Joel Rosenberg, “accidental activist”

Joel Rosenberg died last Thursday. He might be best known as the author of Everything You Need to Know About (Legally) Carrying a Handgun in Minnesota, at one time the definitive guide for people who wanted to obtain a permit to carry a firearm in public and subsequently exercise that Second Amendment right.

But he put his real work into a more cerebral topic: science fiction and fantasy novels. He was the author of a 9-book series called Guardians of the Flame, as well as a pair of murder mysteries set in Minneapolis, Home Front and Family Matters.

"He was a writer first and a gun person second," said his wife, Felicia Herman, of Minneapolis.

Actually, he was a social worker first. A native of Winnipeg, he grew up in Northwood, N.D., and later moved with his family to Connecticut, where he met Felicia. He studied to be a social worker and counselor, but took to writing after discussing the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons with a friend. Felicia Herman picks up the story.

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He said, 'Boy I'd really love to be in the world of my game.' And Joel literally woke up in the middle of the night and said, 'Like hell you would. This is what it would really be like.' And that's how he got the inspiration for starting his best known series, the Guardian of the Flame, in which a group of college aged gamers are transported to the world of their game and they didn't like it as much as they thought they would...It was basically a million-word love letter to the industrial revolution.

Herman said Rosenberg's experience with gun rights was inadvertent. She said a neo-Nazi threatened Rosenberg and his family -- specifically enough to describe his home -- and Rosenberg decided to seek a permit to carry to protect himself. The legal back and forth between Rosenberg and the Minneapolis police department prompted him to push for a change in the law, from a "may issue" statute to a "shall issue" statute.

"He was an accidental activist," she said.

Rosenberg was also scheduled to stand trial in August for an incident at Minneapolis City Hall. He brought a handgun with him to fetch some paperwork from the Minneapolis Police Department and was disarmed by police Sgt. William Palmer during the visit. He was charged for carrying a weapon in a courthouse.

The incident coincided with a renewed interest in the cause. Eight years after he published his guide to the state's firearm laws, he published a new edition in February.

Herman said Rosenberg was a diabetic, but otherwise in good health. She said he suddenly collapsed on Wednesday afternoon, and never really recovered, despite efforts to resuscitate him.

Rosenberg was 57 when he died. In addition to his wife, he's survived by his two daughters Judy, 20 and Rachel, 17.

(Photo courtesy Felicia Herman)