I was in community college the day after the Las Vegas massacre when the active shooter warning/alarm went off, and it was not a drill. Our very full Intro to Psych class had 3 solid walls, so the only way out other than the doors we couldn't lock were windows we couldn't open, facing the same direction. The two guys who were just-outta-military offered up their services, and by that I mean they rigged their belts up on the industrial door closer with might-as-well-try energy, and then moved to put two of the oh-so-not-heavy-duty tables up against the doors for good measure. The professor had her phone out to get the police report, while everyone else took theirs out to send the obligatory "If anything happens, I love you" texts. News from the report: the guy seen stalking campus with a rifle was specifically seen stalking the area next to the soccer field. OMG you guys, that's a few hundred feet from us! Great. A SWAT team was being sent in. I wish I could say the energy in the room was one of rising adrenaline and agitation, but except for that one girl who was going full horror-movie hysterical, the energy could best be summed up as... bummed. "I guess it's us today. That sucks. I had some things I was really looking forward to."

Anyway, turns out some idiot had decided it would be a great idea to bring a Nerf foam-dart gun to campus - specifically, a Nerf gun they had painted to look more real - the day after the Las Vegas massacre, and a jumpy janitor saw and called it in. Once the truth was discovered, we were given the rest of the day off. The announcement was a formality though: Tthe students had already made that grimly silent collective decision for themselves. The look on that poor bus driver's face when dozens upon dozens of uncharacteristically unsmiling people were all waiting to board at once...

You don't forget the feeling of being a sitting duck. But the feeling, although sharper, did not entirely have the shock of the new. Growing up in 21st century America, you are always a little bit of a sitting duck.

You know what I am also thinking of while I'm typing this? The stove in my family's kitchen. It's one of those electric ones with the flat glass top. I appreciate what it does for us in a Marie Kondo way, but I can't imagine becoming super attached to it, or any stove. But apparently some people have VERY strong preferences, because the actual frigging President had to come out and assure everyone last week that the government was not going to be too picky about the safety rules around stoves, and that the gas ones aren't going anywhere, despite the fact that we now have found out that they are directly causing thousands upon thousands of kids to contract asthma.

My Mom has severe asthma. It causes her daily pain and discomfort, has dwindled what she can feel comfortable doing in her middle age, and now thanks to Covid, has become a source of frankly justified existential fear. I would give anything to rid her of it. But there are people in this country who would rather tens of thousands of children live their lives with that same constant lack of breath than be forced - FORCED I TELL YOU!!! - to use a different type of stove to warm their leftovers. Their stove preference is more important.

These folks are so righteous in the prioritization of their own sense of persecution, that anything and everything that they are used to has become a symbol of their "way of life," and any commonsense improvement to any of it, no matter how necessary the change or how immaterial the difference to their daily life, is somewhere from an imposition that will not stand to a full-on declaration of (cultural) war. My uncle has lost both his legs to diabetes, but these same folks would rather millions of kids have diabetes in their lives, if it means unhealthy foods they like the taste of stay on the shelves. They would rather keep spewing a torrent of fuel into the air until no children born today have any clean air in their lives, if it means the car they like the sound of stays on the market. And they would rather have innocent fellow citizens needlessly have their lives ripped from them in a randomized burst of violence each and every day if it means they can keep amassing the metal contraptions that give their uber-libertarian wild-west fantasies some more heft.

They'll be outraged no matter what, so let us give them something to REALLY be outraged about: November '24. A half-dozen congressional seats (looking at you, NY&CA), one more anti-filibuster senator (looking at you, AZ), the re-election of a still-spry fighting Irishman to the presidency, and soon after the strict federal gun control laws we need. Then we can live in TRUE freedom: freedom from this fear that affects the citizens of no other developed country, yet here has plagued a generation.

Eyes on the prize, and in the meantime stay angry. And stay safe.

Expand full comment
Jan 23·edited Jan 23

"We need to put on the record..." This simple phrase, more than anything else you have written, grips my mind with the realization that we are living the writing of history...that this is the record on which future generations will form an opinion of us.

We will be seen as a time of apathy, as drunkenly sunk into our own lives and willing to ignore violence as the Russians who bought liquor (intentionally priced cheaply by the state so they would not have the coherence to revolt against the ruling classes). We stupefy ourselves with materialism, with individualism, with political correctness, while money controls our leaders. Children, churches, middle class shoppers, young dancers, and parade goers. There is no safety in this apathy. There is only shame that will live on into the future.

Expand full comment

My favorite internet meme today? "Murica: We have gun care and health control"

Expand full comment



February 15th, 2018

'Take that body and don’t even clean the blood off the skin, don’t wash it out of my clothes. Don’t change my facial expression or adjust my posture. Don’t do anything to hide the reality of my death. Let people see me exactly how I was in my last moments, my face twisted in horror and confusion, my body curled unnaturally as if hunching my back could ever protect me from the bullets (nothing can protect you). I want them to see my mouth agape, my eyes feeling betrayed but also weary, because in those final moments, I know I would be shocked but not surprised (you can’t be surprised by something that happens every day; nobody is surprised to see the sun rise in the morning).'

'After I’ve been executed for the crime of being in a public place, my final wish is for the people who enabled this crime, again and again and again, to have to face my anger and explain themselves. Lift my body off the ground and haul it from the site of my death straight to the Capitol. Parade me through the halls and bang on doors and demand that they look at what the bullets did to me. Tell them where my blood spilled, and make them stick their fingers into the wounds like Thomas into Jesus’s side. Don’t waste time trying to convince them that I was better or more worthy of dignity than any other person, because then you’re wasting your breath on a game you cannot win (all they want is win, there’s going to be so much winning). Don’t allow them to rank the victims in terms of their value and don’t allow them to engage in any conversation aside from this: Right here is a body that you killed, and I want to know what you’re going to do about it. They’ll arrest you and they’ll vilify you and they’ll threaten you with their guns. Keep going back, keep showing them my body.'

'Every day, pile more bodies in the halls so they can’t go anywhere without stepping over the victims. Force them to look down at a dead body and lift their leg over it as if stepping over a puddle. Don’t join them in their prayers (the god they pray to doesn’t exist). When they step over my dead body, I want them to look down into my vacant eyes and reckon with the way it ended. I want them to be transported into my mind and feel what I felt after being shot. In those final moments—as I bled out onto the tile floor of the mall, or onto the grass outside a summer concert, or in the dirt of the center city beer garden, or in the middle of my fucking classroom—I would be thinking of all the ways my own country has abandoned its people (for profit, for spite, for no reason at all). I would be lying there, remembering all the murders I’ve cheered for in movies, all the thousands of dead bodies I’ve digested and forgotten, and I would look up at the ceiling searching for meaning and finding nothing at all. I would be thinking: is this really all there is?'


Tom McAllister is the author of the novels The Young Widower's Handbook and How to Be Safe (forthcoming in April 2018). He is the Nonfiction Editor at Barrelhouse, and co-host of the Book Fight podcast. More from this author →

Expand full comment

It seems appropriate to equate peace with an an empty beach; no bipeds to foul up the peaceful scene. As for me, my favorite way of contributing to peace is to stay home. No contact, no conflict.

I include destinations within walking distance as "home". It's mostly woods and a few congenial neighbors, as many dogs as persons, and wild critters who share the space as well.

What can I do locally to promote peace? Here are a few things that have occurred to me.

1) grow something. Then give it away. It's harder to hate someone when they are offering you something fresh to eat.

2) tend some soil. Dirt becomes soil when microbes and carbon are added. Plants, even little ones, put down roots (carbon) into soil. Decaying roots are carbon storage. They stay for quite a while. More carbon can be stored in soil than in the living plants above it. Once you learn about it, healthy soil is a very soul-satisfying thing to have around you. Little critters love it as well. They live in it, dig in it, make their homes in it. They don't attack you, hate you. In fact, they make it possible for you to feed yourself on a small patch of soil; as little as your urban yard.

3) turn your trash into good soil. Get a compost tumbler. get a paper shredder. turn paper and cardboard into shredded paper. Even the colored advertisers. Toss it into your tumbler, along with your kitchen scraps. Then buy a small package of fishing worms; the red wigglers. Watch them go to town, turning all paper and wood fiber trash into compost. It's amazing how fast they do it. They don't mind being tumbled every so often. They live through hot summer and frozen winter. Toss in a a spade or two of dirt now and again, to add microbes. When it's full and looks like soil, dump the compost anywhere you have plants. Don't over-think it. Just turn your kitchen food waste and paper trash into compost. It doesn't stink. it builds soil. it makes your yard healthier. The plants grow better. They store carbon in their roots and fallen leaves. You're doing something for the planet, even if you aren't a gardener. Storing carbon is a form of peace-making.

4. Turn your yard into a meadow. Find a place in your yard, or along a path you walk regularly, or in any bit of soil you encounter in your neighborhood. Order some locally appropriate wild-flower seeds. Toss them onto the surface and cover them with a bit of compost, or mulch. Or nothing, for that matter. Watch what happens as winter turns to spring. Watch what shows up when the wildflowers bloom. Count the number of different insects you see gathering pollen on your wildflowers. Look for birds feeding on insects. realize that you have created an instant ecosystem. Feel the peace that creates inside you.

5) grow something on your windowsill. Find a few old potatoes in your refrigerator veggie drawer that are sprouting. Chop them into a few pieces. Plant them in a few pots that will fit on a windowsill. Water them occasionally. Watch how fast they grow. Then transplant them into an outdoor planter. Later this year, when the leaves finally die back, harvest a few potatoes from that planter. No muss, no fuss. You'll enjoy watching them grow. you can add soil and they will continue growing, make more potatoes in the soil you add. If you leave a single potato behind, they'll sprout again next year. How hard can that be? breathe in a little bit of home grown oxygen. Feel a little bit of peace as you promote a bit of life. Don't worry about whether you get a harvest or not. Just enjoy watching life happen in front of you.

6) Turn off the TV. Choose to get your news-feed a little less often. Tune out the chaos on which the world feeds. Don't glorify it with your participation.

Expand full comment

I won't drill down here on the merits of "banning" so-called "assault rifles" as that is a very hard term to define... they are known as "AR" guns but at the end of the day, it is a hard term to define. Rifles, by definition, are guns. They either are able to chamber one or several rounds (bullets) and that is the focus of the machine.

Many mass shooting episodes have been the product of a weapon that is capable of rapid re-chambering rounds; an automatic rifle. But the ability of that weapon to do that mechanical process is the presence of more cartridges to chamber and fire.

When we struggle to make something "illegal" to prevent another "mass-shooting" we focus on the weapon, but the weapon, the gun, is not the problem. The issue is the magazine of cartridges that drive the weapon.

A hunting "gun" may have a capacity of 3 cartridges in its inventory available to the shooter. Likely a hunter that shoots, will not get another "shot" at the target (animal) but with an inventory of another two cartridges, the shooter has another chance...

Nobody who has ever shot at a deer, moose or other large target has ever needed more than two "bullets" to prove their point. That is the way it is.

We need to get beyond the idea that gun control is a threat to hunting, and to lawful gun ownership. its not about taking weapons away so much as understanding who has them and how they may do harm with them. I have many guns and would proudly declare them if asked and, frankly, if i could have saved one child at Sandy Hook by giving mine up, i would have.

Many say that an unarmed America is a vulnerable one; i say that an armed America is only killing us.

Expand full comment


The documentary JUSTICE, just shown at the Sundance Film Festival, provides overwhelming evidence that Kavanaugh, at his 2018 Senate justice-appointment hearing, was a bold-faced liar about his boozy, penis-waving youth. Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and other women were victimized and the FBI ‘investigation’ was overly brief, deeply flawed, and guided by the White House.

There is absolutely no doubt that this was a travesty of justice. The Trump White House steamrolled this appointment and the FBI, in their purported four-day ‘investigation,’ deliberately refused to interview witnesses who had first-hand information on Kavanaugh’s scummy sexual deeds. [Susan Collins’ ‘blessing’ on the thoroughness of the ‘investigation’ was just one of many travesties in these proceedings.]

JUSTICE has prompted an avalanche of calls with further evidence on this Kavanaugh crapola performance. The film’s director states that now he is pursuing these leads to update his stunning indictment of the Senate misjustice (6-3) that propelled Kavanaugh on to the Supreme Court.

(This was reported in the January 22nd Washington Post.)

Expand full comment
Jan 23·edited Jan 23

"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." Voltaire

When people are convinced that others (who are deemed the enemy) are less than human and responsible for all their problems, then it is all too easy to justify their annihilation. Add easily obtainable guns and you have the makings of a possible mass shooting. Riling up people against a made-up enemy is profitable—just look at Otter News. It’s a perfect storm and far too many people are its victims.

Everyone, please stay safe. Phone your Congress Critters and tell them that more actions need to be taken.

Expand full comment

Another mass shooting, another mass murderer consumed with obsessive, personal grievances, suicide inside a "White Van" not suicide-by-cop. Monterey Park (MP) is between downtown LA and Pasadena, California. MP has their own PD. The first "ballroom", STAR BALLROOM that was attacked is only minutes from a major LA County Sheriff station. Ultra fast coordination with sherriff, state, FBI & other Federal units was noted. Superb mobile, digital communications likely by the LASD was also noted. Cautious approach to the "barricaded" perp in the van with mobile bomb-shielded vehicles blocking any movement by the "White Van" was very good tactics. Best of all the classic 10 am Press Conference" focused on the 20 or more VICTIMS & mention of 2 brave citizens,1 was BRANDON TSAY, who rushed the attacker at a second site, another "ballroom" in Alhambra, disrupting more violence while obtaining DNA & other direct evidence. There is a major story here about "crowd sourcing" as a bulletin with photos of the perp's body type, clothes & beanie was rapidly posted. Jobs (plural) well done. Have you ever been in a hospital presenting with severe trauma physical & emotional? Last time I was taken to a trauma center, I was unconscious for 9 days. It's tough. Those recovering & the AAPI Community need our love and assistance.

Expand full comment

No civilization can survive this level of mayham and violence, in the long run.

When future historians examine the this fraught era, the deliberate misinterpretation by the odious enablers of this carnage, such as Supreme Court's radical, right-wing "justices" and feckless, obscene politicians, will be consigned to the everlasting infamy and shame they so deserve.

I do not see a good end to this level of insanity, violence and this country's acceptance of such .

Expand full comment

This is why my wife and I have retired in France. One cannot buy a gun here. If you want to own a weapon, you have to apply for a permit, and you will be interviewed by the authorities. Ownership is rarely granted. We can walk late at night in the streets without fear. After the mass murder in Highland Park ,Illinois last July 4th, I realized that even upscale communities are not immune. HCR reported in a post last year that since the time that the Republicans under Bush II chose to let the automatic weapons ban lapse, the number of these guns went from 400,000 to 20 million, so that means that someone in your neighborhood has one. Democrats have been spineless in their pursuit of gun control legislation, an issue on which the Republicans could be easily crucified. Edward

Expand full comment

If you thought the US was the only racist country... think of this: The Norwegian government in 2023 was funding a multi-year research project to find out if white paint is racist. A grant funded by the Research Council of Norway explores the impact of titanium white paint — a Norwegian invention — on a variety of factors including national identity and social views of race.

and the US government is presently working on it's federal budget... and making Biden and the dem's look bad. But : Roughly 25% of the nation's debt was incurred during the Trump Administration.

and did you ever wonder if The "AR" in AR-15 stands for assault rifle ... but no, It does not. AR stands for ArmaLite Rifle, reflecting the company name (ArmaLite) of the original manufacturer of the weapon.

and speaking of assault weapons, A rampage at a ballroom dance venue in Monterey Park, California, that killed at least 10 people on Saturday was one of the most deadly mass shootings in the state's modern history. A former Marine combat veteran killed 12 people in a bar in Thousand Oaks. He then killed himself.

the total of killings in the US for January was 54. According to the experts there have been 33 mass shootings so far in 2023. The Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit research group, defines a mass shooting as involving at least four people killed or injured. It counted 648 mass shootings last year.

Now do we Americans have more to be proud of than anyone? Or is it about time to grow up and make some logical changes....

Expand full comment

Thank you Heather.

This seems to be an ideology that escapes us.

As long as it is as easy as it is for guns to be in the wrong hands, this will never end. Ever.

Last week, in my hometown of Syracuse NY, an 11 year old girl walked out of a neighborhood store with a carton of milk she bought and was shot dead. There were eye witnesses, yet there are zero leads to the cold blooded murder.

Be safe. Be well.

Expand full comment

Thank you Heather.

Peace, peace when there is no peace.

Jer. 8:11

I read your post from a flat in London, UK.

What the hell is wrong with US? The grossly inconsiderate misinterpretation of our Second Amendment means that, for some, the freedom to access and wield weapons increasingly means a lack of freedom for the rest of US to go about our lives without fear of being gunned down. And the worse it gets, the worse it gets.

I suspect that chaos leads to control.

Expand full comment

So much heartbreak.

Thank you Heather,  for writing, even during the darkest of times.

Expand full comment

America! Where it rains bullets!

Expand full comment