Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for October 2015

One Curmudgeon’s Opinion (a Halloween PSA)

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It’s Saturday, October 31, 2015…All Hallow’s Eve, or as we Americanos call it, Halloween (with or without the apostrophe between the two “e’s,” my recalcitrant Editor Voice insists I point out). We in the United States tend to think of Halloween as an excuse for dressing up, revelry, eating a lot of candy, and (if you’re over 21) drinking a whole lot.

In other words, it’s all but a bacchanalia for adults. (Kids, mind you, are engaging in much more sedate enjoyment — they dress up, their parents make much of them, they get immortalized in pictures that will embarrass them for the rest of their lives, and then they take their candy-booty home.)

Was Halloween always like this? No, it was not.

“But, Barb,” I can hear you saying. “In my lifetime, it’s always been this way!”

Ah, but before your lifetime, things were different. And centuries ago in the Western World, Halloween was much different.

Why? Well, holidays, like words, elide over time. So a holy time, where spirits once were said to walk — good ones, mostly, but beware of the bad ones! — is subsumed into revelry and near-bacchanalia.

This annoys me, mostly because I figure if you’re going to have a bacchanalia, you should admit it to yourself and be done with it.

But the commercialization of Halloween annoys me even worse.

Look. I like candy. I even like to dress up — though for me, dressing up mostly means I wear concert black attire when playing my instruments — and have been known to throw a good party, complete with liquid refreshment and plenty of vittles.

But I don’t like it that every advertisement you see, starting in midsummer, is for candy. You have to stock up for Halloween, you see, or it’s bad for the kidlets. Because heaven forfend, we cannot possibly allow those kids to go out and not get candy on the one day of the year they’re allowed to ask for it from strangers…that would be inhuman!

In other words (in case you missed the sarcasm), I have a problem with every advertiser on the planet trying to make me out to be a bad person if I don’t buy a humongous stockpile of candy to give out to the kidlets on Halloween.

Anyway, I tend to observe Halloween in the older form — I think about my deceased loved ones, wonder if they can indeed break the walls between the worlds, and hope they’re doing well (as I believe the soul is eternal, they must be alive somewhere in the cosmos).

But if you observe Halloween in the newer form, please do me a favor: Don’t drink and drive.

In fact, do me two favors: Don’t text and drive, either. (Especially don’t drive drunk and try to text; that is a recipe for disaster if I’ve ever heard one.)

In other words — enjoy yourself, but be safe. And watch out for the kidlets during trick-or-treat time.

(This concludes today’s Halloween public service announcement.)


As for a CHANGING FACES update: I am about three-quarters of the way done with my work. I will continue to work on it, and hope to have it in to my publisher in another week or two. (I feel like I’m wrestling alligators — big ones — but maybe the longer I go, the better I’ll become at alligator wrestling. Such is my hope, anyway…)

Oh, and as for book reviews? I’m hoping to review a couple of books next week. I may actually review them first here at my own blog, and later review over at SBR…we’ll see. (Books in the queue include N.N. Light’s PRINCESS OF THE LIGHT and PLANTING THE SEEDS OF LOVE and Rysa Walker’s TIME’S DIVIDE and TIME’S MIRROR, plus several books by E. Ayers.)

Stupid, Wrong, and Completely Unnecessary: Officer Slams Student to the Ground in SC High School

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Folks, over the past twenty-four hours, there has been much talk about an arrest by police officer Ben Fields of a high school student at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina. (If you haven’t read anything about it, this article from Reuters via Yahoo News should get you up to speed.)

There’s even been a video released, showing Officer Fields slamming a young, black female student to the ground while still sitting at a desk.

I’m not going to link to this video, because I find it incredibly disturbing. But I will tell you what I think about Officer Fields’ conduct.

It was stupid. It was wrong. And it was completely unnecessary.

Here’s what I know about this incident, courtesy of watching CNN, FoxNews and MSNBC.

The female student, a senior, was sitting at her desk and refused to pay attention. The teacher apparently called a vice principal into the classroom, to try to get this young woman to pay attention. When she ignored the principal, the principal called in Officer Fields.

I already have problems with this, mind, as a former teacher.

What would I have done, as a teacher? First, I’d try to remove the other students — either before I called the vice principal, or with the help of the vice principal. The reason I’d do that, is because the students need to have a good learning experience; being disruptive is not conducive to learning.

(There is almost always someplace you can go. If the weather is clement, you can go outside. If it isn’t, you can go to the school library, the gymnasium, or even the lunch room.)

Second, I’d have asked the principal to call the student’s parent or guardian.

But instead of doing any of that, the teacher stood there while the vice principal called in Officer Fields. And Fields slammed the young woman to the ground, while still in the desk…the teacher did nothing, the vice principal did nothing, and most of the students did nothing while this happened. (One other female student spoke up, and was also arrested, according to various reports.)

At any rate, because the school personnel didn’t know what to do with the student, they called in Officer Fields, which should’ve been a last resort.

Multiple mistakes were made before Officer Fields ever got there, but Officer Fields’ conduct as shown on the video made things worse.

Officer Fields apparently did not use his mind. Instead, he slammed this young student to the ground, while still inside her desk, and arrested her.

Look. This should go without saying — but here goes:

No one — a police officer nor any other — should never, never, never slam a high school student to the ground while she’s sitting in class over a verbal disagreement.

The best solution, again, is to isolate the student. Then wait for the parent or guardian to show up and discuss the behavior.

Then, to try to bring some resolution to this incident, I’d use the principles of restorative justice. I’d find a way to show that student just how disruptive it is to have someone mouthing off during class time — asking other students to act out how this student behaved might help, for example — and then I’d find a way to have that student make it up to the other students in that class.

You see, retributive justice — what we usually see in the United States — did not work, here. The officer surely seems to have used wildly excessive force on this young, female student. This did not help the student realize what she did was wrong; instead, it gave her a consequence — getting slammed to the ground while still inside a desk — that was extremely disproportionate to her action.

Over time, the student here probably will get upset at what happened to her (something that makes perfect sense), rather than realizing she cannot be disruptive in class. Even if she gets expelled, down the line, for her previous disruptive actions, she still may not understand the problems her original behavior caused for the rest of the class.

Anyway, my thought is that restorative justice would’ve helped a great deal, here, along with a dose of good, common sense.

What a shame none of that existed, here…instead, now we’re assuredly looking at a lawsuit by the student and her family, and another police officer who may lose his job.

How does that help anything?

Most of all, how does that help anyone learn?

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 27, 2015 at 3:53 pm

A Quick, Drive-By Bloglet…

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Folks, I’m still working hard at CHANGING FACES. I now feel confident of about half the manuscript; I’ve deconstructed it, reconstructed it, and it’s reading better and faster according to my editor.

As I said in my last bloglet, I am putting everything I have into this book. I haven’t reviewed a book in weeks; I haven’t written much of anything besides CHANGING FACES; and I haven’t edited anything in weeks, either. (I did proofread a very short story for a friend, but that was about it.)

The hope here at Chez Caffrey is that I will get this book put to bed by the end of October (yes, six days away from now — that October).

After that, I hope to start a new editing project or two. I also have two other stories hanging fire (one’s a novella, the other one’s a short story)…never a dull moment.

But then again, I like it that way.

As for concerts — the next one on the slate is in December, with the Racine Concert Band.

Anyway, that’s my update…what’s going on with you all?

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 25, 2015 at 2:33 pm

Trying to Figure Something Out…

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Folks, for the moment I’ve hit a minor lull in CHANGING FACES. I know where I need to go, but my subconscious seems to be telling me…well, I don’t really know what.

(Thus the title of this blog-let. But I digress.)

I hate it when my subconscious, or backbrain, or whatever it is, knows more than me, but refuses to tell me whatever it is.

It’s like a little kid with a secret. “I know something you don’t know. Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah!” (Sung in your best childhood singsong voice. Naturally.)

Because of this, I wasn’t able to get much done last night. (I did get some, and some beats none…but the clock is ticking, and I know it.)

The only good news is that I probably will review something either Friday or Saturday. (Or if you get really lucky, on both days.) Because if my backbrain/subconscious/whatever refuses to cooperate, I may as well review a book or two. (Right?)

Hope everyone else’s creative endeavors are going along swimmingly — or whatever other term you’d rather have to depict your own writing/music/art/creative pursuit of your choice.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 22, 2015 at 7:01 am

Scribbling Away Madly…or Something Like That

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Folks, I’m still working hard at CHANGING FACES. I had hoped to have my rewrite done by now, but it’s not done yet.

I’m happy with what I’m doing, mind. I just worry because I can’t write as fast as I used to…and I think there’s a story behind that.

You see, when Michael was alive, he and I used to talk writing all the time. We’d discuss our stories, what was vexing us (usually what was vexing me, but sometimes he’d be vexed, too, with his stories and I’d help him out), and being able to talk about these things immediately helped me write at a much faster clip.

And it’s not just that Michael and I used to talk about everything, though we did; it’s that he was a phenomenal editor. He could find areas that I had unintentionally glossed over and helped me flesh them out; he fixed any possible errors before anyone else saw them; he could double-check whether my plotting worked or I had to go back to the drawing board.

Having Michael there to help me was an enormous help. I didn’t worry so much that I was doing it right, and my sneaky, snarky Editor Voice was much quieter — it knew that if I didn’t pick up on the problems, Michael would.

All of that allowed me to write with greater flexibility, greater freedom, and with much better speed.

Mind, I’m very fortunate that I have at least two very good friends who are exceptional editors. I can trust them. They know me, know my style, know at least some of the stuff Michael saw instantly and can and have told me when I need to fix things. Which is all very good.

The main thing to remember, though, is that my writing process has changed somewhat since Michael died. For one, I incorporated much of his style into my own writing. For another, even though I feel Michael’s love all around me (and very blessed to have it, too, as I well know), it’s not the same as having him right there at my shoulder, where I could turn and ask him, “Hey, what do you think of that?” and get immediate answers.

See, to Michael, I was his top priority. (As he was mine.) And my stories mattered to him, just as his mattered to me.

While I can sometimes write thousands of words in a day, now, it’s rare. Usually I can get a thousand or maybe two thousand, especially when I’m doing a rewrite and am trying to juggle all the balls I know need to be juggled while getting all the bits and pieces of story to fit together again.

If it makes any sense, Michael used to help me hold those pieces. He could remind me of where they went, even if I forgot.

Now, I have to remember all that myself.

I have been called a “meticulous plotter” before. I take pride in this, as odd as that may sound. And I want my plotlines to stand up — I want people to know I’ve thought them through, in order to provide verisimilitude and resonance, in order to help you get immersed in my stories (and my husband’s, too).

So while I’m going to continue to work very hard on CHANGING FACES, I don’t know if it’ll come out before the end of this year or not. I do know that if I keep working away, I will get it back to my publisher in a week or two (providing I don’t get badly stalled out, which I pray I don’t).

And because that’s the most important thing going on here, everything else — blogs, book reviews, editing, everything — has to take a back seat to that.

I hope that you all understand.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 19, 2015 at 5:38 am

Thoughts About Lamar Odom

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Folks, as most of you are probably aware, former NBA star Lamar Odom is currently in a coma. As he is a major media personality due to his marriage with Khloé Kardashian, his illness has been front-page news in many places — not just the sports pages, and not just the society pages, but the general interest pages as well.

Why is this?

Some of it is because of Odom himself. He’s a talented basketball player, yes, but he also has appeared to be a warm, caring human being during episodes of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” and “Khloé and Lamar.” Teammates have come forward saying this was no act; Odom was known as being a “good egg,” helping younger teammates in various ways (including buying them designer suits); he was seen as someone who wasn’t all about himself, but truly a team player.

I’m not a huge fan of reality TV (my interest in “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance” notwithstanding), but I have seen Odom in context amidst the sprawling Kardashian-Jenner family. Odom seemed a bit bemused to have support, especially as he’d married Khloé after a whirlwind one-month relationship…but he also seemed to enjoy having the Kardashians and Jenners around him.

Anyway, Odom is now 35. He hasn’t played in the NBA for a few years. He’s been battling a drug addiction for a few years, and perhaps because of this, cheated on his wife, Khloé. The two had been presumed to be divorced, before Odom fell ill during a sojourn at a legal brothel in Nevada…but apparently, they are still legally married.

I never thought I’d say this, but I feel terrible for Khloé Kardashian right now. I’ve been where she’s standing, to a point; my husband Michael was in a coma, had brain damage, and no one knew what his outcome would be during the final day of his life. (Granted, Michael did not cheat on me. He would not have ever done that; he was not that type of person.)

It is not easy to stand by and watch, in a hospital. All you can do is talk with your beloved, and pray. (Or think good thoughts. Or grasp for positive vibrations. Or think about positive, healing energy. Whatever you do to try to tap into the Deity — or at least the good wishes of fellow humans.)

There’s an old song by Kansas called “Dust in the Wind” that pretty much sums up how I felt when I stood there, in the hospital, desperately praying that my husband would not die.

Khloé Kardashian has many things I never had. She’s young, beautiful, extremely wealthy, has access to the best of medical care (and has for most if not all of her life)…but all of that does not help, when you’re there in the hospital.

Mind, from what little I can tell from the copious media reports, Khloé has done everything possible — everything I’d have done, in her place. She flew in Lamar’s father and children; she’s been beside Lamar Odom, talking to him, talking to the doctors, doing what she can to let Lamar know that she’s there and will do everything she can to help.

(I know she doesn’t need me to say this, but I will anyway: Good for you, Khloé. Doing your best in a bad situation is admirable.)

I don’t know what’ll happen next with Lamar Odom. Most media reports I’ve seen, either online or on TV, have said that he’s suffered at least one and possibly as many as three strokes. He’s obviously unwell. He may have cocaine in his system. He may have taken too much herbal Viagra, which could’ve led to many of the health problems he’s now suffering…there is the possibility that he will never wake up. And there’s also the possibility that he will, but much altered.

Though I’ve never met Lamar Odom or Khloé Kardashian, I wish them well. I hope that out of this awful illness, there will be peace. And that Lamar will wake up again, know who he is, know who Khloé and the rest of his family is…and can restart his life again.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 16, 2015 at 7:21 am

A Writing Update (Such as it Is)…

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Folks, I’m at the point in my manuscript where I can see daylight ahead. The journey is starting to come to an end…

But before I can end this particular journey, I have to get through a cloverleaf or two. That have major roadblocks, not to mention setbacks.

When I get this frustrated with any manuscript, I usually try to take a step back and figure out where I’m going. But in this case, I know exactly where I’m going; it’s just that some of the particulars about how I’m going to get there have changed.

So it’s a new and different problem I’m dealing with. It means I have to feel my way through, take my time, figure out what’s going to happen, so I can turn in the best possible manuscript.

I hope this does not mean I’ll miss my publication window for the end of 2015, mind. But the longer I struggle with my manuscript, the less likely it is that I actually will hit that window at all.

Of course, if I weren’t going for e-book publication, there would be no way in the world I could possibly hit the window…but I digress.

What I’m dealing with right now, folks, is where anxiety meets frustration. My strategy has always been to admit that I’m frustrated, and also admit that I’m anxious about being frustrated.

Then I do my best to get on with the job anyway.

This is easier said than done, mind. Because I have to experience the anxiety, experience the frustration, and then tell myself, “OK, Barb, you’ve experienced that. You know how you feel. You’ve acknowledged this. Now set it aside, and see what happens next.”

This is a strategy my late husband Michael told me about. Oft-times, it works — even with impatient, hasty me.

Anyway, when I can’t write, I’m not easy to live with. I get quite cranky, in fact…so I’m sure that everyone around me hopes, as I do, that my solution to fixing my manuscript and hitting my late 2015 window lies just around the corner.

Further updates as I have ’em.


One good bit of information to pass along: As I’ve signed the contract (and it’s been countersigned and I’ve been given permission), I think it can now be told…I’ve sold my third story in the Darkover universe (created by Marion Zimmer Bradley, and continued by Deborah J. Ross), which will be published in REALMS OF DARKOVER during 2016. The story is about my judge, Fiona, as a thirteen-year-old girl, when all she wants to do is become the first-ever female court clerk in the Hellers (a wicked mountain range on Darkover)…and we get to see Fiona’s parents, happily married — Gorsali, a Renunciate (Free Amazon) of Darkover, and Dominic macAnndra, a sitting circuit court judge.

Naturally, it’s called “Fiona, Court Clerk in Training.”

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 14, 2015 at 5:13 am

#MFRWHooks Wednesday — A First Look at CHANGING FACES!

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Folks, every Wednesday, the Marketing for Romance Writers Organization does a blog-hop called “MFRWHooks” (with the addition of a hashtag for Twitter). This gives readers a chance sample the work of authors they may or may not know, in order to build interest for books that are either already out, or are coming out soon.

As I am a proud member of, and as my novel CHANGING FACES will be coming out soon, I thought it was about time I put something up to build interest.

What the #MFRWHooks Wednesday blog-hop needs is a cover (fortunately, I have an excellent one, courtesy of artist Tamian Wood), an introductory blurb, and a few lines from the novel itself. (I do not yet have a buy link, so I can’t add that just yet.)

So, here we go!

CHANGING FACES coverThe blurb:

Allen and Elaine are graduate students in Nebraska, and love each other very much. Their life should be idyllic, but Elaine’s past includes rape, neglect, and abuse from those who should’ve loved her—but didn’t, because from childhood, Elaine identified as transgender.

When Elaine tells Allen right before Christmas, he doesn’t know what to do. He loves Elaine, loves her soul, has heard about transgender people before, but didn’t think Elaine was one of them—she looks and acts like anyone else. Now, she wants to become a man and is going to leave.

He prays for divine intervention, and says he’ll do anything, just please don’t separate him from Elaine…and gets it.

Now, he’s in Elaine’s body. And she’s in his. They’ll get a second chance at love.

Why? Because once you find your soulmate, the universe will do almost anything to keep you together—even change your faces.

And here’s a few lines from CHANGING FACES; note, this is Allen’s perspective:

Why does Elaine want to become a man? Why? What have I done wrong, that she should want this? I must have done something wrong, something terrible, for her to want this…

Inwardly, I prayed, hoping that God existed and would hear me despite my usual disbelief. Oh God, if you’re listening . . .please don’t take my beautiful Elaine away from me. I’ll do anything, absolutely anything…

My reverie was broken when the car went into a skid. “Hang on!” I yelled, while I turned into the skid. That should’ve gotten us safely off the road, albeit into a ditch…but it didn’t work.

Instead, something big, something solid, was in the way.

Something that shouldn’t have been there.

“Oh my God!” Elaine screamed.

I tried to reach out to her, to reassure her, but I couldn’t. My body just wouldn’t respond.

Before I could worry about that, the world went black.


I hope this has intrigued you.

Keep your eyes peeled for further excerpts from CHANGING FACES…but for now, go take a look at the other authors taking part in this week’s #MFRWHooks Blog Hop!

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 7, 2015 at 6:00 am

Encouragement: Not Just for Breakfast Anymore? #InspirationalStuff

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As a writer, sometimes I need encouragement. Advice. Support.

And, like most of you, I don’t always get it.

So what can I do on days when I don’t feel encouraged?

Usually, I just put my mind to the task and do it anyway. But lately, I’ve been wondering this question: What if I tried to encourage myself, rather than tear myself down?

Why is it that we feel like there’s something wrong with self-encouragement? Why can’t we treat ourselves as gently as we’d treat our friends? Why can’t we give ourselves the encouragement we need, when no one else is doing it?

Interesting concept, no?

But how do you go about all that, when you don’t even know where to start?

Like I said, my tendency is to realize I’m not going to be encouraged, and just go and do it anyway. So what I do is look over what I have of my work-in-progress. Sometimes I add a little here, take a little out there… Then I get an idea, and I’m off to the races.

Even so, wouldn’t it be easier if, just for today, I told myself what I’d tell my friends?

So here’s what I want to tell you, if you’re feeling discouraged today:

  • Keep trying. You have a good idea. You just have to trust yourself.
  • Don’t give up. You’ve worked too hard for too long on this project to let a moment of discouragement derail you.
  • Believe in yourself. You can do anything you put your mind to, if you just keep going.

And if you still feel discouraged — if the above does not help you, because you’re ill or feeling tired or have physical limitations (all things I completely sympathize with) — I want to tell you this:

I, too, have days where, due to my physical limitations and other health issues, I must rest.

I hate those days, but they are necessary. They recharge my batteries, so I can come back stronger and better, more able to take on the challenges in my current work-in-progress, more willing to keep fighting.

Also, inability is not at all the same thing as unwillingness. It’s one thing to be unable to do something today. It’s another thing to be unwilling to do it.

That’s why I am a big advocate for listening to your body. If it says, “No,” go rest. If it says, “Maybe,” give it a try. You might just surprise yourself.

So, when you need encouragement, refer back to this blog. And remember to treat yourself gently, the way you would a friend.

It might just help you.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 6, 2015 at 4:13 pm

Mass Shootings in the United States: Will They Ever End?

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Folks, I’ve written many blogs on the subject of mass shootings. Most of them have been in or around schools, including the latest tragedy at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. And every single time, I’ve asked this question: Why?

And inside, I’ve gotten more and more angry along with more and more frustrated. There is a mass-shooting incident seemingly every month, or at most, every two months. Many innocents are killed, we invariably find out that the shooter was mentally deranged or had a grudge against someone that made him lash out…and nothing gets done.

When will these mass shootings end?

Every single time, after a mass-casualty event, we hear the same things from the same politicians. Most of them demand that gun rights be respected, a singularly odd reaction unless you realize how much indebtedness these politicians have to the National Rifle Association. Some of them say the solution is more guns; that if there were more armed people at these schools, or at the theater, or at the church in Charleston, that would’ve actually prevented these mass killings.

It’s hard to believe that some people think the only answer to a mass-casualty event is to make sure that people carry guns in schools, churches, and movie theatres. But that’s where we are in the United States of America in 2015.

Isn’t that abhorrent? Isn’t that something we should not have to say? Isn’t that something we should rise up and change?

Maybe the problem is that most people in the U.S. think that change is impossible. We have gridlock in Washington, DC, we have gridlock in most state legislatures (unless they’re run by one party, in which case we have one agenda being stuffed down the other party’s throat), and we have nothing getting done of any substance whatsoever.

Instead, we have the U.S. Congress trying to symbolically repeal Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) over fifty times, when they know it won’t do any good. They do this because they want to inflame their base of support, and get more donations. And keep themselves enriched, so they can continue to do nothing in Congress — because it’s that nothing that keeps them in office.

You see, changing the narrative takes work. Takes people who are willing to stand up and be counted. Takes people who are willing to take a stand and perhaps get voted out, because they know they’re doing the right thing.

We have a paucity of those types of people in Washington, DC. right now.

Change is possible, you know. In Australia, people took to the streets to demand an answer after the Port Arthur massacre back in 1996. And they got new gun laws, which have decreased the amount of shootings since that time. Significantly, according to CNN.

Last night, President Barack Obama said that these mass-casualty shootings have become “routine.” He said that we have to have change; that sending “thoughts and prayers” are not enough; that the United States has to demand that the Congress take action.

I’ve never been a fan of the President, not since the 2008 Democratic National Committee meeting where Hillary Clinton voters were told Obama would be the nominee and to sit down and shut up. But I agree with him on this issue. It’s wrong that we can’t even get universal background checks — something most policemen believe would be useful — much less try to identify people with serious mental illnesses who have guns, like James Holmes.

Mind, I believe very strongly that someone who is treating his or her mental illness is no more of a threat than anyone else. If Holmes had gone to get treatment, it’s possible he would’ve owned guns and done nothing objectionable at all.

But a James Holmes who has refused to get treatment and has legally obtained guns is a problem.

Now, can the U.S. catch everyone? Of course not. But we can at least catch some.

Saying we can’t catch everyone, so we shouldn’t try to catch anyone, is not a good answer!

I am beyond frustrated at these repeated mass-casualty shootings. As an American citizen, I demand action. We have to try to get this under control, and whatever we have to do, we need to get it done.

No one wants to take away the gun rights of hunters, or a person’s right to self-defense, but my goodness. When the only solution offered by the NRA is for everyone in the U.S. to have a gun, that’s when you know we live in Bizzaro World.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 2, 2015 at 1:44 pm