Monthly Archives: December 2012

A Voice From The Middle

marineOver the past two days, I ran a series of blog posts about common sense and the Second Amendment. I didn’t initially set out to host a series, but the voices that rose in response to my first article are just too important to keep silent. Today I’m featuring guest blogger Craig Harbision, who is one of the top machinima producers and contest sponsors in the community. He’s also a Marine (ex-Marine if there were such a creature, but I’ve heard they don’t exist. Once a Marine, always a Marine, right?) He tells a fascinating and enlightening story about his experience with firearms and gun laws. His words initially appeared in the comment section of Sandy Hook, The Second Amendment, And The Walking Dead Zombie Disease, but since many people read only the main article and skip the comments, he agreed to let me publish them in the form of a guest post.

A quick note of interest before his post, though, is a video shared on Facebook by Kristine Lee, another incredible machinima director and someone I consider to be a personal friend. I did a little digging into the authenticity of this video and am happy to report it is 100% legit. An ABC News article covered the story in July of this year.

(Sound effects have been added but the video is original footage from the internet cafe security cameras.)

–Craig Harbison

I am neither a liberal nor a conservative, pacifist nor war-monger, pro-gun nor anti-gun control. I would classify myself as a little of each.

I spent 14 years in the Marine Corps. I served proudly and honorably. I was trained in the use, care and respect of several different types of rifles and pistols. Before entering service I had only shot a weapon a couple times. My dad owned 2 firearms, a .22 longrifle and a 12 ga. shotgun. He never talked about them. He never let me shoot one nor did he ever train me on their use. His only words on the subject were “Stay out of my closet, keeps your hands off them or I will turn your ass so red you won’t be able to sit for the rest of your life”. Needless to say, I went into his closet several times to look at, to hold and to feel those guns.

I was 17 the first time I fired a weapon. I was living in Arizona working as a mechanic at a gas station at the time. It was a Mini 14 owned by a coworker and his family. I went out with them a few times to ride the sand buggies, atv’s and just have fun. On one trip, they brought along the Mini 14. Kevin instructed me how to hold it, point it, where the safety was, everything about the rifle and it’s power. I finally learned to respect the weapon and know what it could really do. It took a friend instead of a father to educate me. I never said it before but in reality, my dad failed me by not teaching about the weapons.

I have owned several rifles and pistols over the years. The first one was a Ruger Blackhawk revolver. I bought it right after my 21st birthday in 1982. I took it out for target practice several times in Virginia with some fellow Marines. I became a very good shot with it. I did get a scare once, but not from firing it. I was driving to the area we shot our weapons one Saturday when I was pulled over by a local cop. There was something wrong with one of my tail lights if I remember correctly. While talking to me about the infraction he noticed my gun case on my passenger seat. He ordered me out of the vehicle and proceeded to open the case. He commented on my choice of weapons and we briefly talked about it. He then informed me that he was supposed to confiscate the pistol and issue me a ticket. What did I do wrong? I did not have a trigger lock on the pistol. A trigger lock is just that: a lock that attached to the trigger and trigger guard to prevent the trigger from being pulled. It required a key to remove it. He ‘cut me husk’ and gave me a chance to coply with the laws at the time. He said that I was to get a lock within a week, call him or show up at the station and prove to him that I had indeed bought the lock or he would issue the ticket and come after me to get the weapon. Legally he should have taken the pistol and given me a ticket but as a young Marine (he was a former Marine) he gave me the chance.

Was the officer right or wrong? Both. He was supposed to enforce the law but bent it in my case. That brings me to my main point. Gun laws. In the United States, between local, state and Federal levels, there are over 1000 laws pertaining to firearms on the books. Less than 10% are enforced. If the laws in place were more stringently enforced, I am sure there would be less firearm related incidents taking place. Adding new laws or restrictions will do nothing as long as the people entrusted to enforce the laws don’t. As has been mentioned by you and others, banning the weapons won’t solve the problem either since those who don’t care about the laws, or are ignorant of them (as I was with the trigger lock) will still be able to get the weapons and use them as they see fit.


Unexpected Thoughts On Gun Control–A Liberal Pacifist Weighs In On Violence And Fear

When author Chrystie Bowie–an outspoken liberal and confirmed pacifist–first mentioned writing a response to yesterday’s blog post, I was cautious. While I welcome intelligent debate in comments and forums, an actual article regaling the benefits of a nationwide gun ban is not something I care to publish.

When I read the draft she sent me, I understood how silly my knee-jerk assumption had been.

The truth is, common sense is common sense no matter what an individual’s personal convictions or political leanings might be. That was the heart of my post yesterday–that for America, it’s a really bad time to go brain dead. With every word she wrote, Chrystie proves that being enlightened has nothing to do with being liberal or conservative. Nothing to do with being aggressive or passive. It’s a quality of human nature, rooted in sentient intelligence and personal character. She states in her article that she writes to “halfway back up what [I was] saying and halfway present an argument different from [mine.]” She and I might differ when it comes to other viewpoints, but on this particular issue, we agree one hundred percent.

I am very proud to offer a platform for Chrystie to speak her mind. I sincerely hope her article goes viral.

A Pacifist Weighs in on Violence and Fear
–by Chrystie Bowie

I am an online friend of Rhonda’s and subscribe to her blog. We agree on many things, including the misunderstood nature of people with Asperger’s Syndrome and also the need to stand up for one’s beliefs. I’m not quite as disturbed as she is by the changing face of the American culture, but I do get her point.

I embrace change. The one that created the constitution and freed us from British rule is one Rhonda and I would both stand behind. The influx of immigrants that brought my Irish ancestors here during the Potato Famine is something I owe my existence to. I look out on a good day and see so much beautiful DIVERSITY, it makes my heart swell with pride for my home, the land of opportunity. People will continue to come to this country and bring new viewpoints. America is my home, but I welcome others here because this is the Land of The Free … or we hope it is.

You see, freedom means more than being unencumbered by rules. It also means the freedom to be accountable for your own actions. And you can’t be accountable for your own actions if people don’t give you a chance to determine your own destiny and to help your children find their own way in the world.

And that is why I am writing this blog post to halfway back up what Rhonda is saying and halfway present an argument different from hers. Don’t go into this post assuming I’m for or against what she’s saying. Go into it ready to hear my words as a standalone point of view that I’ve decided to share …

When I heard about the Sandy Hook Massacre, my liberal bleeding heart did exactly what it is known for doing. It bled. I wept over the pictures of the twenty slain children and their fallen teachers. I couldn’t bear to stare at the mural someone painted of Santa Claus standing in front of Newtown with a sleigh full of presents, his face buried in his gloved hands while the reindeer bowed their heads in sorrow. I shook with disbelief that someone would be capable of something so heinous. I started looking through the pictures of my family members at that age, realizing how small and innocent we all looked, including these pictures of myself:

Chrystie 6

The first one is me the Christmas I was six … I was the same age then as the twenty Newtown children who will now be receiving coffins for Christmas and Hanukkah. The second picture is my mother and me standing outside the Rotary Club on the day I received a scholarship to college in my senior year of high school. She was so proud of me that day. I was so happy to make her proud. I was able to give her that joy because I wasn’t mowed down by a gunman in my first grade classroom as a little girl.

Chrystie 17

The shock and fear I experienced as I looked through pictures of my childhood after hearing of the tragedy was unbelievable. I cried so hard. For days. And at night, too.

But I have to admit, even though I’m a pacifist, it never occurred to me that the problem was gun control issues. Yes, the problem might have been that Adam Lanza’s mother decided to keep guns in her house with a son she once warned a babysitter not to turn your back on, even to go to the bathroom. But to say the problem is that ANYBODY has a gun is kind of unfair, don’t you think? Even as a radical pacifist, I can see this.

Don’t get me wrong, I dream of a world without guns and other weapons. I often visit intentional communities where everybody there has made a pact of nonviolence. And that works for them and I love being there … but here’s the catch. They all chose to agree to those terms and their community is small enough to build that kind of trust. The gun-free world I dream of, it’s one where weapons aren’t needed, not one where responsible people are made to feel like criminals because they choose a different path than mine.

You just cannot FORCE people at the national or even state level to abide by those things if they don’t want to. They have to want to be that way or else a higher power is telling them what to do. And when you start telling people what to do and how to think … well, that’s a slippery slope that never leads anywhere positive.

In fact, it often leads to resurgent violence and no pacifist should want that. I certainly don’t.

How well did banning alcohol work in the Prohibition? How rich are other countries getting from the marijuana market right now? And that’s just recreational drugs. Someone who’s stoned, what are they going to do? Sit on the couch and eat a bag of Cheetos while laughing at Family Guy?

Forcing something as dangerous as guns onto the black market makes me a little more nervous. Creating a taboo takes away one of the few things I think may actually work: education and awareness and creating a healthy respect for the dangers of mishandling firearms. If guns are illegal, the people getting their hands on them will never have had a chance to learn to handle one safely. Am I the only one who sees this middle viewpoint between ‘ban all guns’ and ‘give every adult one automatically’?

This is all about fear on both sides. Fear is the problem here. Guns don’t kill people. People with their index fingers on triggers kill people … so educate these freaking people, don’t tie their hands behind their backs with mandates.

I don’t like guns, personally, but I’m going to share with you my life-altering experience the afternoon I gained a better awareness for them. It stands out in my mind as one of those days that my horizons broadened and my world got a little bigger. First thing to know is that I work with a lot of men … funny, smart, kind, video-gaming, gun-enthusiastic young men in their early-to-mid twenties. They make me laugh. They make me cringe. They take me out of my college-educated, book smart, female, point of view and make me see things through their eyes.

And one of them lured me to the gun range one warm April afternoon and encouraged me to shoot some of his ‘babies’ off.

He warned me ahead of time that he was bringing his 50 Caliber Rifle, but if I was uncomfortable with it, he also had some tamer guns. I wasn’t exactly excited to go with him, but I stood in front of my Jeep at our meeting spot that day and waited for him to pick me up. I didn’t know what to expect, so I refrained from wearing my usual tie-dye motif and opted instead for an old pair of camouflage pants and a faded, green-and-white shirt. I figured that made me look properly ‘gunsy’.

When we got to the range, the first thing I noticed was how collected and respectful everybody was. Nope, no ignorant hillbillies whooping to the sky as they attempted to shoot baseball caps off each other’s heads. There was a man that could have looked comfortable wearing a suit. A dad with his teenage son, being very specific about exactly how to load their gun safely. Oh, my mailman. My mailman? He gave me a smile and a nod as my friend and I got out of the car. I even sensed a tinge of sudden comradery when he recognized me.

My friend started pulling cases out of his trunk that looked like they harbored odd shaped violins. The way he smiled so proudly, as he kept looking over at me with earnest anticipation, was kind of endearing. He wanted to convert me.

“And this one,” he proclaimed as he pulled the biggest case out. “This one is my 50 cal. I call her The Queen.”


“Because when she speaks, everybody listens.”

What else could I expect from a gun enthusiast? I rolled my eyes.

After watching him fire some of his guns, I was finally convinced to try some myself. It was actually kind of fun. But what really struck me was how responsible all the people around us were being. When one person needed to go ‘up range,’ everybody stopped shooting and multiple people took advantage of the lull, chatting and joking as they walked. When I accidentally turned to my friend with his highpoint in my hands, the shooters on both sides of us reacted strongly. My friend jumped into stern dad mode and corrected me sharply, all the while smiling an embarrassed apology to everybody else. I felt like a little girl who’d done something inappropriate and hadn’t realized it until I was scolded.

These longtime gun owners did not play around about safety. They had years of experience to pass on. Years that would go to waste if they ever found their guns outlawed.

Towards the end of our visit, my friend finally got The Queen out. The other shooters began to stare at us again, but it wasn’t irritation at me. It was a reverent curiosity for the giant rifle my friend was erecting in our stall. My eyes widened. That damn thing was as long as my leg. The arms of its tripod looked like little branches. My friend smiled and pulled out a box holding the ammunition. Cracking it open, he tilted it toward me to look in. Glaring back at me were rounds as long as my index fingers and as fat as sausages. Ok, so I got a little freaked out.

When he fired The Queen, I finally understood what he meant when he said ‘everybody listens.’ He had never been joking that he planned to use it to force people to obey him. No, he literally meant that when that rifle went off, and the percussive shock wave hit my chest and sent a butterfly through my stomach, everybody at the range stopped what they were doing, put their safeties on, and came over to check us out.

I listened to the conversations and, while I don’t remember exactly what everybody said, I do remember the feeling of community I felt coming off these people. I remember how my friend patted The Queen a few times while he talked, the way a pet owner would show off their beloved dog or cat. He loved that 50 Caliber and I could tell it wasn’t a deranged obsession but more of a respectful affection.

He turned down a few requests from some of the shooters to get behind it for a round or two. That’s why I was kind of touched when he asked if I was ready to give it a try. He hadn’t let anybody else shoot it, but he looked like he wanted me to. I got the impression he would have been a little offended if I didn’t. So I sat down in the chair and wrapped my tense arms around the massive rifle. He showed me how to take the safety off and told me to go ahead when I was ready. I put my finger on the trigger and kind of pulled … then chickened out … then kind of pulled … then chickened out … then …

After almost thirty seconds of this, my friend leaned in and spoke the truest words I’ve probably ever heard. “You know, dear,” his carefully disciplined, ex-military tone found its way to my ear past the other guns popping. “Sometimes it’s just as dangerous to be afraid as it is to be reckless. If you’re not ready, you should get up.”

“No, no! I’m ready. I’m good now. Give me another chance.”

He backed up again.

And this time I pulled the trigger. I released that finger-long bullet so far down range, all I saw was a poof of dirt, far out in the field, as the recoil planted that rifle into my shoulder so hard that it scooted me and the chair I was sitting in back several inches. I was completely in shock. It took me a minute to decide whether I liked the experience or not. Eventually my answer came, kind of as a surprise to me as well, in the form of a loud, triumphant, “WHOOOOO!”

That’s right folks … it was the hippy with her arms wrapped around a 50 Caliber Rifle, glasses askew on her face, that hollered to the sky like a backwoods hillbilly, as serious gun owners stared at me like I lost my marbles. My friend was kind of embarrassed for the second time that day. But I will never forget the lesson I learned that warm afternoon from people I would have never thought to spend time with had I not opened my mind and let them show me their world.

Getting back to this issue of fear in light of the recent massacre, another thing bothers me just as much. A female friend I know said to me today, “I just don’t even know if I’m comfortable raising my children in this world anymore.”

Where exactly is she planning to go? Have they approved warp travel to a mysterious colony on the moon that I’m unaware of?

Then she said the one thing I was hoping she wouldn’t. “You know, you’re lucky you don’t have any children.”

Now that was a double punch right to my heart. First of all, on a personal note, I actually happen to be saddened by my status as a childless woman. I have recently been finding my days without a little one at my side to be a lonely existence. Secondly, it was kind of annoying for her to say that childless people shouldn’t bother having any children just because bad things take place in this world. What if I believe I have something positive to pass on to a child that may help negate the bad things?

What if my future child wants to be cop? Or a teacher, possibly a teacher who would sacrifice his or her own life to protect little kids from harm? What if I’m supposed to bear the person who finally finds a blanket cure for all types of cancer? Or becomes the person who defeats HIV, once and for all? What if my child, despite the fact that I’m not very religious, grows up to become some kind of missionary in a war-torn country and brings a message of hope and perseverance to those struggling? Why would I voluntarily remain childless out of fear and not only leave my own life incomplete but maybe even their future husband or wife’s?

Fear. That’s the problem here. It’s not about guns or whether children have a place in this sometimes nasty world. It’s about what happens to people when fear determines their choices and what happens when they are in a position to force those limiting decisions on others.

The way I see it, gun control and protecting our children have a similar analogy. It’s like having a pool in your backyard. That pool is cool, fun, and refreshing. But it also can be dangerous and children have died in pools when people aren’t careful. So you have two choices. You can build a fence around the pool, restrict access to it, make a child afraid of it … downplay its benefits while spitting fire and brimstone about the dangers. You can do all those things, but they will find a way to get into it if they want. You can try to save them by forcing your will on them and hoping it helps.

Or you can show that child how to swim and educate him or her on the responsibility of engaging in an activity that poses such risk. Is it too much to ask that people, even children, be expected to take some responsibility for their own decisions instead of having them made for them? I don’t think so.

It’s like a very wise person said to me once, “Sometimes it’s just as dangerous to be afraid as it is to be reckless.”

Sandy Hook, The Second Amendment, And The Walking Dead Zombie Disease

flagI am an American. I love being an American; while I admire and harbor good will toward many other nations, this is my home. As an American, I was heartbroken over the twenty children who died last Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But I was also angry. Outraged. Furious enough to break the political silence I have maintained through countless political elections and hot button debates.

America is on the verge of political meltdown. Whether it happens in our lifetime or our children’s lifetime remains to be seen, but it’s inevitable. Too many standards, too many core values have been swallowed by political correctness and liberalism that is every bit as rabid as the extreme right. Common sense is out the window, and a generation of people who have never been oppressed, never tasted war on our own soil, and never known true hardship is now making decisions for the rest of us. It’s frightening how reckless some of them can be with our Constitution and the principles this country was founded upon.

I am not against sensible gun control. I support background checks and waiting periods, concealed carry permits and required training. But the buzz about stricter gun laws scares me to death. Nowhere, at any time, has a ban on guns produced a drop in violent crime. In the past few days, I’ve probably reviewed every statistic on this issue that has ever been published. What I’ve discovered is that even statistics appearing to support gun control fall apart when you start pulling at the seams.

TNT online magazine reported today that: “The rate for murder by gunfire is 100 times that of the United Kingdom and only Colombia has a worse record for gun violence than the US. Every year, 17,000 people are killed in America, 70 per cent of them with guns, and nearly 20,000 people commit suicide by shooting themselves.” Read article here.

But what about other statistics that TNT Magazine—and every other news outlet I know of—have failed to report? The statistics I have never seen are numbers that reveal how many of those crimes were committed by people who legally owned the weapon they used, versus how many were committed by those in possession of the weapon illegally. If they were committed by a person in illegal possession, then even the strictest gun laws would have been useless in preventing those crimes.

Guns are never going away. You can outlaw them, crush them, smelt them—no matter what measures we take within our borders, other countries will make sure our black market dealers and criminals have a never ending supply. Then, with criminals armed to the teeth and law abiding citizens empty handed, violent crime will skyrocket. Don’t believe me? Take a few minutes to watch the following video:

In contrast, the Georgia city of Kennesaw (a suburb of Atlanta) put a law on the books in 1982 that requires every head of household to be a registered gun owner. Despite dire predictions that the town would become the stage for a “Wild West Showdown,” crime rate plummeted, and for twenty-five years Kennesaw has reported zero fatal gun-related incidents. Read about it HERE.

To up the ante and study this phenomenon on a larger scale, one has only to consider Switzerland. Male residents are not only required to own guns (and females highly encouraged,) but are trained by the government to use them. Yet the gun-related crime rate is so low there that statistics are not even kept. “. . .despite the wide ownership and availability of guns, violent crime is extremely rare. There are only minimal controls at public buildings and politicians rarely have police protection.” (BBC article)

I am baffled at how so many intelligent, educated Americans can overlook facts as clearly presented as these. Are they blinded by fear? Addled by a Dr. Spock upbringing? Hypnotized? Brainwashed? Infected with the Walking Dead Zombie Disease? There is simply no argument any rational person can make in the face of such overwhelming evidence.

A comment exchange about the following picture illustrates the same lack of functional intelligence I speak of.


Lovely image, very artistic and suggestive. But here is where the line is drawn between grass roots common sense and idealistic delusion:

One person commented: “SCARY, scary image! (My own cat, a Maine Coon, scratched me today on his way down from my arms – his accidental power in a bigger cat would be fatal.)”

An idealistic dreamer commented: “look at the tiger….there is no violence in this moment…only love.”

I commented: “Thank God for glass!”

But what I really wanted to say was: “What planet are you on, moron? ‘Love?!’ You really believe that? Then why don’t you take your own kid and plop it down in front of a live tiger with no glass between them, and see how much ‘love’ comes out of THAT encounter!”

Have some people’s brains turned to oatmeal? All I can say is I sincerely hope that person’s comment was meant to be tongue-in-cheek.

This brings me to the Second Amendment: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” How many of us realize—I mean, truly, deep down at the gut level understand—that this was written to keep our nation from being overthrown by tyranny? How many of us even know the true definition of tyranny? And how many can relate the concept to us—spoiled Americans—who become outraged if something as trivial as our “right” to spit on our own driveway is infringed?

Some readers will scoff at the idea of foreign invasion. But leave us defenseless and see how long it takes before some nutty third world leader tries. Or worse—a nation with a stronger military force than ours. Think we are such a superpower that no other military would dare challenge us? Between military budget cuts and a nationwide ban on guns, that scenario is not only possible, but likely.

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto is often credited (perhaps erroneously) as having said, “You cannot invade mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind each blade of grass.” Whether or not he actually said this is no real matter; somebody said it, and proper accreditation doesn’t dilute or strengthen the meaning. This is the same concept behind a statement I saw posted elsewhere on the Internet: “The anti-gun folks won’t like to admit this, but there is a reason why these mass shootings occur in schools and malls but not police stations …. and you know what that reason is.”

It bothers me that our government would consider disarming all U.S. citizens, or severely restricting our right to own and carry weapons. What bothers me more is how many U.S. citizens are so eager to hand over a constitutional right, as if it does not exist to protect the very freedoms they exercise when speaking out against current laws. Even more worrisome is that once we start chipping away at the Constitution, where will we stop? There are so many layers of concern in this gun control issue that one blog post can’t begin to explore them all. But I hope I’ve at least covered the basics.

I’ll leave you with this: in a perfect world, maybe guns would never have been invented in the first place. Who knows. But this world is far from perfect, and intelligent people deal with a situation the way it is, not the way they wish it could be. I wish we could all be pacifists. I wish we could all see tigers and babies playing peacefully together without three-inch glass between them. But that is not the world we live in, nor will it ever be no matter how many of our freedoms we surrender to idealism.

Feel free to share, redistribute, link to, or repost this article. I retain all copyright, but grant license for republication in the effort to disseminate information about this topic.

Good News And Bad News

Several days ago I had a major software crash. No permanent damage to the software or my laptop, but I lost more than two weeks of work on my latest machinima project. As both a writer and a pathological talker, I find myself utterly without words to express my level of frustration. The sets, the characters, the animations. . .just gone. Corrupted file, irretrievable data.

What really sucked about the ordeal is that I did have a backup file. I almost always do. But whatever it was that caused the corruption had been saved into it, too, therefore–like the original file–it would no longer open. Lesson learned? Save in stages. Make backup copies of a project at every step of the way. This takes up a lot of space on the hard drive, so use an external storage device if necessary. But back up in duplicate. In triplicate. And make a fresh backup every time you add something new to the scene.

I’ve almost recovered now, both psychologically and in terms of progress. But it was a setback I didn’t need. Authors waiting for their trailers have been very patient with me. Voice actors eager for another credit to put in their portfolio have been patient with me, also. But everyone has a limit. I fervently hope I don’t learn where anyone’s is because of this.

On to brighter news: many of you know I’ve gotten involved with a snowballing movement called “The Independent Author Project.” This is a coalition of independent authors (those not represented by agents or publishing houses) who are determined to level the playing field when it comes to marketing and sales. I won’t go into all the details here, as they are clearly defined on the main website. The Independent Author Project

Everyone is welcome to join—traditionally published or self—but the focus is and always will be helping the independent writer achieve success. Various skills germane to editing, publishing, and marketing are offered for exchange or for a fee, and strong emphasis will be placed on elevating the reputation of indie books in general. This will require a shift of attitude on the part of many independents as well as a very focused, very driven effort to improve quality and put forth the best product possible.

One thing some indies are doing to create interest in the movement and promote their own books is a raffle and giveaway. You can find more information about it here . This site shows you the books offered as prizes and tells you a little more about the purpose of the giveaway. I’m a little surprised there isn’t more information about the books themselves or their authors. Still, a free prize is a free prize.

Happy raffling!