission.

Okay, I admit, I see some branding issues there. That ‘submission’ business would make it hard to market. But you see, that’s the actual name for Wonder Woman’s cuffs. The Amazons of Paradise Island wore them as a symbol of their loving submission to the goddess Aphrodite. They also served as a reminder to the Amazons ‘of the folly of submitting to men’.

So yeah, that goddess and submission business might discourage some folks. But I think we just need to shift attention to the bracelets’ awesome ricochet properties. I mean, these things are made from Amazonium, which everybody knows is the industry standard for deflecting projectiles. Not only that, the bracelets are imbued with magic that makes them impermeable to fire, invulnerable to traditional weaponry, immune to blasts of energy, resistant to deceleration trauma (as a result of, say, falling from a great height), and can repel ticks and prevent insect bites. Plus, can you say fashion forward?

But granted, we’d have to rebrand them as something other than Bracelets of Submission. Maybe we could call them Second Amendment Cuffs. Or what about MAGA Bangles? No, wait, I’ve got it. Freedom Gauntlets. Yeah, that would work. 

So I propose we issue Amazonium Freedom Gauntlets to every citizen of school age (at the very least, to those who have health insurance coverage) and hey, bingo, problem solved. Angry white guy breaks into school and starts shooting? Spink spink spink until the police arrive. Angry white guy walks into your place of employment? Spink spink spink and a bit of patience and it’s all over. Angry white guy attacks a women’s health clinic? Spink spink spink and maybe a couple more spinks. Angry white guy shoots up a gay nightclub or a mosque or a pizza parlor? Spink spink, bitches.

Spink spink spink, bitches.

Now, some folks will say this is silly. Some folks will say I’m making light of a terrible situation. Some folks will say I’m mocking the notion of thoughts and prayers.

All of those folks are right. It is silly, it is making light of a terrible situation, and I’m totally mocking thoughts and prayers as a response to mass shootings. Thoughts and prayers are no more effective at mass murder prevention than magical Amazonian Freedom Gauntlets. The response of the United States to gun violence deserves to be mocked.

Because we know this to be true: five men and women were killed couple of days ago by yet another angry white guy who legally purchased the weapon he used to kill them, and aside from the ritual thoughts and prayers, absolutely nothing will be done to reduce the likelihood that it will happen again tomorrow. Nothing.

forgetting

Yesterday we had the school shooting. Today we’ll name the victims. We’ll create a makeshift memorial, with teddy bears and balloon hearts, with heartfelt handwritten notes and painfully sincere poems, with photos of the dead before they became the generic dead. Today we’ll swear to remember them and keep them in our hearts and prayers forever.

“To the students, families, teachers and personnel at Santa Fe High School – we are with you in this tragic hour, and we will be with you forever…” — President Comrade Donald J. Trump

Like so much of what Trump says, this isn’t true. We won’t be with the victims and their families forever. Tomorrow — maybe later today — we’ll start the forgetting.

Not the parents, of course. Not their family members and their friends. They actually will remember the dead and grieve for them. But the rest of us? Well, school shootings are like buses; another one will come along pretty soon. Most of us will retain a better memory of the last bus we took than we will of individual victims of any school shooting.

We’ll forget. That’s just a fact. Back in December of 2013, on the anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre, I made a similar comment about another school shooting victim.

Yes, a 17-year old girl got shot, but if it weren’t for the Sandy Hook anniversary thing, the national news media would probably have ignored it. Still, they did what they could with what they had. They emphasized the Cute White Girl Who Loved Horses angle, making her a classic innocent victim. They found some really nice high school photos of her. What was her name? Kaylee? Claire? Callie? Something like that — pretty sure it starts with a ‘k’ sound. She got shot in the head. With a shotgun. Nobody wants to hear about that. And nobody other than her friends and family will remember her in a couple of weeks. Same with what’s-his-name, the school shooter. Karl.

Her name was Claire Davis. She died ten days after she was shot. She and the shooter were the only physical casualties of that event. In the discussion that followed that post, I was taken to task by the mother of one of Claire’s classmates.

“Claire died and a entire community cares. My daughter was in that school. Many students will have post traumatic stress disorder due to this shooting. We care about this and it has nothing to do with the media. You came across very callous in this post and whatever you tried to communicate got lost in that.”

That, sadly, is exactly what I tried to communicate: that we’ve become callous, that we’ve become numbed by the sheer number of mass killings. There are so many mass killings and so many victims — so many dead, so many wounded and maimed — that as a nation, we can’t keep track of them. We identify them as individuals shortly after they’ve been killed; we give their names, we mention something specific about them in an effort to stress the magnitude of the loss, we try to say Look, this is a real person who had hopes and dreams and the potential to live a full and happy and productive life, and now that potential is GONE.

But the reality is there are just too many of them. Ten yesterday, seventeen a few months ago, three a few days before that, fifty-some in Las Vegas, a dozen here and there and they’re all inevitably clumped in the public mind as generic victims. We don’t remember them. We can’t.

But we should try.

This is Claire Davis. She was seventeen years old. She was a student at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado. She loved horses. She was a real person who had hopes and dreams and the potential to live a full and happy and productive life. She was shot on December 13, 2013 and died ten days later.

Her name was Claire Davis.

sorry, but we need to talk about wound ballistics

Okay, let’s talk wound ballistics.

Wait. First, let’s acknowledge that any culture in which it’s necessary to talk about wound ballistics as they apply to school kids is a fucked up culture. Sadly, that fairly accurately describes the culture in the U.S. right now.

Anyway, a friend who is a gun enthusiast claimed the AR-15 is no more deadly than any other rifle. Which leads me to wound ballistics.

You often hear the term ‘ballistics’ tossed about in police movies and television shows, but what the hell are they really talking about? Ballistics is the study of the mechanics and behavior of projectiles. Terminal ballistics is the study of the behavior of projectiles after they’ve hit a target. Wound ballistics is the marriage of general ballistics and terminal ballistics as applied to a body of flesh — the behavior of a projectile after it impacts a person.

When I was being trained as a medic (a million years ago) my unit was given an object lesson in wound ballistics. The instructors hung a pair of pig carcasses from hooks, one in front of the other, and shot them. First with a standard issue 9mm pistol, then with an old M1 Garand — the .30 caliber rifle that was the standard service weapon in WWII. Finally, they shot the carcasses with an M-16 (as you know, the AR-15 is the civilian version of the M-16). We examined the carcasses after each weapon was fired.

The 9mm pistol rounds easily penetrated the first carcass, making a tidy little entry wound. The M1’s heavier .30 caliber rounds made a similar entry wound, but several of the rounds completely penetrated through the front carcass and entered the second. Most of the M-16’s smaller and lighter .223 rounds failed to penetrated through the first carcass into the second, but they created really big, savage, gaping wounds in that first one. Those few rounds that did completely penetrate the carcass left massive, ragged exit wounds.

This is where ballistics comes into play. Remember, a bullet displaces air as it travels through it. Similarly, a bullet displaces flesh as it travels through it. When you fire a gun, you want a bullet that remains stable as it flies through the air towards the target — a bullet that will go where you aim it. The big difference between all these weapons is their terminal ballistics — what happens after the bullet hits its target.

Both the 9mm and .30 caliber rounds remained stable as they hit — and sometimes passed through — the carcass. They had tremendous penetrative power, displacing a relatively small amount of flesh. In other words, they poked holes in the carcass. The .223 rounds, on the other hand, were stable until they hit the carcass, at which point they became wildly unstable. That instability causes extensive cavitation — displacing a lot more flesh. That cavitation meant organs and blood vessels near the bullet’s path were also damaged. The energy of the bullet was expended IN the body instead of passing THROUGH the body. The result was a much nastier wound.

What does that mean? For a medic, it means a wound from an AR-15 variant rifle is less amenable to treatment than wounds by a .30 caliber rifle or a 9mm pistol. The AR is more likely to pulp tissue and organs instead of simply passing through them. For a shooter, it means he (yeah, these shooters are almost exclusively male) doesn’t need to be particularly accurate in order to produce a high body count.

In practical terms, this generally means the butcher’s bill is lower for mass shootings involving firearms other than AR-15 variants. (I say ‘generally’ because the butcher’s bill depends on more than just the weapon used; it also depends on where the victims are shot. Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 using a pair of relatively small-caliber pistols — but 28 of those victims were shot in the head, and all of them had been shot at least three times.)

So if somebody tries to tell you the AR-15 is no more deadly than any other rifle, this is what you say: “It’s the wound ballistics, asshole. The wound ballistics.”

if i had enough bullets

Howard Unruh. Odds are you’ve never heard of him. He was born in 1921 and raised in Camden, New Jersey, not far from where the poet Walt Whitman lived in his declining years. He was a shy, unassuming, working class kid who took a blue-collar job out of high school, and when World War II broke out, he signed up with the Army.

He was assigned to the 342nd Armored Field Artillery of the 89th Infantry Division. His unit fought in several major combat operations in Europe, including the relief of Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge. By all accounts, he was a good soldier. Followed orders, fought well, killed several enemy soldiers, earned some commendations, and at the end of the war, after three years of military service, he was honorably discharged.

Private First Class Howard Unruh

Like a lot of veterans, he had trouble adapting back to civilian life. He suffered from a lot of free-floating anxiety, argued with his neighbors, was mocked and harassed for being gay, kept track of slights and insults in a notebook. Then on September 6, 1949, after breakfast with his mother, Howard Unruh dressed himself in a brown tropical-worsted suit, put on a striped bow tie, and laced up his old Army boots. He loaded the Luger he’d taken from the body of a dead Nazi during the war, left his house, and began to walk down the street shooting people.

He shot people he thought had treated him poorly. And he shot people who were somehow associated with somebody he thought had treated him poorly. And he shot people who just happened to be passing by. He killed thirteen people in all; the oldest was 68, the youngest was two weeks shy of his third birthday. It all happened in a span of around twenty minutes.

Howard Unruh can be considered the progenitor of the modern mass murderer. He never stood trial for his crimes because he was adjudicated legally insane (though by modern standards, he’d almost certainly be considered fit to stand trial). When he died just over eight years ago in the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital, hardly anybody noticed. He’s probably only remembered by criminologists.

Howard Unruh being arrested.

Here’s why Howard Unruh is important today. He committed his murders with a Luger P08, a semi-automatic pistol which Guns and Ammo magazine called “the most important automatic pistol ever.” It held eight rounds. Eight rounds, which means Unruh had to reload at least twice and probably three or four times (several of his shots missed). It took him around a third of an hour to kill 13 victims.

A week ago Nikolas Cruz killed 17 and wounded 14 in less than six minutes. In 2012, Adam Lanza killed 27 in less than five minutes in the Sandy Hook massacre. In 2007, Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 and wounded 25 others in less than nine minutes during the Virginia Tech shooting. Last year, Stephen Paddock killed 58 and wounded over 400 people in about ten minutes. And just to repeat myself, it took at least twenty minutes for Howard Unruh to kill 13 people.

Do the math. Then consider whether banning magazines capable of holding 30 rounds would reduce the butcher’s bill.

It’s worth noting the very last public statement Howard Unruh made. He was being interviewed by a psychologist. He said:

“I’d have killed a thousand if I had enough bullets.”

Today, he could have had enough bullets.

don’t take your guns to town, son

In today’s Washington Post there’s an opinion piece by Emily Miller entitled I should be able to carry my concealed gun across all state lines. Miller, who is the senior political reporter for One America New Network (a conservative cable news channel), is the author of Emily Gets Her Gun; But Obama Wants to Take Yours. Her op-ed is in support of a proposed law call the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which basically says a person who has been issued a permit to carry a concealed firearm in one state should be able to carry a concealed firearm all the states.

Miller writes:

The concept of reciprocity among states is popular with gun owners because the current patchwork of state laws is convoluted and disorganized.

That’s true. The concept IS popular with gun owners. And state laws ARE convoluted and disorganized. But I’m not convinced that’s a good enough reason to pass this legislation. Miller is distressed by the fact that she can carry her concealed handgun in Virginia but can’t carry it in the adjoining state of Maryland. She complains that if she wants to go to dinner in Bethesda, she could be arrested for carrying her concealed weapon.

There are two rational responses to that. 1) Don’t go to dinner in Maryland. 2) Go to dinner in Maryland, but leave your firearm behind. A less rational response is 3) Force Maryland to obey the firearm laws of Virginia. No, wait, that’s not accurate. A less rational response is 3) Force every state in the Union to abide by the firearm laws of the state with the least restrictive gun laws. A lot of conservatives are passionate about states rights except when it comes to gun laws — less so when it comes to, say, public accommodation laws (fuck your gun laws, Maryland, but let’s protect the Colorado baker who suffers severe emotional distress at the thought of baking a wedding cake for a same-sex couple).

Why does Miller believe she needs a concealed firearm with her? Self protection, of course. Conservatives are always fretting that they’ll be unable to return fire in the event somebody decides to pull a gun in an Applebee’s in Bethesda. In a video she did with the National Rifle Association, Miller describes why she decided to get a firearm:

“I was dog-sitting for a friend at their house. And I took the dog for a walk, and in the time that I was gone, a man — the police believed to be a drug addict — got into the house and started robbing it. So when I came back into the house, he was in there robbing. He took my wallet, but I was able to talk him out of the house without hurting me, thank God.”

That’s pretty dramatic stuff. The story she told Lou Dobbs in an interview on FOXNews is even more dramatic.

“I walked in and found basically a thug, drug addict in my house stealing my wallet. It’s all he got away with. And thank God, you know, he did not hurt me. I unfortunately chased him down the street to get a picture, which I’ve learned from police is not a smart idea, I do not recommend — fifteen of his buddies standing around two pickup trucks. That’s when I called the police and I got away.”

And she described the event this way to Politico:

“I came home, and I was dog-sitting for a friend, and I walked in the house, and there was this thug, thief in the house, and like 15 of his buddies were outside on the driveway.”

This, however, is quite a bit different from her account which she originally published in an article in the Washington Times describing her struggle to get a concealed carry permit in Washington, DC. There she describes the critical event somewhat differently.

She’d been house and dog-sitting for friends who’d gone on vacation. She’d taken the dog for a short ten-minute walk, leaving the house unlocked. When she returned she saw a man leaving the house. He told her he was there to clean the pool.

“After the man left, I was still suspicious so I went inside, grabbed my Blackberry and clicked on the icon for the camera. I walked down the street, and as I turned the corner, I saw about 15 scruffy young men standing around two pickup trucks. We were at the end of a woody, dead-end road.”

Hours later, while at a party, Miller got a phone call.

“t was my credit card company asking if my card was in my possession because there were odd charges on it. I looked at my wallet and saw that all my cash was gone and the cards. It suddenly dawned on me that the “pool guy” had been inside the house.”

Not quite so dramatic, is it. But still a wee bit more dramatic than narrative described by the DC police who took Miller’s statement:

[Miller] stated that she left out to walk the dog at 1515hrs and when she returned at 1525hrs she observed [the suspect] exiting from behind the fence which leads to the side of the house. [Miller] asked [suspect] ‘What are you doing here’ and [suspect] stated ‘I am delivering firewood.’

[Miller] stated that she went into the house and felt that something was not right, so she exited the house to take a photo of [suspect’s] vehicle. [Suspect] approached [Miller] and gave her a business card that stated [a tree service] and [suspect] left the scene. [Miller] stated that [suspect] was operating a silver pick up truck with landscaping on the side of it.

[Miller] stated that she was contacted by her credit card company at 1945hrs about some fraudulent charges on her credit card. [Miller] stated that she checked her purse and noticed that her Visa credit card and $50.00 in US Currency was missing.

No face-to-face confrontation with a drug addict thug. No near escape from getting hurt. No talking him out of the house. No foot chase to get his photo. No theft of her wallet. No fifteen guys in two pickups in the driveway. Basically, somebody walked into the house she’d left unlocked and took a credit card and some cash from the purse she’d left on the kitchen counter.

Not to minimize what happened, of course. It’s not the ‘home invasion’ she claims, but it’s still a crime. Having been burgled a couple of times my ownself, I can attest that it’s an uncomfortable feeling to know somebody has been noodling about in your house. But hey, good solid police work enabled the DC police to identify the culprit. The fraudulent credit card charges at Wal-Mart and a tattoo parlor allowed them to 1) view security camera footage and 2) identify the suspect by the tattoo he paid for with Miller’s credit card (“a tattoo of a Skull with a blunt in it’s mouth and the word Stoned under it”).

Unfortunately, it appears Miller failed to follow through on her report to the police. They attempted to contact her three times about the case, leaving voice messages for her to call them. She didn’t. But she did get her gun and a concealed carry permit. So there’s that.

The thief? Presumably he’s still out there breaking into houses, frightening more people into wanting a concealed carry permit, drumming up business for the NRA.

As for Ms. Miller’s opinion piece, I’m inclined to think if you can’t be bothered to help the police prosecute the person who prompted your interest in obtaining a firearm, your opinion on where you should be allowed to carry your gun doesn’t carry much weight. I’d much prefer the Johnny Cash approach: don’t take your guns to town.