Friday, September 5, 2008

Confessions Of A Firearms Instructor - Part I

Confessions Of A Firearms Instructor: Part I

The True Reason Why We Teach People How To Use Firearms
The responsibilities and duties of a firearms instructor are not trivial. He has the awesome responsibility of training people, who in many cases have absolutely zero knowledge about guns, how to safely and legally purchase, sell, load, use, store, transport, and carry their firearms. Thus, safety is of paramount importance. While it is true that new gun owners and shooters don't usually have any bad habits that need to be broken, new gun users still have quite a few good habits they do need to develop and cultivate to ensure not only their own personal safety but also the safety of others around them.

The firearms instructor must not only "talk the talk" but he must also "walk the walk." At all times, especially when teaching new shooters, safety rules must be obeyed and followed - by his students and by himself. When a firearms instructor becomes lax in his teaching practices, bad things can happen. For example, everyone remembers seeing the video of the DEA Agent who, after bragging to a classroom full of Florida school children about how he - alone in that room - was the only person qualified to hold his gun while violating at least three (possibly four) major gun safety rules, promptly shot himself in the foot - literally and figuratively. A firearms instructor must demonstrate at least the same level of worthiness and professionalism, that his students bestowed upon him when they chose him, to be entrusted with their training.

Being a firearms instructor is not for the faint of heart. It is a very stressful job. While part of the instructor's role is be a calming and informative resource for his students, he has to also constantly be on the look-out for any number of potentially hazardous things that can occur while conducting firearms training.
For example, despite repeatedly drilling students all day about gun safety and the major rules of gun handling, a new student may have a lapse in memory and commit a major violation: attempting to load or unload his firearm outside the shooting stall, attempting to remove his earmuffs so that he can hear better, starting to turn the gun along with his body while asking or answering a question, or attempting to place his thumbs under the recoil slide of a semi-automatic pistol. A good instructor will take the appropriate action with the proper amount of authority to preserve the safety of the shooter and all others who are present.

Moreover, the instructor must also be vigilant for ammunition or gun malfunctions: misfires, hang fires, squib loads, stove-pipes, and gun jams. An overlooked malfunction can result in an explosion that can quickly transform the shooter's hand into a bloody stump. Furthermore, the instructor must periodically survey the range to monitor the actions of other range users present. Everyone present at a gun range has not taken, let alone passed a gun safety training class. The potential hazards of this profession dictate that the professional trainers in this industry get adequate liability insurance and receive certified training in first aid, CPR, and AED.

Firearms instructors, by and large, do not choose this vocation for an opportunity to be well regarded. In fact, It is not uncommon for many uninformed people to blame firearms instructors for the wanton violence they witness during their nightly media newscasts, to accuse firearms instructors as being part of the violence problem and not part of the violence solution, to make firearms instructors the official spokesmen and the "public face" of the misdeeds of criminals, or to call into question the integrity of the firearms instructor solely based on the fact that he owns and shoots a gun.

Many firearms instructors do not choose this vocation to become rich. Don't get me wrong, you can make a few bucks doing this gig, but the scam artists are making it very difficult to make an honest dollar in this industry. Why would a person desiring a Concealed Pistol License take a state mandated eight (8) hour training class for $160 with a nationally certified firearms instructor when he can pay $50 to a crooked cop or a dishonest instructor with questionable credentials to receive a firearm safety certificate in less than ten (10) minutes? The truth of the matter is that many do not, but some do.

The students of these gun certificate paper mills do not realize that they are placing themselves in jeopardy - physically and legally. First, if these "graduates" only received a ten minute gun safety lecture, how well would they able to develop and maintain code-yellow awareness to be aware of impending threats? Secondly, would these "graduates" hesitate to shoot and give their assailants time to harm them, when the law says they can shoot based on certain circumstances, because they didn't know what the law in their state says? Thirdly, is it likely that a "graduate" would shoot their would-be assailant at the wrong time and possibly face a murder conviction and a civil law suit? The answer to all of these questions is, "Yes, it is possible and likely."

Moreover, if a gun safety certificate mill graduate ever found himself involved in an unjustified shooting, depending on the circumstances, his credentials may be investigated. In some states, like Michigan, it is a four-year felony along with a $2,500 fine to knowingly present a fraudulent gun safety certificate to a gun board. Thus, a graduate of this bogus training program now faces even more jail time.

Furthermore, students with questionable gun safety certificates present a danger to their respective communities. How likely is it that this student learned the fundamentals of shooting a handgun? Can this student reliably hit what he is aiming at from a distance of fifteen feet? Has this student been told what type of ammunition to use to avoid the "over-penetration" problem that can result in the death of a child playing down the street in his own front yard? Probably not. In all, the scammers are endangering our communities just to avoid paying a few dollars in extra tuition and spending eight hours of their time in a class room.

With all the negatives surrounding the firearms training industry, one might be hard-pressed to find just one good and worthy reason to make this vocation worthwhile. I can give two reasons why firearms instructors do what they do (teach): helping others and preserving liberty.

Men and women, who undergo the scrutiny and training necessary to become certified firearms instructors do so principally because of their desire to impart knowledge onto others. They teach in spite of the negative slights that they experience in their daily existence: being shunned by people who have irrational fears of guns, being made the butt of jokes and snide remarks that thinly veil and hide predjudices, and being thought of and regarded as gun-nuts and borderline homicidal maniacs.

In this day and age, our country - especially in our major cities - is experiencing an up-tick in the incidence rate of violent crime. The courts have repeatedly issued rulings that have absolved the police from the legal responsibility of guaranteeing that any single person would be free of crime. The police have the job of investigating crimes after they have occurred and the job of supporting the general peace of the community. Thus, if you are selected for victimization by a predator, you are officially on your own - from a legal standpoint. Firearms instructors exist to train people how to defend themselves until the police arrive.

Currently, thirty-five states (including Michigan) have "shall-issue" legislation enacted into law such that if any person meets the mandated criteria, the state shall issue him a Concealed Pistol License (CPL/CCW). This current style of licensure differs significantly from prior discretionary methods where a person had to "demonstrate a need."

Many instructors teach so that the tradition of firearm ownership lives on with another generation. Make no mistake about it, gun ownership is under constant attack in our nation. Every time something negative happens (e.g. Columbine and Virgina Tech) there are new calls for new restrictions on the ownership, the purchasing, and the carrying of firearms despite the fact that there are already more than 20,000 gun laws on the books. We need better enforcement of current laws - not new laws. Special interest groups have repeatedly focused their efforts on blaming the tool and not the actions of the criminal: ballistic fingerprinting, gun purchase waiting periods, organized protests at gun shops, attempts to outlaw ammunition, restrictions on hunting, and discretionary gun permit laws. Firearms instructors empower people to be self reliant.

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