Be a Difference Maker and Love What You Do

June 14, 2018

This is a personal experience from class yesterday. You never know who may show up for a class... or what your Instructor impact can be.


Two weeks ago, I picked up the phone from a male caller making inquiry about gun ownership. Something felt… different about this caller. After continued conversation with “Ed” he was slightly more forthcoming. He revealed that he was a researcher beginning a gun related research project and that he knew absolutely nothing about firearms. I signed Ed up for the USCCA Basic Handgun course letting him know he was more than welcome.

Yesterday was the day. Our Wednesday class was particularly diverse. The students included two Latinos, the first a father and family man with a small business. The second was a middle aged professional woman who’d recently had a scary encounter and wanted to not be a future victim. There were two African American single moms, one from Waterbury and one from Bridgeport. The class was rounded out by a Polish senior citizen aged immigrant who’d at one time lived under Soviet oppression. Oh, and then there was Ed. He was a multi-ethnic millennial, rather SJW’ish in appearance complete with long hair, (full) man bag, and continuously eating almond snacks and drinking a Whole Food purchased beverage.


The class was a fairly typical, interactive group learning experience. As the group became more comfortable and communicating various personal stories Ed maintained a mostly neutral appearance. Yet underneath I could sense discomfort. Unlike the others he said relatively little, taking notes when I’d make a particular fact-based statement. I’ll admit I took more liberties than usual discussing firearm laws and insights into the characteristics of mass shooters versus common media narratives. We discussed the considerations of everyday carry in the Northeast – including the realities of being a legally armed American who may also be a person of color.

Late in the afternoon we ran a virtual line drill to prep for our pre-range activities. There’s Ed, SIRT pistol in hand, stancing up like a typical actor in a prime-time police drama. We’re going over sight alignment and Ed, in quite dramatic fashion, is squeezing that gun harder than a person desperate for the last bit of toothpaste from an otherwise empty tube. I can sense but not fully appreciate the amount of stimulus he’s undergoing. I try to maintain a straight face.

The subsequent (real) range was better. I worked the firing line first with the women and then the Polish fellow while Ed studiously watched in the background. Finally, the moment arrived. Ed stepped up to the line, picked up the .22 M&P, loaded the first magazine and got into the ready position. He could not get himself to pull the trigger. Just couldn’t do it. We had several starts and stops as I’m indicating to him to simply R-E-L-A-X. Then we did it. First one magazine at 12 feet followed by a second. Then followed by two more magazines at 18 feet. I just stepped back and allowed him to shoot on his own at 25 feet, 35 feet and finally 50 feet. Together we looked at the end result before I asked him if he wanted to try out “American’s most commonly purchased gun.” Ed found himself in surreal situation. He’d overcome whatever mental hurdles and hang ups he’d had. Now for the next step in this unfolding opportunity. With the Glock 19 in front of him he ran a clearance check and loaded the magazine. He did so with a newly found confidence. He then ran through half a magazine at the man-sized silhouette, checked the chamber and placed the gun muzzle first pointing down-range when done.


I asked Ed what he was feeling. I don’t think I’ll forget this for quite some time. He turned toward me with a large, but nervous, smile spread from ear to ear. Yet with a gleam in his eye as someone who’d just found a new passion he replied, “Wow! That. Was. Powerful.” I suppressed a smile. He eagerly grabbed his target like a newly prized possession. Ed gave me a smile and stuck out his hand, still a bit star struck from the shooting experience I observed and thanked me.


This morning, ever curious by nature, I decided to look up Ed online. Lo and behold he was pretty modest during his initial call. He’s been educated in some of the country’s most selective undergraduate and graduate programs. He’s now a PhD academic who’s formerly worked across the country and internationally on a host of urban related issues. And yes, online posts reveal Ed is indeed beginning post-doctoral research on urban gun violence with some of the nation’s best and brightest data scientists and researchers.


Kudos to Ed for leaving his desktop behind to do some field research on proper gun utilization. Only now can I more fully appreciate what I was observing yesterday. I trust the students’ stories, the repetitive reinforcement of safe gun handling throughout the day and the range experience may have been jarring for an otherwise educated academic. I can say with confidence he has a very different perspective on what being a responsibly educated, trained and armed American can really look like.


I love what I do. Trust you do too!

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