Today, I had a long email back & forth with a woman who was concerned about how her son was handling AIRSOFT guns.
In the convo, she asked about getting him some REAL Firearms Training. I said that would be great, I suggested she start by looking in her area for an NRA Instructor and that she take the course with her son. So far, so good… she was into it. By the way, the family lives in Illinois, a place we need all the properly educated people we can get.
A couple of hours later, I get an email with a link to a typical local NRA instructor page asking me to check a guy out. She tells me that the instructor told her that the problem was that kids shouldn’t ever be pointing guns at people in the first place. I clarified that, YES, the guy did understand that she was talking about AIRSOFT COMPETITION.
Thus, I feel the need to write this and post it as a reminder to all the would-be teachers of gun safety out there that it is wholly and entirely incorrect to teach people not familiar with guns (or those that are, for that matter) that Airsoft, Paintball, Laser Tag, Military Field Exercises with Blank Fire Adapters, Marking Cartridge Force-on-Force Training, using Blue Guns, Competitions, Scenario Training, finger guns or bananas that represent guns in Cowboys & Indians or Cops & Robbers are somehow MISTAKES or WRONG. It is sophomoric and represents a lack of training knowledge and/or an understanding of context. Teaching people about life & death tools isn’t supposed to be simple. It requires critical thought about what you are going to say and a thoughtful use of words to create explanations that make sense.
If you tell a 15yr old that it is always wrong to point gun-type-things at other people and he sees multi-million dollar Paintball and AirSoft Industries with clubs, ranges, leagues, websites, magazines and entire stores dedicated to those sports he is going to blow you off and you won’t be able to teach him anything. If he digs a little deeper and realizes that all the top training and Mil/LE organizations on the planet regularly conduct scenario training that involves pointing gun-things at people, he’ll probably write you off as an amateur who shouldn’t be talking about things you don’t understand.
I remember a couple of years ago when one of the most accomplished personal defense instructors I know (and a US Navy Chief) got criticized by an internet commenter for posting a picture in which he was pointing a plastic training gun at a student while demonstrating proper grip. His assertion was that it is ALWAYS wrong to point anything “gun like” at any person at any time. I inquired into that commenter’s (an “instructor”, according to his posts) experience with force-on-force training and linked some examples… he tucked his virtual tail and didn’t comment any further. It wasn’t the only time I have heard such a thing. Now, it has become clear to me that the state of the leading edge of the training industry and the practical reality of competition games and kids playing versions of “cops & robbers” in back yards around the world have left the minds of some who are wearing the Instructor T-shirts in our community. I understand the confusion and respect their intentions… but, its time that we educated our brethren and moved their thinking/understanding forward.
So, please… understand and teach the importance of CONTEXT. It is not WRONG for kids (or adults) to participate appropriately in laser tag, airsoft, paintball games or scenario training. Don’t undermine your own legitimacy through ignorance. When you have a kid and/or family in front of you that truly wants to learn how to do something safely, capitalize on the opportunity.