It should be obvious that it is in all of our interests to build and support communities of responsible gun owners who train for the defensive use of their firearms. While we hear a lot about bringing new shooters to the range, especially encouraging the participation of children in the shooting sports and introducing women to shooting, we don’t talk that much about building real training communities. Worse, when I post in social media about teaching a class in Massachusetts or California I can count on many negative comments from supposedly pro-RKBA people from other areas of the country. While some of these comments are typical tongue-in-cheek people trying to be funny, there are several examples of people who are seriously suggesting that I shouldn’t do business with shooters in those states. More recently, this same reaction has been garnered by talking about classes in Colorado and New York. I publicly stated this spring that I thought that the knee-jerk “boycotts” of states with poor gun laws from some small businesses in the shooting industry was a poor response to those legal changes. Now that a few more months have passed and, hopefully, some of the emotion around the situation has been muted by time and more rational thought. While refusing to do business with certain government entities who are specifically oppressive (I’ve said that I won’t do any more work for the Chicago PD under the current leadership, for example), turning our back our responsible gun owners trapped “behind enemy lines” makes no sense to me at all. Similarly, restricting sales of equipment or availability of training to police officers in agencies that have vowed to uphold & defend the right to keep and bear arms seems self-defeating. I’ve been teaching those interested in personal defense in areas with less than optimal laws for about as long as I’ve been teaching and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. In fact, I think it is vitally important that we support any training communities that might exist and work to build new ones wherever we can. To be honest, I wouldn’t be working in this industry today if it hadn’t supported responsible shooters in New Jersey (a decidedly poor state in regard to the RKBA) when I was growing up there.
During the spring, the Personal Defense Network Training Tour allows me to run classes in small towns and support smaller clubs because I am driving through anyway, the rest of the year, I generally go where strong communities exist or are being built… and New England is always on the list. Over the course of 12 days this month, I am teaching five classes in two bordering states that are as different from one another as you will find: New Hampshire and Massachusetts. In both of them, my hosts and I are working to support training communities, but in different ways and for different reasons.
In New Hampshire, a very pro-gun state with easy laws and a strong shooting community (including several industry leading companies), I taught two courses at a shooting club that is over 100 years old. What was most interesting about this event was that the venue, The Chesire County Fish & Game Club, had never hosted defensive training before. In their 107 year history, they had never had an outside instructor come in and teach members a course like I did. The club is vibrant and active in other areas. While I was there, I saw a great shooting community participating in handgun, rifle and shotgun activities. They hosted an NRA Women on Target event and the local police department had a “family day” . The clubhouse was open and Jim Bob was cooking lunch for members and guests… apparently, that was all very typical for an early autumn weekend at CCF&G. The Combat Focus® Shooting and Advanced Pistol Handling courses were the talk of the club leadership, however. No doubt, some were skeptical… but, they were all curious and the ones that I spoke to were very supportive of the initiative to build a defensive training community at this very traditional New England “fish & game” club. In fact we were training on an outstanding new pistol range that had been finished just in time for my visit. Tall berms, excellent draining and fresh gravel were in place on two new ranges which are meant to support a defensive competition group and practical defensive training. Spearheading this effort is the CCF&G’s newest board member: Jack Cummerford. Jack has been through several training courses and teaches as well. He has been lobbying the club to get involved in the fastest growing sector of the shooting community, those interested in personal defense, while maintaining their more traditional activities. He’s done the work, presented a plan and earned the trust of the rest of the
leadership. With the new ranges and the local support, I have no doubt that Jack is going to be at the center of a strong training community in Keene, New Hampshire. While only one of the two courses I ran last week were full, I have learned that going to new ranges and supporting leaders like Jack pays off in spades as those communities grow. Too often, some of these older clubs look down on those interested in defensive shooting. Somehow, some clubs have developed an attitude that this purest form of support for the right to keep and bear arms is to be shunned in favor of trap shooting and spending tie on the range with .22 rifles. Naturally, ever range should have room, and respect, for both types of shooting. I’ve already begun introducing some of my friends in the industry who are always looking for great places to teach around the United States to CCF&G.
This week, I am about 30 minutes away from gun-friendly New Hampshire in one of the most firearms-oppressive states in the country. This is actually my second trip to Massachusetts this year. While the gun laws here are draconian, there is still a vibrant and passionate shooting community and many people involved in defensive training. Leading the charge for gun rights in this very liberal state is GOAL.: Gun Owners Action League. GOAL fights tirelessly to hold back, and even gain ground against, almost constant anti-gun pressure in Massachusetts. GOAL supports just about every aspect of shooting activity, including defensive training. In this arena, Jon Green is one of the most active leaders in the shooting industry. Jon is GOAL’s Director of Training and a member of the National Shooting Sports Foundation‘s Range Advisory Committee. Jon is a firearms instructor himself and is a full time employee of GOAL, one of the most active organizations of its type in the United States. For about 5 years now, Jon has organized I.C.E. Training Company courses in the state and we’ve worked together to make them fundraisers and membership recruitment tools for GOAL. In a state like Massachusetts, I think it is vital to make training and support available from industry. Responsible Firearms owners who are actively exercising their rights, engaging in shooting activities and maintaining their communities against huge opposition don’t deserve to be abandoned. It is worth coming to a state where I can’t carry a firearm… where I have to scour the rental car at the end of each training day for empty brass (having that in the car w/o the right permit could result in up to a year in jail!)… in order to support GOAL, GOAL Members and to send a message to all firearms owners (and those interested in owner firearms) in the oppressed state. Every year, I do two or three classes with GOAL and they are always full. This week we’re running Combat Focus® Shooting, Advanced Pistol Handling and Combat Focus® Carbine classes at the Worcester Pistol & Rifle Club.
I think that everyone interested in promoting the Right to Keep & Bear Arms should do their part to support and/or build training communities. Remember that the Second Amendment is not about hunting or “shooting sports”. Even traditional sporting clubs and even those who don’t own defensive firearms should encourage any type of safe & responsible shooting activity and support those activities in any way they can. It should be self-evident that abandoning groups of shooters because they live in states with less optimal firearms laws makes no sense to me. It’s easy to sit in a pro-gun state and say otherwise. If you spend some time with shooters in less free areas who are constantly fighting, you may find that they certainly need, and might deserve, more attention than those who take the RKBA for granted. Similarly, if you see the work that those who could simply shoot in their back yards are doing to build active communities at both public and private ranges, it may inspire you to do more as well. There are more and more people interested in defensive firearms ownership every day in this country, we should be doing everything we can to provide them with positive examples and easy access to professional training and time with like-minded people.
Later this month, I’m heading out to California for more of the same.