NRA Turns Gun Training Into A Video Game.

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.



Why Was Philando Castle Shot? Because The Cop Had A Gun.

So it turns out that the cop who shot and killed Philando Castle during a traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb not only received 23 hours of training on active shooters, use of force and de-escalation methods, but also recently completed a private course called ‘Bulletproof Warrior,’ run by a for-profit outfit called Calibre Press.  So if nothing else, we can say that Officer Yanez, now in the middle of the shooting controversy following an on-scene video that went viral, has spent some time learning what to do with his gun.


             Jeff Cooper

Jeff Cooper

Unfortunately, the average cop probably doesn’t receive sufficient training in how to determine whether an incident in which he or she is involved may require the use of lethal force.  And police often encounter individuals whose behavior doesn’t necessarily indicate that the officer is placing himself in harm’s way until it’s too late.  So in every, single case where a cop might need to use lethal force, there’s always an element of personal judgement and on-the-job experience that comes into play.

Which is why I found the news of Officer Yanez’s attendance at a ‘Bulletproof Warrior’ seminar both interesting and disturbing; interesting because there has been a growth in companies that promote all kinds of lethal-force training, officially sanctioned or not, and disturbing because this type of training goes hand-in-hand with the extent to which Americans are fed a daily diet about the alleged increase in lawlessness and violence against which they need to be more vigilant and more prepared, meaning – walk around with a gun.

The idea that the world is a dangerous, threatening place didn’t first crop up after the Twin Towers were attacked.  In fact, it was the theme song of one of Gun-nut Nation’s most venerable icons, a World War II veteran and former Marine named Jeff Cooper, who opened a commercial shooting range where he taught close-combat and self-defense methods called the Gunsite Academy in 1976.  Cooper also wrote prodigiously for gun publications and published a whole pile of books, including his most famous tome, Principles of Personal Defense, which became something of a mini-best seller in Gun-nut Land, and is still quoted today, even if the folks who quote the book don’t realize that what they are saying is what Cooper said decades ago.

Cooper’s success was a perfect example of being in the right place at the right time, because it was in the late 1970s that the NRA adopted a much more combative stance, began promoting concealed-carry as an expression of 2nd-Amendment rights, and wrapped the whole argument around the notion that without an armed citizenry, violent crime would spiral out of control.  To further the idea that a personally-carried weapon was the only true defense against a world filled with predators and thugs, Cooper developed a color code ranging from “condition white” to “condition red,” the former being a state in which an individual is totally unprepared for an attack, the latter being the point at which a lethal response is in the process of being made.

This may sound like nothing more than fantasies now scripted into video games, but there appear to be lots of folks walking around who are willing to engage in lethal-force combat games at Thunder Ranch, or join a clever web marketing promotion like United States Concealed Carry Association, or take a course in lethal defense from companies like Calibre Press. And what all three have in common is the idea that we are always on the verge of being victims of violent crime, and that the only valid response is to protect ourselves and others with a gun.

Let’s forget that violent crime continues to decline.  Let’s forget that the number of times that guns are used to prevent crimes is too small to be found.  Let’s remember how we felt when we were given our first toy gun.  And let’s remember how we feel now that the toys are real.