I noticed that we were getting a lot of amazing comments from a recent firearms post that we shared on Facebook. I noticed that one commentator, Mark, was rather knowledgeable about firearm use and safety, so I invited him and his wife, Bonnie, to do an interview with me to learn more about that subject. They are an interracial couple and long-time supporters of the blog. (Random note: This article’s title is brought to you by the safety alerts I saw on TV as a child.) I do hope you enjoy the interview.
Do you both have experience with firearms?
B: I spent 21 years in the Air Force, and retired after two theaters of war. I served in Operation Desert Shield, Operation Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Right now, I am a USAA Archery Certified Level 3 Coach. I have my CPL (concealed pistol licence) and my own pistol.
M: I am an NRA Certified Instructor in Michigan, teaching Basic Pistol and Personal Protection in the Home (The required course for Michigan Concealed Pistol License) as well as being a Range Safety Officer. He has been teaching for 7 years. I have had a Concealed Pistol License for almost 20 years.
As a Canadian, guns are not really a part of my upbringing. Did you have experience with firearms growing up?
M: I began shooting in the 5th grade. So, I have over 30 years of experience shooting pistols, rifles and shotguns. I also have almost 20 years having a CPL, and 7 years as an NRA Instructor and Range Safety Officer.
B: Yes, I began in the Air Force in Basic Training at 26 years old. I have competed in the Vegas Shoot, Gator Cup, Michigan Senior Olympics, USAA International Competition in Puerto Rico and many others. I was the Michigan State Champion for Indoor and Outdoor Archery for Women’s Recurve in my age group for 4 consecutive years.
Is this the career you both imagined for yourself?
M: This isn’t our career. I am an IT Professional working for a major hospital.
B: I work as a Sterile Reprocessing Tech for another major hospital.
How did you get involved with the NRA? Would you speak a bit more about the organization, for our international audience?
M: The National Rifle Association is America’s oldest Civil Rights organization, founded in 1871. Its primary goals are to teach firearm safety, competency and to protect our 2nd amendment rights. The NRA is the defacto standard for firearms teaching. I was involved in target shooting and hunting for years and when I wanted to become an Instructor, they were the best to learn from.
Even here in Canada, I have heard a lot of interesting things about the NRA. I am sure you can imagine the rhetoric out there. Would you speak to the misconceptions out there?
M: The NRA often gets painted as closed-minded and backwards. We are men and women who care and do our best to offer the best safety training and competency training we can. I welcome anyone who has the desire to learn safety and skills. It all boils down to every single person has the right to freedom and self-defence.
How do you share your knowledge of firearm safety?
M: I volunteer with Rick Ector Legally Armed In Detroit every year to teach basic firearms safety and handling. This year, last May, we trained approx 800 women in one day! I will be volunteering at this event again next year.
Do you volunteer at the same event, Bonnie?
B: Not right now. Life keeps me very busy. I would love to participate in the event as well when I have more time.
Could you tell us more about that experience?
M: When we train women in basic firearm safety and basic shooting, we facilitate these courses on one Sunday for 12 hours and at no cost to the women who signed up. All labor, instruction, range fees, firearms, ammunition, targets, etc were 100% donated.
What is the goal behind all of this training?
M: We want you to be a safe and responsible firearms owner and Concealed Pistol License holder. You cannot learn without the proper training. Refuse to be a victim! Anyone who has any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!
What made you so passionate about fire safety?
M: The more we teach, the fewer accidental deaths we will have. Each time I volunteer, I hear more and more people asking a lot of similar questions. I completely understand where they are coming from. They are trying to dispel the myths out there. The media does a disservice when they report accidental shootings. Guns do not go off by themselves. It is usually because people get careless and accidentally pull the trigger. We don’t blame cars for drunk driving. People need to be responsible with their firearms.
What are some common misconceptions people have about guns?
M: Guns do not go off by themselves. They go off because someone pulled the trigger. You cannot clean a loaded gun and it goes off without pulling the trigger. If someone is in your house, you could shoot them, but that does not always mean you will be in the right. You could shoot someone for breaking into your car, but Michigan is NOT a property protection state.
M: Human lives are more important than your Porsche. That’s why you have insurance. Many people think that all you have to say is “I WAS SCARED” and you can shoot someone. I’ll be happy to visit you in prison if you can’t clearly state EXACTLY what put you in direct and immediate fear of death, great bodily harm or sexual assault. Those three are the ONLY reason you may shoot. Be prepared, if you are involved in a defensive gun use situation, you could be arrested, your gun taken, sued in civil court, face possible criminal charges, and spend a LOT of money on lawyers. There are so many more examples I can tell you about.
Do you find that an unease concerning guns is common with women specifically?
B: Most women will not come near a gun. I have a coworker whose son was robbed at gunpoint. Ordinarily, the everyday person would oppose guns, but they expect to be protected in the moment. Gun ownership tends to be more reactive. People will get a gun license when they have been, or are in, a crisis situation. It is not preventative at all.
M: Black women can be especially vulnerable, as many of them can be victims of crimes and face high rates of violence. In our last event, we had about 800 people attending, and about 40-50% of people were black women. Every time I volunteer for this event, they will share their stories with me. These women may be the victims of a violent crime and they want to take their lives back. They deserve to defend themselves, and we (at the NRA) want people to help them defend themselves.
Do you feel gun ownership could be of benefit to people at large?
M: I find that people, in general, who do not have a gun feel somewhat protected by those who do. If people look at the benefits of gun ownership, they would not see it as such a bad thing.
B: The crime rate could drop this way. You don’t know if someone has a gun unless it is open carry (a firearm visibly attached to its owner, like in a holster).
Give us some examples of how people can be more responsible with their firearms.
M: I actually had a lengthy discussion with a neighbor of mine who wanted to buy a gun. He wanted my advice, as he knows I am pretty knowledgeable here. I told him that I would go with him, but only if he and I had a serious talk about firearm safety.
M: For instance, guns are not an excuse to just go around shooting people. Just because someone is in your house, that does not mean that you can just shoot them. It could be a neighbour. It could be a mistake. It could be a situation that you could diffuse by speaking to them or getting yourself to a safe place. You need to be in fear of your life, know why you are in fear of your life and why you had to take that action. If you get into that situation and make that choice, you will have to explain yourself in court. It is better to just let the police do their job. That is what we pay them for.
What gun safety requirements are important?
M: I will give you my top tips.
What can people do to secure their firearms?
M: As an NRA Instructor, please buy a safe. Too many people come home to a crisis, only to find that a burglar that already found your firearm. Another option is using a trigger lock on your firearm.
How do you ensure best practices with firearms?
M: It all boils down to due diligence. Get training, and renew your training. I’m an Instructor but I also sign up as a student for other firearms classes. Last year I attended three classes, shooting from a compromised position, moving a shooting and low light conditions. These are important. A criminal is going to want you down on the ground, staying still and it will most probably be at night.
Thank you so much for reading this piece. That is all for this segment. Please stay tuned for part two! I hope you enjoyed this article. If you would like to share your take or suggest content to explore, please leave a comment below or connect with us on social media. You can also e-mail me with post ideas, feedback and BB&W interview requests at [email protected]. We are on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For more posts like this one, please subscribe to our website.