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.
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.