I’d been mulling over my next article for the past week or so, it was going to be an introduction to terminology generally used on shooting ranges, as, like any specialized field, shooting has it’s own jargon that can be confusing to newcomers. However, a discussion thread on FaceBook convinced me there’s a more important subject…
Safety has to be the first priority in a training class. The NRA doesn’t allow any live ammunition in training classes, I’ve only heard of ONE exception being made at NRA Headquarters, and that involved someone with a government protective detail, they got to keep their ammunition. Even with that restriction, instructors are still expected to follow the rules of safe gun handling religiously, even to exaggerate them to make sure students are kept aware of how important they are and that the instructors themselves follow the rules. Even with completely inert training guns made out of rubber, the rules are followed. They’re rules, not guidelines, rules written in blood. Those rules are why, despite a continued growth in the number of firearms owned in the United States, accidental gunshot deaths have been declining in absolute numbers, not just in incidents per 100,000 people.
The incident in question involved a family who went to a training course put on by someone who they had known for years and trusted, even considered a friend. The instructor is a combat veteran with an exemplary record for personal heroism.
But the instructor kept sweeping at least portions of the class with firearms, and when called on it, ignored the concerns of the students who raised objections. It’s irrelevant that the firearms in question had been unloaded and had the slides locked back. The FIRST RULE of firearm’s safety is treat every firearm as if it is loaded. The SECOND RULE is never point a firearm at anything you aren’t prepared to destroy. The family in question was experienced shooters, one member was himself a certified instructor and has attended numerous courses from nationally-known instructors. They finally decided, after multiple incidents of having firearms pointed at them, to leave. One family member had flown in from across the country, the class was supposed to be a family bonding event. But they left.
They were right to do so. The instructor in question doesn’t list any formal certifications for himself or his instructors on his site, and doesn’t list any NRA classes as being taught at his school, and the name of his school certainly suggests he would not be teaching NRA courses because the NRA is very particular about using the word “weapon” in their courses, but if he IS an NRA certified instructor, he could likely lose that certification over the experiences of people in that class, even though it wasn’t an NRA class. The NRA takes safety that seriously, and particularly the reputation of their training department.
It’s the responsibility of everybody on a firing line to practice the safety rules, particularly the instructors, and to raise an issue if violations are noted. Nobody should “blow off” safety concerns, they should always be addressed. Most accidental gunshot wounds and deaths are because someone disregarded the safety rules, a common refrain is “I didn’t know it was loaded!”. There’s a rather infamous video of a DEA agent in Miami exclaiming to a classroom full of parents and students that “I’m the only one in this room that I know of professional enough to carry this Glock .40”, immediately before shooting himself in the leg. I’ve helped clean up after someone knowingly violated the rules, because he thought his gun was empty, that was a very unpleasant experience, his first words, as told to me by a friend who was nearby, were that he knew he screwed up, that he knew better. That guy gets out of jail this year.
Safety is the first and most important consideration in training. An instructor who can’t agree with and follow that is not an instructor I want to train or be on the same firing line with. I can teach someone who is ignorant about firearm safety how to be safe. I can’t teach someone who is too arrogant to follow the rules to be safe.