In The Hills On My Own

Reflections of a Twenty-Something Georgia Boy


When I was a kid and an X-Games poser Dave Mirra was my favorite athlete. Today he passed away, by an apparently self-inflicted gunshot.

Often when someone takes their own life or tries to, it seems that the most sympathetic reaction is to encourage those who struggle with depression to seek help.

It seems to me though, that this asks the victim to take on another burden, another responsibility. And for those to whom life has given much, the fear of seeming ungrateful can drive a person away from finding help on their own.

Depression does not discriminate. It does not know race, or gender, or sense of humor. It doesn’t care how much money you have, or how many medals you won. All I know to do is to fill the lives of people for whom I care with all the love I can, and hope that helps.

Not In My Name

I am writing this as my state prepares to execute yet another person in my name, a person that I never asked to be executed.

Kelly Gissendaner’s story has received attention in the last few days for a myriad of reasons. It will, barring a miracle, be the first time the State of Georgia has executed a woman since 1945. It will be the first time since capital punishment was reopened as a form of punishment in 1976 that Georgia has put a person who did not commit the accused act of violence to death. At time when forward-thinking states across the country are using more and more scrutiny when it comes to the death penalty, Ms. Gissendaner’s execution is another in a troubling string by the State of Georgia that seem like an acceleration, rather than a careful reexamination.

These historical benchmarks do not address the more personal nature of Kelly Gissendaner’s time spent on death row. Having expressed her responsibility for her crime, and her abject sorrow and remorse for what she did, Ms. Gissendaner made her imprisonment into what should be a celebrated example of redemption and rehabilitation. Through her own efforts, and those of the remarkable leaders of the prison theology program from which Ms. Gissendaner graduated a few years ago, she has become a light of hope, strength, and inspiration to other inmates, to the correctional officers charged with her supervision, and to people across Georgia and the United States who look for brief instances of success in a prison system that is rife with corruption, violence, greed, abuse, and general ineptitude.

What do we then accomplish by executing Kelly Gissendaner? We take away hope from people who are trying to change their lives. We show that the clemency process is nothing but a charade, a way for the State to say that the process ran its course. We make Ms. Gissendaner’s children, who have suffered and then watched their mother grow and become a new person, victims anew. We once again ignore the thousands of voices in this state who cry out during every execution “Not in my name!” And we prolong a system that claims to be built on rehabilitation, but increasingly in Georgia seems to instead be built on publicity, revenge, and a cheap claim at the falsehood of deterrence.

I am heartbroken and angry today, because of my state’s actions. But I am also heartened by the potential displayed by the citizens of Georgia who call out for Kelly Gissendaner to be shown mercy. I am heartened by the letters and calls made by the incredible array of religious leaders from all backgrounds who are holding up Ms. Gissendaner as an example of what can be good about what we do to help people. And I am heartened by Kelly Gissendaner herself, who has shown us all that despite our pasts, and in the face of death, we can all be redeemed and shine as a beacon of hope and strength.

Blueberry Chess Pie Recipe

I was really craving chess pie today, for some reason. Maybe it was because I was thinking about the amazing buttermilk pie that I had last year at The Yesterday Cafe in Greensboro, GA, but I didn’t have any buttermilk. (By the way, Greensboro is totally worth a visit. One of my favorite small Southern towns I’ve ever visited.) Whatever. Here’s what I made, it turned out great!


1 1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. butter
1/8 tsp. salt
3 eggs
2 tbsp. flour
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 unbaked pie shell (if you make your own pie crust, totally use it. I cheated.)

Cream sugar, butter and salt in a mixer until fluffy.

Blend in eggs, one at a time.

Add flour, cornstarch, vinegar and vanilla. Beat until smooth.

Stir in blueberries.

Pour in pie shell, bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then 300 degrees for 35-45 minutes until pie sets up in the middle.

A Braves Fan’s Guide to Seeing Your Favorite Player at Turner Field in 2015

Hi Braves fan. Your favorite player just got traded.

While not absolute, the above statement is probably true. Many of you are sad, or angry, or have given up hope. But fear not! I have made it easy to see your favorite player play this season in Turner Field. Below are the names of former Braves and when they will appear in Atlanta. Don’t get your tickets now; wait until they invariably drop to $3 on StubHub.

David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve (Yankees): 8/28-8/30

Justin Upton (Padres): 6/8-6/11

Anthony Varvaro (Red Sox): 6/17-6/18

Tommy LaStella (Cubs): 7/17-7/19

Jason Heyward (Cardinals): 10/2-10/4

Evan Gattis: Not appearing in Atlanta in 2015. Unless the Braves play the Astros in the World SeriHAHAHAHAHAHA

An Ode to WInter


This is a story about how a fat, lazy black lab who wouldn’t hunt taught me to be an adult.

In Georgia, there are few things more highly regarded than a bird dog. Waynesboro, Georgia, is the “Bird Dog Capital of the World”. The love and care given to a good hunting dog can exceed that given to less-favored members of one’s own family. But in this case, the dog in question hides from loud noises, sees retrieving as little more than a game of keep away, and will stay for about four seconds if I try to walk away from him. He also may have saved my life.

As a 21 year old living in Athens GA, it was generally my goal to leave parties responsible for little more than getting home safely, a relatively simple task that I managed to fail at with a frequency that will probably alarm my mother when she reads this. The idea that I would go to a party and threaten my efforts to avoid all responsibility by doing something as reckless as adopting a dog seemed, well, crazy. But when I walked into a house on a cold night just before Christmas in 2007, into a room full of people in awful sweaters listening to bad hip hop, there was a perfectly calm lab curled up on the couch, looking frankly, terrified. I fell in love immediately.

Winter (I didn’t name him; my girlfriend at the time did. I was trying, as all good Georgia boys in their early 20s do, to decide whether to name him after a UGA football player or a brand of beer) came into my life through the efforts of great friends and some leftover macaroni and cheese.

For much of my life, I have spent my summers at Camp Mikell, the Episcopal Church camp for the Diocese of Atlanta. As a camper, counselor, summer staffer, and later as a dean, I have made most of my closest friends in woods of northeast Georgia. While many people say goodbye to their camp friends at the end of the summer, that was never the case for us. For most of the year, we looked forward to annual get-togethers; crawfish boils, a party known as “Big Canoe”, and an annual Christmas party. Traditionally, the Christmas party was held the night after the new staff members were interviewed; it was a time when many of the current summer staff were back home from college.

As several of the staff members were getting ready to leave camp in the winter twilight near Toccoa, GA, the still of the woods near the parking lot was broken by a commotion coming from the bushes. Knowing that camp had had a boar problem around that time, it was not a harmless sound. But from the underbrush came bounding not a boar but a black dog, underfed but still massive, excited and happy to see people. To this day Winter still approaches visitors in this overly joyous and slightly intimidating way, a manner that few would expect if they knew the attachment he has developed with a certain couch in my living room.

He was smelly but in good spirits when he was found, and wearing the orange collar known world over to hunters. But he lacked tags, was malnourished, and was somewhat skittish despite his joy at being found. I later came to find out that Winter hates loud noises; thunderstorms, the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve are traumatic times for my otherwise unshakable companion. All signs point to a gun dog who wouldn’t hunt, was abused and then abandoned. No one answered the postings around Toccoa about a missing black lab.

My friends cleaned him up in the camp showers (sorry if you’re reading this Mikell staff!) They broke into (er, visited) the dining hall and made him a plate of leftovers; green beans, macaroni and cheese, and chicken tenders. To this day, Winter will sit on your feet and stare at you intently if you’re eating mac and cheese. And then they started the trek from Toccoa to Athens for the party that night.

When I saw him I knew he was the one. I had been thinking about getting a dog for several months, but hadn’t pulled the trigger. His eyes followed me as I walked around the room, hugging friends and grabbing a drink. He watched as we danced and sang. And when I sat on the couch where he was curled up, he put his head in my lap, and in all the chaos we just sat. I never had a chance.

My early years in Athens were a time when I drifted from house to house, managing to hold down a horrible job in a parking deck while I enjoyed all the perks of being a UGA student (the nightlife, the music, the girls) without the inconvenience of actually having to go to class. I read a lot, hiked, watched the same movies 1,000 times since we couldn’t afford cable, and generally acted like someone without a care in the world.

I didn’t grow up with a dog in the house; we had pets without fur, so instead I had fish, my sister had a leopard gecko, and for a brief period of time I was the proud owner of an iguana named Jack who is now buried in my parents’ back yard in Atlanta. I had no idea what it took to own a dog, no clue what they needed or what was involved. I never had to leave the bar early, or go home on my lunch break, or decide I couldn’t go camping for a weekend because there was nobody to watch him before.

Winter changed everything. During those years in my mid 20s other things changed, but there was always Winter, waiting patiently. Soon I was paying for things like dog food before beer, making sure I got home safely so he could go outside, and making sure he saw the vet on a regular basis.

One night, early on in my time with Winter, I was at home with and let him out to go pee. I knew I should have put him on a leash, but I had had a few bourbons and forgot. He was young, and hadn’t gotten fixed. He caught a scent and took off. I wandered around my neighborhood hollering his name, probably waking up the students that lived on my street. Finally I broke down and called my friend up the street, one of the folks who had found my wandering friend in the first place, and told her that Winter had taken off, and that I couldn’t drive to go look for him. I stayed at the house, morosely shaking a box of milk bones hoping he could hear them. After what seemed like an eternity Whitney called and said she had found him, alive thank god, wandering down MLK a quarter mile away. Through the haze of terror and relief and liquor I came to the conclusion that things would have to change if I were going to take care of this dog.

It takes different people different things to learn how to be an adult. For some folks it’s tragedy, or family, or a job. Often times, we don’t recognize the things that help us grow in the moment; we have to wait to see the progress we’ve made and what the catalyst was, after the fact. There have been several times in my life that I can point to as highs and lows, in much the same way that you can stand on the beach and point to where high and low tides rest. But it is harder to see what the impetus behind positive movement is. As silly and small as it may seem, for me it was a black lab that ran out of the cold December woods in north Georgia.

Through all of our adventures, my growth as a person and Winter’s growth (outward, mainly, he’s a bit of a chubster in his old age), he has been a patient companion, dealing with my efforts to get to be a better dog owner and a better person. He is there when I get home, and understanding when I don’t get up quite as early as he had liked. They say they a dog takes after their owner, adopts their mannerisms and attitudes, but in this case I feel like Winter has taught me more than I could ever teach him. He has taught me to grow up, to be responsible, and that a good friend will always be there. As long as you remember to feed him.

Get On Board

If this past weekend’s rumors are true, and they seem like they are, we can expect an announcement of a new MLS franchise in Atlanta in the coming weeks. We have heard for weeks that Arthur Blank and the league were close to an agreement, and now it seems that the dream that many native Atlantans, including myself, had when the league started in 1993 will come to fruition. But what will the team be named? Allow me to make a suggestion.

Major League Soccer has shown a penchant for naming expansion or re-branding teams after European clubs. It is kind of silly. Real Salt Lake, Sporting Kansas City, even FC Dallas are names that seem more like affectations, like that guy you knew in college that only listened to Icelandic metal. But if the league wants to continue this trend, it has an opportunity to do so in Atlanta with a name that actually relates to the city: Locomotive Atlanta.

There are several teams, mostly in eastern Europe, that carry the “Locomotiv” name. Most of them were made up of members of the railroad union or had connections to the rail industry. Atlanta was founded as a rail city. It’s original name, Terminus, reflects that history, and has already been adopted by the first major supporters group for Atlanta’s franchise, Terminus Legion. The former marker for the end of the Western and Atlantic Railroad, the “Zero Mile” marker, is still proudly displayed downtown. “Zero Mile” would be an awesome name for a supporters section. And Locomotive Atlanta could be shortened to LocoATL, which is just cool. And with a large rail presence currently in the city in Norfolk Southern, CSX, and Amtrak, as well as a new stadium that will be easily accessible by rail, the environment is right for corporate partnership that actually relates to the team.

I’m so excited that Atlanta will finally have top-tier professional soccer. I think Locomotive Atlanta would be an awesome name for our new team. Even if it isn’t, hopefully it gets people thinking about ways to make the team reflect to the essence of our city.


I am overwhelmed by sadness.

I am not sad because justice was not done. There is no real justice for a murderer. There is nothing “just” when the victim can never be returned to their family. There is no punishment that can ease the pain or fill the void of a life taken too soon. Had this man been found guilty of murder, it would not heal those against whom the crime was done. Do I wish he had been convicted? Absolutely. A conviction would have shown those who would wield false power that they are not exempt from the requirements of society. A conviction would have ensured that this pseudo-John Wayne would not feel that he was justified in his misguided attempt to play policeman. A conviction would have strengthened a nation’s wavering faith in it’s systems of law. But that is not why I am sad tonight.

I am sad because the idea that makes our country succeed; the idea that we are all citizens of a great nation that treats us equally and fairly, has once again been proven to be little more than foolish naivete. We so often throw the word “value” around in our arguments about human life. Why did the life of this young man who was gunned down lack the value that is attributed to others? Did his actions, whatever they were, devalue his life to the point that he no longer deserved to keep it? I would argue that those who are defending the actions of the man who walks free tonight may have judged this value as soon as they saw his picture.

Tonight as I fall asleep I will think of Trayvon Martin and I will think of the Martin family. I will think of all of the other people killed unfairly whose lives were deemed so valueless that they weren’t even given attention. I will think of George Zimmerman, and hope that in the courtroom of his consciousness he is forced to re-examine the crime he committed and that he finds a way to learn the value of every human life. I will think of all these people, and when I wake up tomorrow I will do my best to ensure that in spite of this tragedy, we grow into a nation where people are not viewed as deserving of a violent death, but rather cherished as what they are: people. And that’s all.


The Last 24 Hours

Last night I stayed up until 2 AM following the Texas senate. I woke up at 9 this morning to watch the Supreme Court.

It’s times like these I’m glad I don’t have a job.

When we talk about decades or eras in America, we often define them by the overarching social or economic situations of those times. The roaring ’20s. The Great Depression. The Civil Rights Era. The tech boom of the ’90s. The beginning of the 21st century will be marked by economic strife, yes, but I hope it will also be remembered as a time when the people of the United States took the time to decide the type of country in which they would like to live.

As I am writing this, it is almost exactly 24 hours after Wendy Davis began her filibuster of the Texas senate to prevent a bill from being passed that would severely restrict the availability of abortions to the women of her state. Her efforts, combined with those of her colleagues Leticia Van de Putte, Kirk Watson, Royce West, John Whitmire, and Judith Zaffirini, served notice to those who would impose their ideals on others that those efforts would not be met without a fight, and with the noise of the gallery drowning out the senate chair, defeated the bill in an incredible showing of strength and unity.

This morning, a Supreme Court that many have criticized for being unwilling to take on controversial cases ruled that the federal government may not discriminate against a person based on their sexual orientation. Although they fell short of declaring a right to marriage, the court’s ruling is still a landmark step in the recognition that the federal government is not in the business of dividing it’s citizens into groups and assigning them different rights. The Defense of Marriage Act, the law ruled unconstitutional by this morning’s ruling, was a divisive and bitter piece of legislation whose very name insulted the large number of American citizens who wanted nothing more than to be treated equally.

And so the last 24 hours have been eventful, and exciting, and exhausting for some, and REALLY exhausting for others (looking at you, Senator Davis.) It is heartening that so many people took up the banners  of their causes, on both sides. My hope is that people continue to engage with the issues; that the idea that the fix is in, and no amount of shouting can cut through the ever-thickening walls of ill-gotten money and power, gets left behind in exchange for a time when the people of our country have a real conversation with themselves and their fellow citizens about the future of the nation, and recognize that in the end, we’re all in this together. That your rights are my rights. And we all matter.

26.2 Thoughts


I saw it first on Twitter, of course, America’s newest source for breaking news, accurate or not. “CNN cutting to coverage of Boston Marathon explosion.” 140 characters isn’t really enough space to capture the magnitude of what happened, but at that point no one had any idea, really.


I switched over to CNN from Netflix, where I had been watching “Scrubs” (I’m in the middle of watching every episode). The caption at the bottom said “6 injured in Boston Marathon explosions”. Over the next five hours, that number got higher, and higher, and higher. It reminded me of other news stories like this that I’ve watched, where without fanfare or acknowledgement the numbers clicked upward, in Sandy Hook and Blacksburg and New York City and Littleton and Baghdad and Kabul. I”ve seen these stories too many times over my 26 years on earth.


It isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that athletes get their legs taken, artists get their hands taken, musicians lose their hearing, powerful speakers are ravaged by throat cancer, and graceful boxers are devestated by Parkinson’s. Some people have parts of them touched by God, blessed with abilities that others could only imagine. It’s not fair to watch that get taken away.


Sports can heal. Inevitably after these tragedies there is a discussion about what role sporting events can play in recovery and healing. Atlanta sports fans are intimately familiar with this. The Braves played the Mets in the first baseball game after the 9/11 attacks, and the Falcons played the Saints in the first football game after Hurricane Katrina. Ask the athletes that played in those games whether they could feel the difference they made. The wounded joy on the part of New Yorkers and Louisianans was evident to everyone on those nights.


Patton Oswalt is right. Good outnumbers evil, and always will. The examples of this over the last 24 hours are well documented. No matter how many people were responsible for the attacks, there were exponentially more people responsible for helping, supporting, loving, and caring for the victims. This will always be the case.


The things that bring Americans together are stronger than the things that tear us apart. Despite our differences, we are a people that wants to do right by each other, and that becomes evident in times of crisis.


In “Cry, the Beloved Country”, Alan Paton wrote “There’s only one way in which one can endure man’s inhumanity to man and that is to try to exemplify man’s humanity to man.” Through our many struggles, we know that to be true.


Strength is relative. Security experts on the news called the marathon finish line a “soft” target. That’s not what I saw. I saw unimaginable strength and resiliency. I saw people who finished running 26 miles keep running to help. I saw an ex-NFL offensive lineman carry injured victims. I saw a 78 year old man 15 feet from the finish line get knocked on his ass by a bomb, get up, and finish the race. That doesn’t sound like a soft target to me.



When the movie of this gets made, Tim Meadows will play Deval Patrick.


No one knows when or where or if this will happen again. If they tell you they do, they’re lying. Intrinsic in any kind of public crisis like the one we are experiencing is an inability to trust, a feeling that things outside of our control are becoming more and more dangerous. This is the definition of terror. We cannot allow those who would terrorize us to confine us to the dark corners of our own insecurity. We cannot be afraid to step out into the light day after day and trust that the majority of those around us are there to build us up, not tear us down.


I still don’t understand what it is that makes people want to run marathons, but I’m pretty sure now that it’s a positive quality and not a sign of insanity.


Island [1]
by Langston Hughes

Wave of sorrow,
Do not drown me now:

I see the island
Still ahead somehow.

I see the island
And its sands are fair:

Wave of sorrow,
Take me there.


If I know anything about people from Boston, it’s that they don’t take shit from people. Sometimes obnoxiously so. They’ll be okay.


It made me angry when the talking heads on the news were trying to decide whether the attacks were “terrorism, or something else”. When someone sets off bombs, its terrorism. There’s no difference who does it. When they said “is it terrorism or something else?”, I heard “did a Muslim place the bomb, or was it just a white person?”


I couldn’t help but think of the story of Pheidippides, the basis for the running of marathons. He died at the end of his run, at the finish line. His last words were “Joy to you, we won. Joy to you.”



I can’t believe there were people from Newtown there. Will they ever be able to feel safe?


Wolf Blitzer said “small package” and I laughed. Take that, terrorists!


I’m proud of people’s reactions on social media. For the most part, all of the messages I saw were ones of support and love and hope and thought. People run down the internet community a lot, and I’m sure there was some nasty stuff flying around out there, but overall it was very positive.


This has been widely shared, but I love it so much I want to share it again: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” – Fred Rogers


When we find and prosecute the people who planted the bombs, we must remember to keep our civility. If we let revenge cloud our judgement, then even in defeat the terrorists will find victory.


Quick thought yesterday afternoon: We sure could use the Boondock Saints right about now. Can we get Norman Reedus to chill out on the zombie hunting for a minute?


Today as I walked around my college campus, everyone seemed more aware of each other. It may not be conscious, but when things like this happen I like to think that our brains force us to be more cognizant of the people around us. In the library, a young man slumped at his computer with his head in his arms. It may have just been stress, who knows. Two people stopped to ask him if he was okay. It was heartening.


This morning I read about a couple of Boston College students who have organized a walk to the finish line for those who weren’t able to finish the race. So far over 15,000 people have RSVP’d.


In America, we search for heroes. Sometimes I think we do so too quickly; we hold up people as examples when they are hurting and I feel bad. But the truth is that we search for heroes because even in times of sadness we look for signs of joy. That is why we will always persevere.


Our common sorrow makes our bonds stronger, the darkness engulfing us now will give way to a brighter light in the end.

Giving Gun Safety A Shot

I apologize for the large gap between posts. As I mentioned previously, I started school again recently and am finding less and less time to sit down and write about things in which I am actually interested rather than things I have been assigned. Even as I write this, there are other things that I really ought to be doing. I have been working on this post for several weeks now, and am finally ready to offer it to you, the reader. Before you comment or write me an angry e-mail, I only ask that you read the entire piece first, take a few minutes to think about what you have to say, and then I will be happy to talk with you about what I wrote.

I want you to imagine, if you will, an alternative beginning to our nation.

Imagine that before the American Revolution, the King of England decided, as he did with most other colonies, that the residents of the American colonies would not be permitted to keep weapons in their homes. No muskets or pistols. How would our present be different? Would our attitudes towards firearms be different? Would Americans be as passionately attached to guns as they are today? Would the Second Amendment even exist?

As the Internet exploded with reactions to President Obama’s proposals for stopping the horrifying rash of gun violence that our country has seen, I thought about this alternative history and decided that yes, things would be very different today. And then I realized that whether you wish that had happened or not, the reasons that America has the most well-armed citizenry in the world really don’t matter. There are, I believe, ways that we can address gun violence creatively that enable those of us who enjoy firing guns as a hobby, or grew up hunting with their families, or simply feel better with a handgun in their bedside drawer, to do so. We are far too intelligent a nation to let the vitriol of the extreme right or extreme left prevent common-ground solutions from being found. I have, over the past few weeks, had conversations with folks with far different perspectives on gun violence. None of these conversations contained the poisonous language of the NRA PR machine, or the judgmental accusations of some liberals. Most people I know want to have a real conversation about how we can stop horrible crimes from being perpetrated with firearms, and most people I know want those who wish to own guns responsibly to be able to continue to do so. So we come to a question: how? How can we make guns not illegal, but safer. How can we make sure that gun ownership, while a constitutional right, is also recognized as a great responsibility? A responsibility that requires commitments to responsible use, the same as voting, free speech, and so many of our other rights as Americans. I have some ideas, and I hope to use this a place to start honest dialogue free from the calculated PR moves of the gun lobby and the federal government, where real citizens can have a real conversation about solutions to gun violence which, I think we can all agree, we would be better off without. In no particular order here are the things I would like to see happen:

Scrap calls for an “assault weapons ban” as defined by the Federal Assault Weapons Ban that expired in 2004.

The previous assault weapons ban had an unclear and inconsistent definition of what an assault weapon was. The defining characteristics in the bill were largely cosmetic and not related to rate of fire (fully automatic weapons have been illegal for some time now). The fact is, there were weapons not covered under the bill that were far more “dangerous” than ones that were. This misguided bill created the sentiment, accurate in some cases, that proponents of increased gun safety do not understand what makes guns dangerous. Logically, any sort of legislation along these lines would need to focus on rate of fire to reduce large numbers of people being shot in a short period of time, and I’m not convinced that that is necessary beyond the current ban on automatic weapons.

Require background checks and waiting periods for all firearms purchases.

This should be something on which everyone can agree. There is no debating that firearms, when obtained by the wrong person, can do horrifying harm. While a background check cannot guarantee that a purchaser won’t commit a violent crime, if it deters ONE person from committing that crime, then it is a success. When you commit a felony in this country, you lose some of your rights. There should be no question that if you have committed a violent crime, you should not be able to purchase a gun. For this reason alone, background checks should be mandatory for gun purchases. Furthermore, a waiting period serves as further deterrent to a crime of passion, desperation, or insanity. Every moment a person considering this type of crime has to wait is a moment for them to change their mind, or be redirected, or otherwise stopped. Could they just go kill someone with another weapon? Yes, it’s possible. But this effort is about making it as inconvenient as possible to commit violence.

Ban gun shows and resale of firearms.

This is a difficult one for me. Between the time that I became convinced that this was a viable proposal and now, I heard a story from Atlanta chef Kevin Gillespie. Kevin is opening a new restaurant in my neighborhood, called Gunshow. In an interview, he was asked about the name and about whether he was worried that it may be controversial. He explained that when he was a kid, his family was fairly poor and his father worked a lot. As a special treat, when he could get off work, Kevin’s father would take him to the gun show at the local flea market. This was precious time for that family, and I suspect that there are similar stories like that across the United States. While I was not raised in a house with guns, I know enough about the people I grew up with and the people from Georgia that some, indeed many, of the activities that we do transcend the activities themselves and center on quality time with loved ones. If that includes going to a gun show for you, than who am I to judge?

But here’s the thing.

The weapons sold at gun shows, flea markets, pawn shops, and on other secondary markets are INCREDIBLY hard to keep track of. While I support a person’s right to own a firearm, I also passionately believe that the system for obtaining one should be tightly checked, so as to make it as difficult as possible for those who would do harm to obtain one. I firmly believe that all firearms should be bought only from a state licensed dealership, regulated by state authorities, and registered in a national database.

Widen the availability of gun safety courses through partnership between the NRA, law enforcement agencies, and federal or state governments. Provide incentives to gun owners who choose to take these classes.

We have to end the combative nature of firearm safety conversations. Citizen gun advocates, their legislators, and the various law enforcement branches should be working TOGETHER to ensure that those who choose to purchase firearms do so in an informed and educated manner. By encouraging gun rights organizations (who, outside of their lobbying wing, are largely intelligent and passionate citizens concerned about their family’s and community’s safety) and local and federal governments to work together to teach people about responsible gun ownership and ways to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, we can end the explosive debates and loaded accusations that hold back our ability to make progress.

One way we can do this is to provide incentives to gun owners who take safety and home defense classes. We provide incentives to teenagers who take driver’s ed, and home owners who use green technology, why not folks who help promote responsible gun ownership? By working together, we can stop arguing past each other.

Improve mental health treatment and the availability of information.

Part of the fallout from the rash of mass shootings in the United States has been a re-examination of the mental health system in this county. The vast majority of Americans who suffer from mental illness are non-violent, wonderful people who work hard to overcome the challenges they face. That being said, because of the unpredictability in the ways certain mental illnesses can manifest themselves, certain steps should be taken to make it as difficult as possible for these individuals to access tools with which they may do themselves or others harm. I don’t know enough about these illnesses to know where these lines should be drawn, but I DO know that there are brilliant doctors and social workers in this country who, if given the resources, can make sure that those potentially dangerous patients can’t obtain firearms.

An important part of that last sentence was “if given the resources”. We have to improve the entire structure of the mental health system in this country. Improved availability of information, public health studies, increased funding of treatment facilities, and the END of the pervasive stigma that still surrounds those suffering from mental illness are all parts of the solution to not only stemming gun violence, but improving quality of life for all Americans on a larger scale.

Create a national model for school construction and retrofitting that controls access points.

Many of the things I’ve talked about have related to ways to prevent guns from being used to prevent violent crime. But how can we make it harder for the mass murderer to enter a school and start shooting? Proposals to arm more adults in schools should be rejected out of hand. The solution is NOT placing more guns in school. I do think, however, that more secure school facilities are something that should be looked at. When I think about the schools I attended through high school, the most striking thing I remember is how many ways to get in there were. With the advent of key card technology, any door that isn’t the front door of the school shouldn’t be accessible from the outside without a key card; it shouldn’t even have a handle. Bulletproof glass, separation between classrooms and the front entrance, and compartmentalized hallways with locking doors are all things that should be looked at (and may be already in place, it’s been a while since I’ve been in a public grade school). In addition, these should be standard components, not just for those schools that can afford them.

Provide people who own hunting rifles or other firearms with more options for storing them outside of their homes.

This is the idea that I had that I present with the most ignorance. I’m not sure if there are places where you can safely store your guns outside your home; I assume that there are. But given a gun owner who has say, a couple rifles and a shotgun for hunting, an antique pistol as a collectors item, and a handgun for home protection, giving that person at least a convenient option to store some of those weapons outside of their home would, I think, reduce the chance of an accident. Would people use this? Who knows? But it’s worth a try.


These are ideas that I’ve been thinking about for several weeks, months, or even years. They are not snap decisions, and are honestly made with only the best intentions. I have no anti-gun agenda; while I wasn’t raised in a house with guns, I enjoy shooting them and respect those folks who wish to own firearms responsibly. I would love feedback and to talk to more people about new ideas for curbing gun violence while still supporting the right to bear arms. Here are my rules for that conversation:

1) Don’t yell at me or patronize me. I don’t claim to know everything. If I’m misinformed about something or you have some statistics for me, great! I can’t wait to hear what you have to say. But let’s have a conversation.

2) If you’re going to show me facts, make sure that they are facts. While I don’t have any problem with most of the members of the NRA, their lobbyists and PR machine drive me insane. I want independently verified information.

3) Try to offer other solutions. It helps the conversation progress and keeps it from becoming contentious if you have ideas rather than just tell me I’m wrong or that something won’t work.

Hopefully I haven’t offended anyone and that this came across as thoughtful and reasonable as it was intended to. Remember, we all love our families, our communities, and our country. We just want what’s best for them.