Those of you familiar with my writing know the story. I started out a political and Second Amendment writer and came to embrace my hunting, concealed carry permit holding, and advocation of firearms training in my work. I’m not an expert. I’m not a ‘guns writer’ like my Bearing Arms counterpart Bob Owens. I’m not Beth Alcazar, Dana Loesch, or Julie Golob.
And that’s okay.
I’m not only acutely aware of this fact, I share it openly with the hopes that new gun owners who see me learning in the public eye will follow how I’m finding my way. Perhaps they will feel more confident to educate themselves further to become better and more responsibly armed citizens.
Entrenched in this awkward spot, where new gun owners ask me questions and avid shooters talk over my head, I’m finding myself identifying with one group more than the other. New gun owners, even those who may know more than me at this point, remain polite and most amiable in our discussions.
Some instructors and expert shooters? Not so much.
While I’m a tough ol’ gal who can take a lot of crap from a lot of people, and dish it back just as hard, a few recent conversations left me wondering: do all new and recent gun owners feel this attacked by the experts?
Maybe attacked is a strong word. Judged? Talked down to? The word condescending comes to mind when I think of the last few instructors I spoke with, but I’m hoping it’s because I am who I am.
However, in speaking with a few others recently, I’ve found I may not be alone.
Such is the case of a young woman I spoke with who, while not a gun owner, has attended gun education events and teaches womens’ self defense classes. She asked a rather well-respected gun educator a simple question about laser sights, which he could easily have answered. Instead, he rudely and dismissively told her that laser sights are something that he neither used nor recommended, then ignored her question, as if it were stupid.
There’s a reason I do what I do and write what I write: to shine a spotlight on issues in the firearms industry. Not to complain about them, but to open people’s eyes to the effects their actions have on others. Apparently it doesn’t go without saying, so I’ll say it bluntly: If you are a hardened trainer or expert/avid shooter ‘talking down to’ a new gun owner, you’re not helping.
We want people to learn gun safety, defensive handgun training, basic gun care, concealed carry best practices, etc., but if their questions are met with judgement and condescension, they’re going to shut down and stop learning. I’ve spoken with hundreds of new and recent gun owners, as well as being one myself, and I am telling you this is an issue in our industry.
And it’s not limited to women either. There is a rather large segment of men who are becoming gun owners and, in my conversations, it’s guys that that feel the most intimidated…as if they can’t ask anything without their manhood being called into question.
One friend told me as soon as he bought his first handgun, his guy buddies immediately started talking over his head. He was so overwhelmed at all the things he didn’t know yet, that he just shut down. In his first class, filled mostly with women, the (male) instructor kept calling on him and giving him an ‘am I right’ nudge throughout the training.
“What do you say at that point?,” he asked me. “Just because I’m a man I should automatically know these things? I don’t because I wasn’t raised around it, but I want to learn, not feel like an idiot or somehow less of a man for being there to learn.”
So instructors be advised: only you can put the ‘tact’ in tactical training. When new gun owners actually do work up the courage to ask a question of an expert, the last thing they should be met with is someone who is annoyed or dismissive of either the question or the student. I can can guarantee that person will not ask any other questions and THAT is the real tragedy here. Using tact and respect not only ensures your students will receive information better, but also may prompt them to sign up for more classes with you as well.
At the end of the day, isn’t that why you became an instructor in the first place?