When It Comes To Gun Training, The NRA’s No Longer The Only Game In Town.

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For years the gun violence prevention (GVP) community has lamented the fact that they do not have the strength or the financial muscle to compete with the NRA. And even with Mayor Mike’s help, pardon the pun but too often people who want to see an end to gun violence find themselves organizationally outgunned. But all of a sudden the boys in Fairfax are finding themselves challenged by the growth of another pro-gun organization which looks at gun ownership from a very different point of view.

training             I’m referring to the United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA) which started out as nothing other than an internet sales gimmick known as ‘tribal marketing’ which generates revenue by attracting (and retaining) consumers to internet sites; the idea being that the longer someone remains connected to a website, the more crap they will purchase from that site. And the trick is to make your web visitors feel that they have some special identity or interest which sets them apart from everyone else. And if you can find a single group of Americans who feel more special than the people who actually believe that they need to carry a gun around, let me know.

Like every other pro-gun sales organization, the USCCA got started by attaching itself to the NRA.  They had a booth at the annual NRA show, they used slogans about concealed-carry that were right out of the Fairfax playbook, and their basic product, CCW insurance, also copied a long-time NRA tradition of offering its membership with financial services that would protect their guns.

But the one area in which the USCCA could not compete with the NRA was the area in which the NRA has always ruled supreme, namely, the training area. After all, the NRA was founded as a training organization, currently has more than 125,000 trainers certified and enrolled on its books, and has developed training courses which most states use as the required training curriculum either for getting a gun license or qualifying for LTC.

The degree to which the NRA has always held sway in gun training, however, is now being challenged by the USCCA. Not only does the USCCA hold an annual Concealed Carry Expo, whose exhibitor list contains the same lineup of gun and accessory companies which display their wares at the annual NRA show, but Tim Schmidt’s group was booted out of this year’s NRA show so that America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ could unveil their newest insurance product, a real scam deal known as Carry Guard, without having to compete with the USCCA.

Where the USCCA also appears to be placing itself directly in a competitive situation with the NRA, however, is over the issue of training, where Schmidt and his organization are developing a national training initiative which is an exact copy of the NRA’s training network, including a process for certifying trainers that the NRA has been using for years. Right now it appears that USCCA is running, at best, about 10% the number of training classes that the NRA runs each month, but they do have classes listed in more than 20 states which isn’t a bad start.

What I find most significant about the USCCA’s growth, however, is that it seems to be happening without the crazy drift into rhetorical looniness which now characterizes the public face of the NRA. No astoundingly stupid, insultingly ignorant rants from Dana Loesch, no conspiracy theories from Wayne-o which, by comparison make Alex Jones appear calm. The USCCA’s message about ‘protecting loved ones’ is nothing more than hype, but at least it’s hype which stays within the bounds of rhetorical decency and good taste.

The USCCA says its training program sets an ‘industry standard’ but the truth is there is no training ‘industry’ nor is there any accepted ‘standard’ for gun training at all. Because this would require that gun groups take the one step they are afraid to take, namely, to advocate required training for anyone who wants to walk around with a gun.

 

 

The Whiner-in-Chief Gets Taught By The NRA.

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I don’t necessarily agree with what Charles Blow has to say, but yesterday he made some comments about Trump that are spot on. And what he said is that Trump’s incessant whining and his portrayal of himself as a ‘victim’ is what appeals to his base. Blow puts it this way: “It is in this near perfect state of perpetual aggrievement that Trump gives voice to a faction of America that also feels aggrieved.” But since Trump himself is hardly the embodiment of the undereducated, small-town Whites who have been left behind in the shift to a post-industrial, technological age, where did he learn to play the role of Whiner in Chief?

trump5              He learned it from his friends at Fairfax – the NRA. America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ whines endlessly about how gun owners are victims, and isn’t the Trump message just a warmed-over version of Wayne LaPierre? Here’s how Trump defines his audience, according to Blow: “They are victims of coastal and urban liberals and the elite institutions – economic, education and entertainment – clustered there.” Here’s Wayne-o at the NRA annual meeting back in May: “It’s up to us to speak out against the three most dangerous voices in America: academic elites, political elites and media elites.” See any difference? I sure don’t.

America’s oldest civil rights organization is really just America’s oldest gun training organization. And one of their most popular training courses these days is something called Refuse To Be A Victim, which was developed by the ‘women of the NRA.’ The course is aimed at women and covers such topics as security in the home or on a trip, keeping your digital devices secure and using self-protective products like alarms and mace. There’s no mention of guns in this course and there’s also no mention of something else, namely, what women should do if they find themselves in an abusive relationship, which happens to be the Number One reason why women become victims, especially victims of violence caused by guns.

But the last thing the NRA is going to do is talk about women (or anyone) as victims of gun violence because what really victimizes women is when they can’t get their hands on a gun. And if you don’t believe me, just check out some of the recent videos from Dana Mussolini, a.k.a. Dana Loesch, who insists that she can stand up to anyone, any threat, any perpetrator because instead of backing away, she’s ready to pull out her banger and – bam!.

I love her recent attempt to out-Trump Trump: “They use their schools to teach our children that their President is another Hitler. They use their movie stars to repeat their narrative over and over again.” And guess who’s the ‘they?’ The same liberal, urban elite who get up every morning and try to figure out yet another way to victimize all those honest, decent, God-fearing Americans who also happen to be gun owners, because nothing represents the basic traditions and values of this country like a gun. Remember Charlton Heston and his cold, dead hands?

I don’t know about anyone else, but I never had a problem considering myself to be a member of the liberal elite. I also never had a problem being a member of the NRA. How do I reconcile these seeming opposites? It’s simple – I wanted to be a college professor and I also like guns. At some point I got interested in cameras so I sold some guns and bought two Leicas, then realized I wasn’t all that interested in taking pictures, so I sold the cameras and bought some more guns.

I don’t think gun owners are victims at all but I do think that making them believe they are victims is nothing more than a marketing scam. But since we now have to put up with someone in the Oval Office who got there by exploiting the same scam, why should anyone be surprised?

NRA Turns Gun Training Into A Video Game.

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Our friends at The Trace have just published some interesting coverage about an argument within the NRA over the content and direction of its training programs, in particular a new program called ‘Carry Guard,’ which combines a scam insurance deal with an even scammier training product, both of which are designed to appeal to the millions of Americans who are now walking around armed.

training             Actually, the number of Americans who are actively playing the ‘armed citizen’ game may be two million or so, maybe even less. Despite what John Lott claims, there is no way he can actually verify that more than 14 million concealed-carry licenses have been issued, and multiple surveys report that the percentage of gun owners walking around with a gun on a regular basis may be no more than 10 percent.

What the gun industry would love to see happen is that carrying a concealed weapon would become as common and accepted as walking around with an i-Phone or a droid. But even if a concealable banger doesn’t end up hung from everyone’s belt the way we all hang our phones, 10% of the gun-owning population is still a decent market if you can get every one of them to send you thirty bucks a month and sign up for a ‘gold standard’ training course.

The Trace’s writer, Mike Spies, claims that the argument in the NRA goes back to the decision made back in April to cancel appearances at the annual meeting by two companies who sell insurance which allegedly reimburses you when and if you pull out a gun and use it in a legal act of self-defense. The better-known of these outfits, United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA), is a real, internet-based Ponzi scheme developed by Tim Schmidt who is an unchallenged expert in internet marketing, particularly affiliate programs and what he calls ‘tribal’ marketing, which is what USCCA is all about. The key to tribal marketing is to attract and keep people on a website (so that they’ll buy all kinds of crap) by making them feel that they belong to something which is both important and unique. And what could be more important and unique than walking around with a gun? The NRA membership is probably a perfect fit for the tribal marketing approach, particularly that segment of the membership which buys the ‘armed citizen’ nonsense, whether they are actually walking around with a gun or not.

The argument between the NRA and some of its trainers, however, didn’t start with booting out the USCCA.  It actually began over a year ago, when the NRA Training Division announced that the course which is not only the most popular training course but is the one which is usually adopted by jurisdictions that require pre-licensing training – NRA Basic Pistol – was going to be moved to an online format which would remove the 125,000 certified trainers from playing any training role at all. Not only did this decision threaten the financial livelihood of many trainers, but it was and is a departure from the NRA’s traditional stance, dating from the organization’s founding, that gun training should be conducted face-to-face.

The result was a quiet but significant pushback by NRA trainers and a brief but sharp decrease in NRA training activity, both of which played a role in a remaking of the Training Division and Kyle Weaver’s goodbye. The revised Basic Pistol still requires students to register and first do an online course, but then they register with a certified NRA trainer who is supposed to verify what they have learned.

Nobody in the training community, inside or outside the NRA, takes the ‘macho man’ Carry Guard training product seriously. If anything, it’s really designed to draw the same type of consumer who right now goes to Thunder Ranch to play ‘kill the terrorist’ with a live gun. On the other hand, the NRA is pushing national concealed-carry while promoting gun training that’s nothing more than a video game and this is the real reason that some professional trainers are concerned.

 

What Kind Of Training Do Gun Owners Receive? None At All.

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I have decided that it’s time for Mike the Gun Guy to become a little less polite (imagine – Mike the Gun Guy ‘less’ polite) and start responding to some of the things that are said on the gun violence prevention (GVP) side which I feel hold us back, rather than help us to move ahead. This decision should not be taken in any way, shape or form as a criticism or even a concern about the importance and necessity of GVP. To the contrary, as a fundamental issue with which all Americans to be engaged, in the Age of Trump GVP tops the list.

training             Last week a group of public health gun researchers published the results of a national survey which found that 4 out of 10 Americans who are legally allowed to walk around with a gun (CCW) have not received any gun training at all. And the results of this survey are not much different from similar surveys published in 1994, except that the number of CCW-holders has probably doubled, if not tripled from that earlier date.

That a majority of people who can legally walk around with a concealed weapon have received some kind of formal gun training is now validated again by the results of this survey, and the narrative will slowly but surely circulate throughout the public domain and in and around the GVP. On the other hand, the fact that four out of ten CCW-holders have not engaged in any formal gun training demonstrates the degree to which “no national standards or requirements for firearm training in the USA exist.” And this lack of consistent standard (or any standard for that matter) regarding how to use a gun is particularly concerning given the expected push by the Republicans who might not get a new healthcare law but just might vote through a national, reciprocal CCW law that their President will surely sign.

There’s only one little problem with this survey and by pro-GVP media efforts to publicize the findings hither and yon, namely, that despite what the researchers believe they were asking respondents to tell them, what in fact they were asking respondents in this survey had nothing to do with training at all. Know where the word ’training’ comes from as it applies to guns? It’s a word first used by the NRA which was actually founded as a ‘training’ organization in 1873. Not only does the NRA continue to promote themselves as America’s premier gun-training organization, but they have launched a new training effort focusing on CCW techniques called Carry Guard, which they refer to as a “first-rate, elite program” aimed (pardon the pun) at people who lead the ‘concealed-carry lifestyle’ and want to be ready for ‘real-life situations you must be prepared to face.’

This isn’t training – it’s a sham. It’s used to entice people to purchase an insurance policy which will allegedly pay all their legal fees after they shoot someone, assuming they don’t get convicted for some kind of felony committed while they were using their gun. Along with this training program, the NRA now offers its standard training programs on video, and these programs are used by most CCW-issuing authorities in states where pre-CCW training is still required. What’s the difference between NRA video training and video games like Call of Duty that you can play on your X-Box?  There is no difference.

I’m an old-fashioned guy so words have meanings, whether we like the meanings or not. I think GVP is making a profound mistake using words whose meaning has been distorted beyond all recognition by the NRA. If GVP is going to convince people that what they say about gun violence is true and what the other side says is false, then the words we use should be our words and not words that are bandied about by the NRA in order to help sell more guns.

And what I just said about GVP applies to public health researchers as well.

John Lott Talks About Guns And Gets It Wrong – Again.

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My eye caught an op-ed the other in The Hill which is so rife with claims that are simply untruthful or wrong that I just needed to punch out a quick reply. And since I write about guns and I’m saying that someone else who writes about guns is saying things which aren’t accurate or true, obviously I’m talking about my good buddy, John Lott.

 

lott

John Lott

John has been on this kick for several years about how Democrats discriminate against minorities because they support the idea that big-city residents have difficulty getting licenses to purchase and/or carry guns.  It may come as a shock to John who lives in a nice, suburban town that is 85% white, but in fact the majority of city-dwellers throughout the United States happen to be white. They also happen to be middle class, so for John to say that excessive gun license fees show that Democrats (who usually support higher gun fees) discriminate against minorities and the poor is simply a typical example of how he often gets it wrong.

But what really grabbed my attention was his statement about the concealed-carry licensing procedure in Texas, which he claims has ‘more stringent mandatory training requirements’ than many other states. I’ll let you in on a little secret – I don’t believe that John Lott actually owns a gun. Or if he does own one, I can tell you that it’s been sitting on some shelf in a closet because this is a guy who talks about guns using verbiage that makes no sense.

First of all, Texas doesn’t have a ‘mandatory training requirement;’ in fact, the Lone Star State doesn’t have any training requirement at all. Nor for that matter does any other state. What Texas has is a one-time proficiency test which must be conducted as part of the licensing process and basically requires that the applicant prove that he or she has the ability to hit the broad side of a barn; in this case the barn being a B-27 target, which is the standard torso target used by most law enforcement agencies when the officers go to the range.

The proficiency test is based on a total score derived from where 50 rounds hit the target – the closer to the center of the target, the higher the score.  Some of the shooting is also timed with the shooter having to discharge the gun with several seconds allowed for each shot. A passing grade is 175 out of a maximum of 250 and the shooting is done at distances of 3, 7 and 15 yards.

This test is about as stringent as the diet I went on last night before I sat down to watch a Netflix movie with a big bowl of ice cream. First of all, the shooter doesn’t have to first pull the gun out of a holster so the timed shoots begin with the first shot. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t recall seeing anyone even in an open-carry state walking down the street with his gun pointed in front of him waiting for a target to appear. And the minimum passing score can be met by only hitting the outside target ring which in real life would mean that the bullet wouldn’t strike anyone’s body at all.

In other words, the proficiency test for getting a carry-concealed license in Texas is bullsh*t.  It’s a joke. Not only doesn’t the test show whether someone can shoot a gun accurately, but it doesn’t replicate to any degree a situation which might occur if someone actually had to use the damn gun.

John Lott has been promoting armed citizens as the first line of defense against crime for twenty years. Buffoons like Ted Nugent may take his research seriously, but when it comes to concealed-carry from a practical point of view, anyone who thinks that the Texas licensing process validates that someone knows how to use a gun for self-defense better hope they never need to use their gun for anything but fun.

The NRA Has A New Scheme To Keep You Buying Guns.

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When Trump went down to Atlanta to talk to his NRA friends, he stood there and said with a majestic tone in his voice: “The eight-year assault on the 2nd Amendment has come to an end.” Well, maybe it wasn’t so majestic but you get the point. And like just about everything he says, this dyslexic, ignorant Head of State got it wrong because what he should have said was that the eight-year gun-buying frenzy has come to an end.

seals              There was never an ‘assault’ on the 2nd Amendment even though there were and still are efforts to regulate gun ownership so that we might not suffer from 120,000+ gun deaths and injuries each year. But I didn’t hear any of the pro-GVP politicians or activists ever say that the 2nd Amendment should be abolished, or that law-abiding Americans shouldn’t be able to own guns. Yea, yea, I know – everyone who says they’re against gun violence is really against guns. So what? It’s not going to happen, it never could happen, from a legal and legislative point of view, guns are here to stay.

But what if people simply stop buying guns? What if everyone who wants to own a gun has more guns than they know what to do with, a situation which happens increasingly to be true?  If you’re in the business of making guns, you better figure out a new way to sell them or you’ll go out of business, that’s for sure. And I’ve been watching and waiting since November 8th to see what the gun industry would come up with to make up for the loss of demand once their customers realized that they didn’t have to worry about losing their guns.

And the first evidence of a change in strategy came in an email I just received from the NRA.  It’s an invitation to become a certified ‘Carry Guard’ instructor, a new training program developed by a self-promoter who claims to be a former Navy Seal with twenty years of naval special warfare experience who also says that he’s a writer and consultant to the outdoor industry, whatever that means.  He claims to have a book coming out, Terminal List, which I suspect will be an attempt to gain the attention of all the Tom Clancy fans (which includes me) now that the real Clancy is dead.

Actually, Carry Guard is an insurance program which claims to protect you from ‘certain’ losses if you engage in an act of self-defense using a legally-owned gun. The training program has been tacked on as an extra feature and is advertised as being the ‘gold standard in concealed carry training,’ although the actual details of the program remain to be worked out. If you send an email indicating your interest in becoming a student or an instructor you don’t get any reply, a note on the website says to check back in June for further information about courses, dates and costs.

The NRA started in 1871 as a training organization and currently claims to have more than 100,000 certified trainers, one of whom happens to be me. The training is basically about gun safety and safe gun use and is usually the course which is mandated by the states that require some training in gun safety prior to applying for a gun license or a concealed-carry permit, a.k.a. CCW or LTC.  The NRA offers  two courses, Defensive Pistol and Personal Protection Outside the Home, which cover aspects of concealed-carry techniques but do not focus on armed self-defense per se.

The gun industry has been venerating the ‘armed citizen’ since the 1980’s. It’s a load of crap. Now they are pushing further into fantasy pretending that military assault and tactical skills are a necessary response to the ‘dangers’ of the modern age.

Want to protect yourself from a sudden event that might change your life? Learn to read and write.

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Training To Carry A Gun.

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Jennifer Mascia has just republished an article which should be required reading for everyone who’s interested in reducing gun violence.  This is valuable research because she has figured out how many states allow people to carry a gun who have not taken any training at all.  And don’t forget to notice the picture that goes with the story showing some dopey kid in Utah sitting in a gun class with his finger right on the trigger of his Sig 226.

torso             It turns out, according to our intrepid Trace reporter, that 26 states have no live-fire training or live-fire certification of any kind.  In other words, you can walk into a gun shop and buy a gun, walk out with the gun in your pocket to protect yourself from all those street thugs, having never actually fired that gun, or any gun for that matter.  And Gun-nut Nation has the absolute, unmitigated gall to reject mandated gun training while, at the same time promoting the idea that ‘armed citizens’ protect us from crime. Oh well, we have a President who says with a straight face that cutting 40 million people off of medical insurance will make us healthier all around, so why shouldn’t the NRA tell just as big a lie when it comes to talking about guns?

What I found interesting about Jennifer Mascia’s story, however, was not the fact that more than half the states don’t require any kind of training before someone can ‘strap on’ a gun. Rather, it’s the idea that the states which do require training are, in fact, mandating anything that could even remotely be considered responsible or serious training at all.  Because if anyone actually thinks that the 24 states which do require some form of training before issuing a CCW license have instituted some kind of system that will prepare someone, anyone, to use a gun properly for self-defense, think again.

Know how long the ‘average’ gun fight lasts?  About three seconds, and by the way, the target is usually moving during that brief span of time.  Know how many shots are fired during such an encounter?  Two, or maybe at best, three. Now when was the last time you or anyone you know went to a shooting range and tried hitting a target that was ten feet away with two or three rounds?  And let’s not forget that the three seconds you have to complete this exercise also includes the time you need to yank out the gun.

Our friend Jennifer quotes a gun trainer in Kentucky who claims that his state is going about CCW training the right way. And in his case, what this means is a class which is mostly book-learning and QandA, but also includes a live-fire qualification at a private range.  The qualification consists of firing at a torso target placed seven yards away, and the student has to hit the target 11 out of 20 times.

Forgetting for a moment whether hitting the target means putting a hole anywhere on the torso, note that the shooter can take as long as he/she likes, there’s no timing requirement at all.  And the target, of course, is stationery, which means that neither the person doing the shooting or the ‘person’ getting shot is simulating anything that might be considered a real-life event. And this exercise is believed by an experienced gun trainer to be an effective way to determine whether someone should be able to walk around with a gun.

I’m not suggesting in any way that Jennifer Mascia’s piece is either misleading or wrong, and she gets kudos for pointing out just how easy it is in most places to get a concealed-carry permit and walk around with a gun. But the idea that anyone with a CCW has actually developed the skills necessary to use that gun to defend us against all those street thugs is some kind of sick joke. But such jokes now abound in the Age of Trump.

 

 

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