What We’re Doing to Make Our Communities Better
by Gila Hayes
Regular readers may recall that several months ago, I invited Network members to share a little about what they and their associates do to expose the public to gun safety and to teach by example the responsible behavior required of armed citizens. Members in MN and NC contributed. Let’s start with the following from a MN member:
“I obtained my first CCW permit about a dozen years ago. What I learned after the completion of that course (from what I today consider to be a marginal training organization) was that I was not prepared to carry. I did not, and allowed my (MN) permit to expire after 5 years. About 7 years later, I came to a point in my life that I had the time to reconsider carrying a handgun again.
“This time, I carefully selected a training organization (Tactical Advantage in Waite Park, MN). This class, like the first one, impressed upon me the gravity of carrying. However, my instructor, Jason Falconer, provided far more information on how to continue the training after the CCW class. I will let you and our Network family know that he spoke highly of the Network, the need to have a membership of this type, and to become informed of the services I may need to have in the event of an altercation — before anything happens. He told me about education — such as all the videos from the Network and documenting what I read. He stressed additional training and constant practice, both live fire and dry fire.
“My life over these past two years now has a regimen of regular range practice (every week or two, 75-100 rounds) with dynamic targets, various holds (both, strong, weak hand); becoming authorized to practice drawing at the indoor range; dry firing with various techniques; annual review of Network videos and accompanying documentation after watching each video; following various social media sites; attending all the continuing education classes at Tactical Advantage; having a relationship with the range owners that allows me to ask questions constantly; basic relationship with local law enforcement and politicians; having an attorney’s card in my wallet before I need him.
“But to the question you asked in the newsletter, about how can I influence the next handgun owner in my life? The first thing I try to do is take them to Tactical Advantage, where they get a chance in an hour to 1) watch a safety video; 2) meet some of the best people in the business that can mentor them, too; 3) get a chance to fire a gun in a controlled environment that almost always captures their interest; and 4) make myself available to them to become part of the community at the level to which they want to take themselves.
“I demonstrate to them by always carrying responsibily, even when traveling out of state, asking them to the range with me when I go, sharing my literature, and talking about it in our conversations as a natural topic to discuss.
“As I close, I will share that this year I was fortunate to spend a few days in Antietam and Gettysburg, which gave me an overwhelming appreciation for the valiant soldiers of the Civil War, I am reading The New Breed about the Korean War, and over the past two years took online courses on the Constitution from Hillsdale College, the latter making me realize how ignorant I have been about our nation’s founders and its charter. I used to be the one that talked about “my constitutional rights” and suddenly found out that I didn’t even know what those rights — and responsibilities — were. All this has blended together to hopefully make me a more responsible American.”
As a fellow Hillsdale College fan, I appreciated this member’s steady pursuit of further knowledge. He’s right – talking about infringements on our rights does little good if we ourselves lack a solid foundational understanding of the Constitution of the United States. If you’ve not yet accessed the great wealth of knowledge at Hillsdale College (https://online.hillsdale.edu/landing/constitution-101) and may I add that there is also a treasure trove of reading material freely provided by the Heritage Foundation (https://heritage.org). These are two of my favorite conservative online study resources.
Another member, a North Carolinian, has a long history of contributing at his local range. He is doing his part! Here is what he reported:
“I have been certified as an NRA RSO for about 30 years. I work at various gun club events to help ensure safety of participants and spectators, and I also work as an instructor and RSO for various NRA training courses we teach at the club. I have been instructing CCH classes in NC since our CCH law was passed in 1995/96 and after getting both NRA Pistol Instructor and NC DOJ CCH Instructor certifications. These CCH classes have been for my gun club, for organized classes outside the gun club, and for private clients.
“I also am employed part time as an RSO and instructor for the commercial shooting range where I have worked for the last three years. The RSO work involves being in the range bays and monitoring safety practices of the shooters and also includes instructing new shooters in basic safety practices and gun handling. It has been quite eye opening to interact with so many people who have never handled a gun before! At the range, I also instruct CCH classes and our defensive pistol series, AR15 rifles, and other topics.”
In response to my question about public outreach and safety education at members’ local ranges, he wrote:
“My range doesn’t have a separate program for public outreach per se, although we do run a lot of radio ads and other marketing programs that are geared at least in part toward new shooters. Attracting new shooters has not been a problem the last two years – they are omnipresent at our range! When a person comes into our store and range, our customer service team (who greets all customers right inside the door) will ascertain if the customer is a new visitor and also if they are a new shooter. Both have to sign a liability waiver and view a safety video produced by National Shooting Sports Foundation (https://www.nssf.org/safety/firearms-safety-videos/). If they are new shooters, that fact is announced to our range counter staff, who then pass along that information to our RSO team along with the lane number of that new shooter. An RSO will then spend 10-15 minutes making sure the shooter knows the rules of firearms safety, the basic operation of the gun they are using, and at least the bare minimum of marksmanship fundamentals. The RSOs in the bay then monitor those customers carefully to make sure they have absorbed the lessons. We also make sure they know the avenues we offer for further instruction in terms of classes and private instruction sessions.
“The gun club I belong to sponsors many activities, such as NRA Women on Target, junior rifle clinics, junior shotgun clinics, etc. Our club’s CCH class is also a good one for new shooters, since we offer a two day class for that where the first day is the NRA Basic Pistol class (teaches them to shoot) and the second day is the CCH portion (teaches them the legal aspects of self defense). Most commercial businesses can’t offer that type of class in a cost-effective manner for the students.”
When asked about outreach to young shooters, he explained:
“Our range also offers specific basic handgun classes for junior shooters and for women. Both demographics are critical to the future of our sport and Second Amendment activities. The range has a women’s group that caters to both new and experienced women shooters and offers not only women’s only classes but also drill sessions and social activities. It is a very successful program with over 400 members now.”
To many shooting enthusiasts, working at the range sounds like a dream job, and it is rewarding and goodness knows new shooters need a friendly mentor for their first visit, but as our member observes, it can also be a revelation about how little today’s run-of-the-mill American knows about gun safety.
We can change that, but only through friendly and firm mentorship by safe, experienced shooters for those who may be on the fence about whether the words “responsible” and “gun ownership” even belong in the same sentence.
There’s no doubt that we have our work cut out for us! Fortunately, as ably demonstrated by just two of our 19,500-strong Network family, there are many, many Americans who every day demonstrate this high degree of responsibility by living example.
To read more of this month's journal, please click here.