On Joel Rosenberg’s Sanity, Safe Gun Handling, and Why You Should Always Check Who’s Sitting Behind You in the Rarig Center Theater

Joel Rosenberg’s arrest is getting a bit of coverage around the blogosphere, and while folks like Scott Greenfield and Mike Cernovich are supportive, not all of the coverage is sympathetic. For example, Greg Laden at ScienceBlogs has a less-than flattering piece titled “Jew with a gun tries to make point, gets busted, is very creepy.”

(I should inject here that Laden isn’t making an anti-semitic remark. JewWithAGun.com is one of Joel’s many web sites.)

Look, I know that Joel is a bit odd at times, but I don’t get a creepy vibe from him at all. He’s just eccentric. Now, I admit I’ve never met Joel, so I could be wrong, but neither has Greg Laden. In fact, Laden seems to creeped out by gun ownership in general, and it causes him to miss a few points.

For example, in an unsourced quote (apparently pulled from this WCCO news story), Laden chooses to emphasize one aspect in particular:

Palmer then disarmed Rosenberg, removed the loaded magazine from the gun and the live round that was in the chamber. Palmer then returned the unloaded weapon to Rosenberg and asked him to leave, police said.

[emphasis Laden’s]

There’s nothing wrong or unusual about carrying a semi-automatic pistol with a round in the chamber. It’s called “condition one” readiness, and police departments all over the world train their officers to carry this way. All modern self-defense pistols are designed to be carried this way. They have a safety mechanism (or two) to prevent the gun from going off accidentally.

The point is to be able to draw and fire quickly, and with only one hand if necessary. If the chamber was unloaded, you’d have to take time and use both hands to ready the gun for firing by cycling the slide. In a self-defense situation, that could mean a dangerous delay, and it might not even be possible if an assailant grabbed your other hand.

In an open letter to the officer who disarmed him, Joel sarcastically presents him with a list of options for how he can handle Joel the next time they meet, including chilling out, arresting him, beating him, or killing him. I won’t reproduce the whole thing, but Laden misinterprets this passage:

3. Arrest me at gunpoint. Draw your service weapon, point it at me, after announcing that you’re going to arrest me. Call for backup to secure me. I won’t resist — you have my word, Bill — them or you. Keep your finger off the fucking trigger. You don’t want my blood on your hands, and I won’t have yours on mine.

About which Laden comments:

The list is embedded within and includes lots of phrases that say things like “don’t worry, I’ll never hurt you” but also includes what I like to think of as a “rule trigger” that in this case literally involves a trigger … in item number 3. Palmer is invited to arrest Rosenberg at gunpoint …. putting it another way, Rosenberg is giving Palmer permission to do his job … but embeds in this permission a specific threat: If Palmer touches his own trigger finger, then … then what? It’s a little unclear, but it seems to involve some fantasy that Palmer has of grabbing a police officer’s gun so that it goes off and shoots him (Rosenberg). Yeah, this threat of suicide by cop is probably enough to bring him in and have him committed.

Joel isn’t threatening to do anything, and Joel isn’t talking about Sgt. Palmer touching “his own trigger finger,” he’s talking about Palmer touching his finger to the trigger of his own service weapon–which is unsafe gun handling that could result in an accidental discharge. That’s the spilled blood that Joel is referring to.

I’m not sure why Joel brings this up. I can’t see whether Palmer has his finger on the trigger of Joel’s gun when he takes it from Joel, but if you watch the first minute of the video, Sgt. Palmer does appear to sweep the barrel of Joel’s gun across Joel and across the other two people in the room. It’s not the worst gun handling mistake–I’ve had people sweep me on the gun range–but it is a mistake. Joel teaches firearms safety, so maybe he was chiding Palmer a bit.

Later, Laden has this to say:

If you look on the web for books, classes, and information about this, you will find web resources put together by various pro-gun organizations and individuals. Mr. Rosenberg is, it turns out, one of the main go-to guys if you want to pursue a carry permit in the Twin Cities. You can buy his book, too.

So I see this incident as proof positive that the line between gun advocates and gun safety related resources and teachers on one hand, and threatening and dangerous gun nuts on the other hand, to be either very thin or simply non existent. Assuming that Joel Rosenberg is a dangerous crazy gun nut. Which I tend to think he is.

There’s not much evidence of that, especially if you understand what Joel was talking about. In fact, Joel goes out of his way to emphasize that he’s not making any kind of threat, a fact which Laden acknowledged in the quote above. Besides, if Joel’s so dangerous, how has he gone 56 years without ever doing anything antisocial enough to prevent the state of Minnesota from issuing him a permit to carry a concealed firearm?

Finally, this last bit has nothing to do with Laden, but one of his commenters with a handle of “Albatross” explains how dangerously crazy Joel is in a 500-word rant that also includes the tale of how he use used to like Joel’s novels but threw them away after Joel insulted his wife, speculation about Joel’s penis size, and this wonderful tale:

This was VERY amusing to me when I sat behind him for a play in one of the Rarig Center’s theaters. I enjoyed the performance a lot more than I should have, imagining myself kicking him really hard in base of the skull, and then shouting “How’s the chambered round in your goddamned handgun working for you now, asshole?!” at his twitching corpse. Likewise slitting his throat with my pocketknife.

Yeah, Joel’s the crazy one alright.

4 Responses to On Joel Rosenberg’s Sanity, Safe Gun Handling, and Why You Should Always Check Who’s Sitting Behind You in the Rarig Center Theater

  1. Right here dude. Did you say the same thing when Rosenberg publicized his violent fantasy about chasing a home invader down the street, waving his gun and wearing only underwear? I think both Joel and I are protected from your recommended incarceration by the fact that it’s still legal to THINK if that’s all you do.

    My point, which is obscured by being taken out of context, is that Rosenberg brags about how his guns keep him safe, but his practices of insulting people he does not know make him UNsafe. His pistols and knives would have done him no good had I been exactly the kind of scary violent person he’s always worried about. He STILL doesn’t know who I am, despite the fact that the link between my handle and my identity is quite robust and has been for 35 years.

    My secondary point is that Joel CREATES the violent atmosphere within which he lives. I’m an eminently peaceable guy, and I didn’t attend a play with thoughts of violence in mind. Yet having an armed, annoying lunatic seated directly in front of me did indeed spur me to violent fantasies – none of which, you notice, I acted upon. But it IS disturbing.

    So don’t mistake cause and effect here. My violent fantasy was caused by Rosenberg’s violent attitudes. Had he been anything but an armed crazyperson with an arrogant sense of his own security, I could have enjoyed that play with no violent thoughts whatsoever.

  2. Wow, just because the guy says he is not a threat then all is OK. Yeah, that is the right way to handle it – for the terminally stupid.

    I am with Greg Laden on this.

  3. NewEnglandBob, Greg Laden called Joel a “dangerous crazy” but that’s an opinion that he pulled out of thin air. Nothing in this story indicates that Joel has hurt anyone. Nothing in this story indicates that Joel has even threatened to hurt anyone. So where’s the danger? You’re right that Joel saying he’s not a threat doesn’t mean he’s really not a threat, but it seems to me that the burden of proof should not be on Joel–not when his freedom is hanging in the balance. The burden of proof should be be on people who think Joel is a threat, and Laden offered no evidence that Joel was a danger to anyone.

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