April 19, 2024
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April 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Interview With A Certified Firearms Safety Instructor

How do you become an NRA-certified instructor?

Acceptance into the NRA instructors course requires demonstrated background in firearms and advanced knowledge and skills. During the certification course itself, instructors perfect their ability to impart the knowledge and skills to others. To become certified and be endorsed by the NRA counselor (i.e., the instructor’s instructor), you must pass a written exam and a marksmanship test, and demonstrate via role-play simulations that you can teach others the requisite firearms skills. Given the severity of the subject matter, at the instructor level there is zero tolerance for safety violations or mistakes throughout the process.

In what way has the demand for this course changed since October 7?

I specialize in firearms training for the Jewish community. Unfortunately, each time our community experiences a visible threat or attack, I see waves of interest followed by lulls. This happened in 2018, 2019 and 2020, after the Pittsburgh and Poway attacks were followed by attacks in Jersey City and then Monsey, and then there were threats during the unrest following George Floyd’s death. Between the changes to New York State gun laws in 2022 which make “full” concealed carry permits more accessible, and the unspeakable violence we all experienced on and since October 7, the current surge in demand for this course has been the biggest I’ve seen yet.

What part of teaching this course do you enjoy? What parts don’t you enjoy?

I became an instructor to enable access to firearm training within the local Jewish community. There are various challenges that come with teaching firearms, some enjoyable and others not so much. At this point I’ve trained multiple students who had actually already owned a gun for years but literally had never shot at a range even once. They had fears or doubts that they had proper ability or guidance. I admire the self-awareness and concern for safety, and helping people like this build up their skills and confidence is rewarding.

On the flip side, some participants are overly confident at the onset. They may have grand visions or expectations of what they’ll be capable of after an entry-level firearm safety course, e.g., that they might be prepared for an active shooter situation. For these people I have to be the bearer of “bad” news and show them that using a gun in defensive situations is another level of skills altogether. The firearm safety course focuses primarily on the knowledge, skills and attitude required to handle a firearm in relatively controlled settings. Participants who obtain a firearm need to assume this course is the very beginning of the ongoing training they must obtain.

Have you ever seen the training to be too much for someone emotionally or psychologically?

For me to “pass” a participant, they need to demonstrate the knowledge, skills and attitude for safe gun ownership and handling. Attitude includes making sure that others around you feel safe. During my time as an instructor, there have been people who didn’t satisfy these requirements. In one case, a new student almost immediately expressed himself aggressively towards others and used language that was highly inappropriate and threatening in general, let alone in the context of a firearms course. In another case, a doctor who devoted his entire life to healing people was overwhelmed by the live fire at the range and opted not to finish the course. I respect this person’s decision and would happily continue working with him if he wished, but also certainly don’t want to pressure someone if they’re uncomfortable.

What would be your reservations about many more Jews in our communities obtaining firearms?

I expect and believe that people will take the responsibility of owning a firearm seriously, especially if they carry. As individuals, that means ongoing and advanced training and practice, and not compromising when it comes to safety and storage. As a parent and member of multiple organizations, my reservations are more at the community level. At least in the New York metro area, the percentages of gun ownership in the community was historically low, so the concept of armed members and their involvement in security has generally been ignored or even opposed. With increased firearms ownership and training within the community, our institutions and their security organizations should help coordinate, train and leverage membership. The dangerous alternative is an increasing number of law-abiding but minimally trained individuals potentially acting without coordination.

Do you observe your students grow or change their perspectives at all over the course of the training?

While many participants come from a place of skepticism with regard to firearm ownership, most people who sign up for the course have already realized a desire to own a gun, usually with self-defense in mind. So, while that major perspective change happens before the class, I do see some realizations during the course.

Firstly, people often realize that gun handling and shooting are pretty different from what you might imagine based on what you see in the movies. To do these things safely and accurately requires significant practice with tremendous attention to detail and muscles you’ve likely never used before.

Also, many people start to understand that having a gun does not inherently offer them security. A gun is literally a tool, and the situations where it may be used are pretty extreme. Security, however, is really a mindset and requires vigilance and preparedness on many levels.

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