Good Guy With a Gun

Jim Wright asked this question on his Facebook page recently,

Responsible Gun Owner Exercise: You’re in a public place. Lots of people. Guy in camo walks in with a pistol on his belt and an assault rifle in his hands.

Quick, is he a good guy with a gun or a murderous nut?

Well, which is it?

Come, come, seconds count, no guessing and don’t fuck it up. How do you KNOW? Is there a secret hand sign? A T-shirt? Does his phone emit an IFF signal? Which is it, good guy with a gun or bad guy with a gun? For full credit, you MUST answer BEFORE HE STARTS SHOOTING. Show your work.

Extra credit: How does he know YOU’RE not a bad guy with a gun?


He followed it up with a (very long) response addressing the various answers that he got. The answers are almost irrelevant. Of course there is no way to know what this person’s intentions are.  As another Facebook friend pointed out as a counter you don’t know what anyone’s intentions are if you are just now seeing them.

But that isn’t the question. The presence of the firearm alters the equation. This is a known fact, that visible weapons alter the behavior of people. It is true, as that same Facebook friend pointed out, the person could be carrying invisible weapons. A suicide vest, anthrax, a firearm in his pocket, a knife in his shoe, you name it. But that also isn’t the question.

The question is simple. You are armed, you see another person that is armed. Do you shoot him or don’t you? You have to answer this question before he starts shooting other people, or you fail the test. This is a very valid point that Jim has been trying to illustrate for several years and over about a dozen posts on Stonekettle Station, all of which I’ve read. The question isn’t whether guns are bad or not. The question isn’t whether we should be armed or not.

The question is, how do you know what your actions should be? That is all there is to it. The gunnuts are convinced that the solution to the mass murder problem is more guns in more hands, but that just makes the question that much more difficult since it muddies the waters as to who is the bad guy and who is the good guy.  If you shoot the guy before he shoots other people, are you the good guy or the bad guy?

You can’t know. There is no way to know. It is the nature of the universe, the uncertainty principle. You can’t know before the first shots are fired.  If you shoot first, you are the bad guy. But if you’re carrying the weapon to prevent aggression, what good is it if you don’t use it when you should have? What if his first action is to shoot you because you have a visible weapon? What if his first action is to demand that you disarm?  How many hours of time are we willing to waste making sure that each of us on an individual basis are good guys who are supposed to be carrying weapons and not bad guys who aren’t? All day, every day, from now on?

We can’t approach the problem from this direction.  It just isn’t going to work.  This is the reason why laws are made. This is the reason why governments exist. It isn’t for any of the paranoid delusions that individualists envision as they sweat inside their bunkers gripping their pistols in fear.  Laws are written to make sure that standards are met. Government exists to see that laws are followed.

I wrote and then shelved the above months ago. I had some notion that I would riff on a response from J. Neil Schulman who insisted the above question was meaningless.  However Mr. Schulman (surprise) really didn’t have a response to the above aside from putting more guns in more hands.  He has since unfriended me over some trumped up excuse involving calls to use RICO laws to initiate civil prosecutions of climate deniers, similar to what was done to RJR after it was discovered that the cigarette manufacturer was paying scientists to muddy the waters surrounding the effects of cigarette smoke on the human body.

FYI, smoking causes lung cancer, and anthropogenic climate change is almost certainly as real as the findings concerning smoking and lung cancer.  I don’t think it is outside of reason to use tactics similar to those used before in order to bring wayward corporate funded scientists to heel so that we can get down to the business of dealing with climate change. Climate change isn’t the subject of this post, but his level of denial concerning climate change is reflected in his level of denial when it comes to weapons and who should be allowed to have them.

I had forgotten that little dust-up and almost forgotten this post until last week (was it the Murders of Alison Parker and Adam Ward or Umpqua Community College? so many shootings that you can’t keep track of them all. -ed.) The subject of weapons is one of  the subjects that gives me painful cognitive dissonance. Consequently I have a very, very hard time writing coherently on the subject.  I have owned weapons all my life.  My most treasured gifts as a young boy were the weapons that my father gave me.

However, being a good father as well as a responsible gun owner himself, he made sure that I went to classes to train me in the proper handling and storage of weapons before I was allowed to take possession of my first real shotgun.  I still have the certificate issued by the (irony of ironies) NRA for hunter safety training in cooperation with the State of Kansas.

It is a mark of how far down the road to crazy we have come that the NRA no longer thinks weapons training is important enough to be required before allowing weapons purchases, even though their website stresses the importance of weapons training.  I’ve known enough people who sleep with a loaded weapon next to their beds now that I no longer believe the argument that gun owners don’t need weapons training because they’ve already had it.  A common refrain amongst gunnuts.

Then we had the latest mass killing, as well as the several other shootings on campuses across the US, even in Texas where campuses are no longer gun free zones (negating that counter-argument) and it seems that Jim’s question from a few months ago now has recent real-life examples that really do beg the question (no longer a fallacy) how do you tell who the good guys with guns are?

Take, for example, the case of the concealed carry weapons holder who fired on a suspected shoplifter as they drove away in their vehicle.  Not the merchant, who might well have been forgiven for acting in the heat of the moment. No, it was a simple bystander (a good guy with a gun?) who happened to be armed and thought that the thing to do.

Or the guy who shot the carjacking victim, then took the time to clean up his brass before fleeing the scene of the crime? Jim Wright posts one of these types of stories virtually every day on Facebook, a tribute to the stupidity of the average American when it comes to owning and using weapons in a public setting. So these are not isolated events, rare occurrences that don’t deserve our attention.  These are examples of the fact that there is something wrong in the US and we really should do something to fix the problem.

…The minute you bring up examples of a clear lack of training like the above though, gunnuts (or ammosexuals, take your pick) start screaming about how we want to take their guns away.  I’d like to state for the record, yes.  If you think that the above is a reasonable use of a firearm, I want you to turn in your weapons, right now.  Because you don’t know the first thing about firearm safety.

The Flight Disaster That Wasn’t

Back when Flight was on screen, I got in a run-in with one of the few remaining Libertarians on my Facebook friends list. What follows is a clip from J. Neil Schulman’s article on Rational Review;


…having shown in her own presentation that the cause of the problem was mechanical and the savior of the lives was Whip, she continues her interrogation of Whip by asking him to give an opinion that two empty vodka bottles found in the airliner’s trash were consumed by the flight attendant that we in the audience knows was partying with Whip the night before the flight.

At which point, rather than lie, Whip confesses to having drunk the vodka himself.

The movie ends, true to its true-confessions formula, with a redeemed Whip in prison, having confessed to his sin of piloting an aircraft drunk and coked up — more expertly than any other cold sober pilot could have done.

The one piece of salient advice that I would give to J. Neil Schulman, when it comes to writing, is that members of a hierarchical system (like a corporation) don’t tend to give jobs to outsiders who use code words like statist to describe any system that they disagree with. When you walk in with an obvious chip on your shoulder, and the attitude that you yourself can do anything faster and better than any other group of people, you’re more likely to be shown the door quickly than to be given the time of day.  Much less a job.

I went to see this move with a fellow film buff, my usual partner in crime.  The Wife doesn’t do dramas.  She’s into horror, SciFi, and action films.  She’s dragging me to Age of Ultron this week. Avengers is far more her speed than a film about a pilot who saves a plane in spite of his addictions.

Flight (2012)

The film accurately portrays what would happen to someone like Washington’s Whip Whitaker (a functioning alcoholic) in the current regulatory landscape; and I think that is why it did not meet with the kind of approval that its creators expected. The average viewer probably agrees with the sentiment that Whip Whitaker did not deserve jail time; producing a film with a very unsatisfying ending. But it was hardly a disaster in anyone’s estimation other than that of a libertarian writer attempting to tie the fictional events in the film to a real disaster and then draw the most tenuous of allegorical conclusions.

let’s put ourselves into the plot of a fictitious combined disaster movie in which after scientist Richard Feynman proves that the cause of the Challenger explosion was launching on a day colder than the shuttle’s O-rings could properly function, the chief investigator finds vodka bottles among the shuttle wreckage and spends the rest of the investigation trying to find out if any of the crew of the Challenger was drunk at the time of the launch.

Flight, while flawed, wasn’t about what Neil says it was. The pilot in question wasn’t even jailed at the end for the reason he states. The movie was a limited exploration of how we treat addicts in this country, and how we mask over the functionally addicted among us with just the kinds of platitudes that Neil offers in his counter arguments. I would be the first person (and it was my first reaction on viewing the film the first time) to say that the pilot should not have been sent to jail. Yank his license, encourage him to seek treatment, etc, sure. Jail proves nothing, except that we will punish scapegoats given the chance.

However, to suggest he merited no punishment because he was a superman able to function on a level no other person could; I think I should remind Neil that the film was a work of fiction. While I have known many functional alcoholics in my lifetime, most of whom drove drunk every day of their lives, it doesn’t mean that they would not be responsible for accidents that they might have been involved in because of their impaired capacity.

It would be amusing, for the purpose of illustration, to put some of these types to the test, to find out if they really aren’t impaired. I’d be willing to bet that they would fail the same tests that the rest of us did, at statistically predictable rates. At least it would silence the people who insist that they not be subjected to the same laws as the rest of us.

The statement in the film that Neil hung his entire argument on was something to the effect that “we put [x number] of pilots in the simulator, all of them crashed” which is a far cry from the presentation that only Washington’s character could land the plane. The factual I took from that exchange was that it was an exceedingly difficult procedure to pull off. Imagine what the guy could have done had he been sober; had he done the preflight checks that regulation requires, he might even have noticed that the plane was not ready to fly.

But he didn’t, because he was hung over from a night of partying. He then proceeded to drink while flying, trying to ease the hangover (BTW, this doesn’t work.  It just gets you drunk again) consequently he was liable for his violation of the public trust, breaking rules that he knew were in place as part of the regulations for public safety. Rules that he agreed to when he got his pilot’s license.

A libertarian would argue that there is no public trust to violate and that licensing is an infringement on individual rights. I don’t have to ‘prove’ that there is a public, or define it for the doubting individualist; it is defined in law already. Government, law, licensing.  All out there already, part of the society we inhabit. Pretending the rules don’t apply to you just gets you put in jail like the protagonist of the film, it certainly doesn’t get the rules changed to be more reasonable.

I’d happily go for a system that tests for ability rather than chemical makeup of the blood, disqualifying those on a case by case basis who cannot master the basic requirements of the job. That would be a reasonable solution to the problem of impaired capacity.  Getting that change made to the rules currently in place requires engaging the system currently in place.  It means accepting that rules made by others do have power over you in some limited fashion. It means that government has the ability to make and enforce rules, even rules that we deem unreasonable.

Personal delusions about the non-existence of the public trust just get in the way of real reform; just interfere in the enjoyment of a decent flick that illustrates some pretty glaring flaws in our legal system.  My suggestion? Leave your politics at home when you go see a movie. You might learn something.

Editor’s note. Age of Ultron (mentioned previously) was well worth the price of admission. An interestingly convoluted story about fear and what that emotion can twist you to doing in spite of your own better judgement. If Marvel has any sense they’ll keep letting Joss Whedon do what he does best for as long as he wants to keep doing it.  The man has a feel for Marvel superheroes, and it comes across in all of his films.  I’m in awe of his abilities and look forward to his next film.

All of the Avengers films have lived up to their promise of action. Most of them have delivered on interesting stories, if you are into comic book heroes. Since they are bubble gum movies (like Star Trek 2009) I see little use in plugging them in their own review articles. Go see them. They’re fun romps. In fact, you’ve probably seen them already.

I even have a list on Amazon for all the Marvel comic book movies, if you haven’t seen all of those. I have. (wikipedia list)


When Stonekettle posted this article on his Facebook wall:

I called out J. Neil Schulman on my wall. I called him out specifically because he and I had gone around and around on this endless argument track a few times. I wanted him to confirm my suspicions on this specific subject. I wanted him to say he would not support smart gun technology. I wanted him to offer the same old platitudes one more time for the record. He did not disappoint:

If a right is a right the same standards need to be applied to other rights.If — as a writer — you eschew grammar-and-spellcheck software, what assurances are you willing to make to your readers that you’re not producing substandard writing?

J Neil Schulman

Typos don’t kill people.

Really?This blanket is inflammable.

J Neil Schulman

ActiveR. Anthony SteeleNo one is dead. Try a different one.

No, I’ll stick with this one. Someone buys a blanket labelled “inflammable” because the prefix “in” — like used in incompetent — means “not” –and believing the blanket is fireproof falls asleep smoking weed.

There’s your fatality. Unreguated language can kill.

J Neil Schulman

Still nobody dead. I checked the whole house.

You can’t check the whole house because it burned down. Call the forensic team.

J Neil Schulman

It didn’t burn down, because the person in question wasn’t pedantically handicapped. Unlike some.

I’m done arguing with people who refuse to think in principles.

J Neil Schulman

The allegory you are attempting to craft is flawed; it’s flawed because no one is attempting to take away your guns (although given the number of people you’ve purportedly threatened violence on, I’m not sure you should have them. But that is a separate issue) You are not born with a weapon; you have to buy them. The right to keep & bear does not entitle you to a gun, contrary to popular belief.

Self-defense is not limited to weapons. Self-defense does not entitle you to accidentally kill people and escape punishment. Rights come with obligations, and as far as I can tell, you don’t acknowledge any obligations. Consequently I’m not really interested in maintaining your rights.

…I’d also like to add that the principle of self-defense is certainly not maintained if you are killed with your own weapon. If your child kills himself with your weapon. That pretty much destroys any personal principles you might have.

Sorry Jim, I should probably feel bad trolling libertarians and gunnuts on this subject, but truthfully I don’t. I keep hoping that one of them will admit that they’ve lost their nut on the subject of gun rights, and have suddenly seen the light, realizing that gun owners do have obligations to the rest of us; that training is actually a good idea, that some people really shouldn’t have guns, and that not being shot by your own gun is a laudable goal.

No luck so far, but hope springs eternal.

I’ve threatened no one with the initiation of violence. I have expressed my willingness to engage in self defense. Evidently you are unaware of the Zero Aggression Principle which defines the libertarian moral position. And evidently you do not value human life since you express the view that human beings must be defenseless against aggressors wiling to impose their will by violence. Such as genocides and holocausts committed by governments as standard operating policy.

Obviously the use of force in self defense is subject to review to make sure it was not initiation of force.

The rest of what you write is rot.

Tag: L Neil Smith if you have the patience to continue replying to this self-admitted troller of libertarians.

J Neil Schulman

The ZAP is largely a fig leaf to cover the naked paranoia present in the movement. Openly carrying a firearm is itself aggressive, when no one else in the room is carrying; much less insisting that you carry weapons you barely understand, haven’t been trained for, and can be taken from you and fired by anybody. I’m reasonably certain that you have threatened many who have not threatened you. There is a basic cluelessness when it comes to social issues present in libertarian and anarchist circles (this really isn’t a surprise, it’s the nature of the false belief that they are or can be self-sufficient) in which threats are issued and then denied. I’ve seen it several times. I linked your name specifically because you were (at one point) on the bleeding edge of the movement. Because leaders set the tone. So I’m asking you, by what right do you infringe on the free market, the holy grail of libertarian capitalism, and tell me that I cannot buy a smart gun from Armatix? Threaten gun dealers with their lives and livelihoods for daring to offer the gun for sale? Insist that any hesitation shown in continuing to allow your paranoid friends to stockpile weapons is tantamount to disarming the entire populace?

When sir, will you actually show reason?



I reproduced this exchange exactly as it appeared on Facebook because I knew I was going to attribute Schulman’s words to himself. Every comment of his is linked back to the original comment on Facebook. I even took a screengrab just for posterities sake.

L. Neil Smith flew his Agenda 21 freak flag a little over a year before that article appeared on Facebook. Mr. Schulman can be forgiven if he didn’t know that Mr. Smith and I are no longer on speaking terms. I was forced to put the above linked conversation with Mr. Smith on the blog through the actions of the people I quoted in the article that I created from the conversation.

As far as I know J. Neil Schulman is still speaking to me. If I wanted to talk to him first, he would probably reply. I really don’t want to talk to him, so I restrained my desire to embroider my comments within the thread, just as I did not edit his comments. Now that I’m in the postscript, I can add my thoughts from the time the conversation occurred without altering the text of the argument as it exists in Facebook.

My obtuseness on the subject of typos was purposeful. When literary regulation fails, no one dies. The words don’t kill people in the same way that guns don’t kill people in the minds of libertarians. The words do not set the blanket on fire, people do. I was engaging in a bit of comic business that Mr. Schulman refused to acknowledge and seemed just as obtuse about as I appeared to be to his hypocrisy on the subject of words.

Regulation is what puts labels on items that the end-user may or may not understand and fail to comply with. Regulation is what the government should do when it comes to guns:

Trekkie Libertarianism?

I’m on the mailing list for This project was mentioned at the bottom of a article on Star Trek: Phase II.

Hold on, I think I’m getting ahead of myself here. The email stoic Merbrat, a fellow SF fan from years gone by, sent me an article a month ago concerning Star Trek: Phase II: the First Professional Fan Film? Reading through it, I was intrigued.

Filmed with high resolution digital cameras on authentic looking replica sets, Star Trek: Phase II (previously known as New Voyages) takes over where the original Star Trek ended – co-opting the name that Gene Roddenbury chose for his failed attempt to revive the original series on the small screen. Playing out the archetypal fan fantasy, a plucky bunch of Trek-nerds recast themselves as their Sci-Fi heroes, facing the same jeopardy, saying the same lines, wearing the same velour jerseys and ill-fitting trousers as the original Kirk, Spock and McCoy.

Den of Geek

At the bottom of the Article were a few listings for futher viewing. The author was less than complimentary of Star Trek: Of Gods and Men.

Another fan film full of former Trek actors is Star Trek: Of Gods and Men. Directed by Tim “Tuvok” Russ and starring Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig and Alan Ruck, it should be more “professional” than New Voyages. It’s lovely to see so many Trek alumni on screen, but awful to hear them spout such truly terrible dialogue. And the plot? We’ve already seen Yesterday’s Enterprise, Mirror Mirror, Charlie X and City on the Edge of Forever. Great episodes on their own, but unpalatable when put in a blender and whizzed up into a fan-wank smoothie. Still, worth a look for curiosity value. Link here.

Former Star Trek actors participating in a fan film? I figured it was worth checking out. So I signed up and forgot about it. Well, Part 2 came out the other day and I thought I’d give the first part a quick look. Only I couldn’t just go look at it; I had to click the link, give them an email address, and wait for an invite.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: <>
Date: Mon, Mar 31, 2008 at 10:19 PM
Subject: Watch Star Trek Of Gods and Men Part 2

Thank you for your interest Star Trek: Of Gods And Men. The reason we are collecting your email address is so that we can notify you when part 3 is available.

IMPORTANT: Please save the below link, or this email, if you want to go back and watch Part 2 or Part 1 again.

If, at anytime, you experience any issues you can always reply back to this email for assistance (depending on volume, emails can take up to 24 hours to respond to).

To talk about this film, please visit our forums:

Since I failed to complete the task the first day, procrastination took over and I still haven’t watched a minute of the film. However, if you go to the Renegade Studios site, you’ll discover several other projects that might be of interest.

And then the newsletter shows up today.

My Dear Friends,

My new suspense-comedy feature film Lady Magdalene’s is having its Los Angeles-area premiere at the auspicious Backlot Film Festival. I’d love you to join me. During my introduction I’ll be singing one of the two songs I wrote for the movie and following the film will join writer/director/producer J. Neil Schulman for Q&A.

Thursday, April 3rd, 7:00 PM

Backlot Film Festival
Veterans Memorial Auditorium
4117 Overland Avenue
Culver City, CA 90230

Cost $5.00 – $3.00 Senior/Student
Buy Tickets at the Door or Online at
Official Movie Website:

For our printable flyer click here:

It’s going to be a wonderful evening.

Be there!



Nichelle Nichols is starring in a film by J. Neil Schulman? The same J. Neil Schulman who wrote Stopping Power? When did he start doing film? The universe is indeed weirder than we can know.

Star Trek fans probably have no idea who J. Neil Schulman is, but those of us who are reasonably informed in Libertarian circles have become well acquainted with the name, even if we haven’t quite gotten around to reading his books.

I guess I’ll have to make time to watch Nichelle perform in a film by J. Neil schulman. I’m in a quandary though as to whether to invite my Libertarian friends or my SF friends. If I invite both groups and they both show up there could well be a causality inversion.

Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.


Might be interesting.


Star Trek: Of Gods and Men was pretty cheesy. That’s a hard pass for me. The Wife has bought copies of the first two parts of the series, the second one being Star Trek: Renegades. There is supposedly a third part out. I haven’t seen it. I’m sure the Wife will buy it if she hasn’t already. She can stomach more cheese than I can.

The Wife and I tried watching Lady Magdalene’s several times and we couldn’t get past fifteen minutes without bailing out on the thing. Too cringe. Too jarringly unreal to ever be more than a fluffy, gun-toting distraction from the carnage outside the window. Sorry Nichelle. You probably should have passed on this project.

J. Neil Schulman is already not speaking to me anymore. Ditto for that other libertarian armaphile, L. Neil Smith. This is fine by me. Neither party is capable of being persuaded of the legitimacy of the other party’s concerns. It will either come to a shooting standoff or they will surrender their guns peacefully when the time comes. They’ve already proven their unsuitability to have them just by insisting I want to take their guns. The only guns I want confiscated are those in the hands of dangers to my fellow human beings. Ipso facto, they shouldn’t have guns. They can moderate their beliefs any time they like. Totally up to them.

What a Trek libertarian might look like remains a mystery to me. American libertarians would probably be Ferengi unless they change their ways. Starfleet could well be libertarian socialist given what has been said about it. Maybe our great-great-great-grandchildren will find out what the answer to that question is. Will they even know what Star Trek was by that point?