Dad, I’m Afraid We Need To Take Your Car Keys, But Not Your Gun

By Mark Walters : Opinion

Finger on the Trigger 9mm
Dad, I’m Afraid We Need To Take Your Car Keys, But Not Your Gun
Mark Walters
Mark Walters

USA – -( Facts are stubborn things, huh? They leave no room for debate. I mean you can not really debate something when the outcome is guaranteed.

Take 5+5=10, for example. Where’s the debate? It equals ten no matter how many times you try to slice it and dice it. It equals ten. There’s no getting around it.

Guess what? The Second Amendment isn’t debatable either, is it? Not in my book.

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Pretty straight forward.

So let’s take the email I received from a listener earlier this week. The writer wants to remain anonymous for valid reasons when you’re talking about national exposure, I get that. The content however, is important enough for me to ask your opinion. My opinion, as I stated on live radio, follows below the email. I’m looking forward to reading yours! Here’s the raw email in its entirety:

The Setup

I am a certified NRA Pistol Instructor and certified NRA Range Safety Officer. Whenever I can, I help out local ranges in the XXXXX area to support their concealed carry classes. My motivation for this is definitely not money but to do my part to teach others and help new shooters and concealed carriers be safer. I think I'm pretty good at it and have successfully taught hundreds of people of all type. Some of my students have had vision, hearing, and literacy deficiencies. I especially enjoy helping those students overcome their unique challenges to learn safe gun handling and shooting fundamentals. Other instructors tend to push the more difficult students my way because I am blessed to have the skills and patience to help them. One of my favorite students was a legally blind woman who ended up shooting very well and was quite accurate after we perfected her natural grip for a point and shoot technique.

The Story

Last weekend, I was asked by another instructor to help a man in his late 70's. He was very hard of hearing and the other instructor was not able to have any success with him. I will call him Kevin for this discussion. I took Kevin back to the firing line and introduced myself. He immediately reached for the 22 pistol on the counter and said, “which target should I shoot?” I stopped him and told him to not do ANYTHING without me specifically telling him to.

I showed Kevin how to load the magazine, insert the magazine, and release the slide. During that time, he was nodding and indicating that he was paying attention. I quickly found that Kevin didn't actually understand the instructions, though. He just could not get the ONE round into the magazine until I showed him repeatedly. I realized that he not only had bad hearing, but was not very bright. Eventually, he took a shot with just a single round and we repeated that process at least five or six times – load one round, shoot one round, repeat. Each time, I was correcting basic safety violations like improper placement of his trigger finger and pointing it in an unsafe direction again and again. It was frustrating for me, but I continued to try to get through to him while watching him like a hawk.

Then it got bad. Kevin loaded the next round and before I told him to do anything, he quickly turned the gun to his left where I was standing to look at it. His finger was on the trigger, there was a round in the chamber and the the pistol was pointed directly at my chest! Fortunately, I wear L3 body armor when I teach – a gift from my wife who must like me. I have been flagged by students a few times as an instructor and have been grateful for my vest each time. When he muzzled me, I reacted appropriately. I calmly moved the gun away from danger to prevent him from causing any harm. I then made it abundantly clear what an unsafe action he had taken. I repeated my very firm coaching with him until he fully grasped enormity of his violation of the safety rules.

I stopped using live ammunition and switched him to snapcaps for while until he could properly demonstrate safe gun handling. After another ten minutes of corrections, he started doing the right things. We went back to live ammunition and shortly afterwards. Almost as if he was following a script, he repeated his terrible safety violation by pointing the gun at my chest AGAIN with a round in the chamber and his finger on the trigger!! That was enough for me. I can handle one time, but I've never been flagged twice by the same person.

I stopped his progression, put the pistol away, and told him to take a break. He sat down in a waiting area behind the ready line with other students. I left the firing line to discuss the issue with the RSO and the range owner. I firmly told them that I would not sign off on his concealed carry certificate of completion because he was very unsafe.

The Dilemma

The rest of the concealed carry class was dismissed with their certificates while Kevin remained in his seat. The RSO and another instructor took him back to the firing line and started working with him as the rest of the instructors watched incredulously from behind. The student repeatedly could not understand directions and had to be constantly reminded of the most basic safety rules. At one point, the RSO physically moved Kevin's finger off the trigger and high onto the frame of the pistol where it belongs. The student immediately put his middle finger into the trigger guard and shot the gun while his index finger was still on the frame!

By this point I had made it clear that I did not think that Kevin should get his certificate and I left for the day. Later that night I contacted the RSO and the other instructor that was working with Kevin. They both told me that they worked with Kevin for another two hours and that they both had signed off on this certificate of completion because he had demonstrated that he was safe.

I am very bothered that these professionals for whom I have tremendous respect have made this decision. I am confident that Kevin will eventually harm himself or someone else if he started carrying a concealed handgun. I think that Kevin is an example of what the anti-gunner extremists are thinking of whenever they discuss the dangerous “CCW” public. I am struggling with this experience with Kevin and the instructors who passed him. I can only feel comfortable thinking that this is one of those costs of freedom that we all have to live with, even if our better judgment says that it is wrong. I just don't like knowing that there are armed people like Kevin out there who have the terrible sense of firearms safety and arm the anti-gunner extremists with anecdotes. You will have to look very hard to find a passionate and active advocates for our second amendment right to keep and bear arms, but I actually think that this man was so unsafe that he should not carry a handgun. It saddens me to even have the thought now, but there really are people that just should not be handling a firearm.

Mark, what are your thoughts?

That’s a great email and frankly it provides enough topic content for at least three hours of radio. Here’s my opinion. The emailer, we’ll call him Wyatt, was right. Now, I know there are many variables involved that we can’t glean from the email so I’ll simply say I took him at his word and presumed everything to be accurate.

Using that model, I would have done the same thing. Wyatt can sleep well tonight. The others? Time will tell.

About Mark Walters

Mark Walters is the host of two nationally syndicated radio broadcasts, Armed American Radio and Armed American Radio's Daily Defense with Mark Walters. He is the Second Amendment Foundations 2015 Gun Rights Defender of the Year award recipient and co-author of two books, Lessons from Armed America with Kathy Jackson (Whitefeather Press) and Lessons from UnArmed America with Rob Pincus (Whitefeather Press)

  • 16 thoughts on “Dad, I’m Afraid We Need To Take Your Car Keys, But Not Your Gun

    1. It’s odd that my comment was deleted. Makes me wonder what it was that was someone found untenable.

    2. Having been a gun owner for over 60 years, and a NRA qualified CCW carrier, I can agree that mental accuity is a viable requirement. The CCW course I took, I found VERY inadequate. I wouldn’t trust any of the recipients of the certificate with a loaded handgun. I basically learned nothing that I didn’t know from years of experience. Safety, such as the basic rules of safety was somewhat glossed over, and the functions of the parts of the handguns was expanded way beyond neccessary. I’ve been a CCW and (summertime only) open carrier for many of those years. Not to impress or dazzle anyone, but for the safety of myself and others near me.
      The truth be known, I believe I am in the early stages of a mental breakdown of some type. Balance is a bit off, memory is getting tough, sometimes confused etc. I understand the dilemma of the old gent in the article, as many of us will face this problem at some time in the future. My collection of rifles, shotguns and handguns has already been assigned to others. When the day comes, when I am starting to mistrust my own safety, one call and all my guns will be gone to responsible owners. The one fellow that’s destined to receive my custom AR is always kidding me that the time is “now”. But, we still enjoy a day at the range together.
      So, although I am 100% behind the gentleman who refused to sign off on the certificate, I hope that someday someone will be so thoughtful towards me if (and when) the day arrives.

    3. Mark,
      It would have been great if you had commented about the different ways a person suffering from dementia, even early dementia, can be prevented from possessing a firearm.
      Yes, we can take their driver’s license. That same process of determining that they will lose their driver’s license can be used to stop them from possessing a firearm. Just about every county has a mental health department that can do a simple MMSE (Mini Mental Status Exam) and psych exam or his doctor can do it. Then, a simple application to the court can be recorded.
      His family should have been included in the decision making process. Family can hide his firearm just as many hide the keys or disable the car.

    4. Great article. This is the one standard, we must maintain to protect our rights. Safety should always be first and foremost.
      As a lifetime NRA member, longtime hunter, shooter and son of same, I have seen some scary people. I was very lucky to grow up in a very strict, gun safety wise environment. In my life I have seen two very close range misses, not counting a picnic table. My late father dearly loved firearms, but he had a saying I’ve remembered, ” I dearly love the 2cd amendment with all my heart, but some people are encapable of understanding
      The detrimental effect of firearms “.

      1. Rokflyer,
        Send me your dad’s name, please. I want to use his quote in trainng.
        ~ MasterTrainingCounselor at gmail dot com.

        1. James ( Jim ) Spivey sr.
          Dad truly loved the outdoors, his birddogs, and his Remington Rand USA1, mod 1911. My son now owns it, along with his flag, and his decorations from action in the Rhineland.
          If I can offer a funny aside. I get spastic when internet pistoleers, correct folks for referencing the ” mag ‘ as a clip. My Dad and his crowd shot 45 ACP, all their lives as I still do. It was always a clip folks. His explanation, it is a grip magazine, feed by a ” clip ‘. I still love to reference it as a clip at the range. Just love to tell it. Thanks for indulging me.

    5. The best thing to hope for is that the other two instructors managed, during the additional two hours after you left, to get through to this chap and greatly improve his skills and discipline.

      I recall one incident on the firing line as an Appleseed Insrtructor. It was a very large shoot, largest to date in that state. Midway through the afternoon, there were a few persistent “early fire” incidents, not that scary, but also an increasing number of incidents of continuing to fire after CEASE FIRE was called. This can be called when a given course of fire is completed, or for any emergency or safety issue, and our safety briefings hammer this home deeply. Another of the line instructers happened to be working that section of the line, and began to carefuly watch for the miscreants. That part was too far away from where I was working for me to get more than a vegue sense it could have been any one of those ten shooters. Over time, she was able to zero in on the culprits…… three early twenties young males who had come as a group for the programme. She waited until that course of fire was over, not wanting to make a scene wiith a “hot” line, then followed the three back to their prep area. She got in their faces, firmly. She is a Mom to four children (the youngest three of whom were also helping as Instructors for that shoot), and knows how to draw a hard line in the sand and instill great fear in the hearts of any who would dare cross it. SHe told them, calmly but clearly, that if ONE MORE ROUND goes off early or late from ANY of you three, I will immediately call CEASE FIRE, stop the entire line, order you three back to the prep line, leaving your rifles on the firing line, until that course of fire is completed. Then you will be told to pack up your rifles, be escorted back to your car with them, and told to leave this property. Your names will be put on the blocked list, and you will not be able to sign up for another of our shoots, anywhere. Am I very clear in this? Yes Ma’am.

      Guess what? They were model students the rest of that day and the next. I even seem to recall one of them actually fired a qualifing score the next day.

      In that case, it was an attitude adjusstment. She did it well, perhaps better than most of the men could have. They simply needed to KNOW where that line was, and the certain consequences of their ever crossing it again.

      If safety is not “Job One”< we're all wasting our time and risking our lives.

      The saddest part of all this is the grabbers and haters will spend years looking for that one scarcer than golden hens' teeth incident to "justify" taking all our rights away. Like that shooting in the mall parking lot where one crazy had a score to settle with a local judge, managed to kill him, a couple others, and happen to hit Gabby Giffords with a badly placed round. So now SHE has made it her life's work to see to it no one every has a gun again. Talk about a mental case….

    6. Thank yoy, Mark for an excellent article and also for properly quoting the second amendment. I refer to the use of the lower case s in state, the use of only one coma in the sentence. This was the way it was originally written and published and should always be quoted.

    7. Twenty five years ago I was invited to become a Firearms Instructor for our local Federal “group.” I declined because I could not be part of a lie. That lie was that if you passed our firearms qualification you would be good to go in a armed encounter. It was not only a lie, it was a damned lie. There was also one guy, who started with me by the way, and I would not shoot at the same time as him. He was too unsafe and demonstrated it several times. Then again, it is my belief that if you are receiving PTSD payments you should not be allowed to possess or use firearms. If you really need it then no guns for you and if you are faking you belong in prison.

    8. We have become so politically correct that we cannot keep retarded people from having a license to carry a loaded firearm??? I am old school too and the term retarded was acceptable in my day and is not meant to be demeaning. We dance around the semantics of life when it is critical to remain true to our convictions. We have become afraid of labeling someone as if that will prevent them from ever harming another person. Our society has become nearly borderline sociopathic and we seem to accept it as okay. There is no way in Hades that man should have gotten a certificate and someone may pay with their life. Life hard but it is harder for the stupid.

      1. Retarded is the wrong term. This man has early stage dementia. His dementia makes it difficult for him to learn and retain what he has learned. He likely can make some intelligent comments based on historical knowledge but cannot receive and process new knowledge.
        My father suffered from this but had a 28 year career as a sought after rocket engineer. He was highly intelligent until his mind started failing. You can thank him for the top secret SCI work he did that was a big part of why we won the Cold War.

    9. As a tutor for a local literacy program I was given a student who was having trouble getting her drivers license because of problems reading the Driving Manual and the test questions. She could not read sufficiently well due to lack of exposure and mental ability. I did not want her driving so I stopped tutoring her. Maybe it wasn’t my decision to make but my participation certainly was my decision. Sound like you made a similar call. If your student was as bad as you suggest, you might be well within your comfort zone to confront the other two instructors, or at least ask the student to demonstrate his competency to your satisfaction. If this student commits some error that results in injury, or a lawsuit you can bet they, and you, will find yourselves involved, on one side or the other. Someone is likely to ask the question “why didn’t you do something to prevent his getting his permit if you believed his skills or ability was deficient?” You might find the other instructors closer to your evaluation and actions when the issue is presented to them this way. Backing off, and remaining silent, will not afford you much protection when there is a dead victim to be explained. At the very least a registered letter to the instructors, or to the issuing authority, outlining your concerns, might give you some protection. Maybe talk to a lawyer. Sad day isn’t it?

    10. I am in total agreement with you. The 2nd Amendment does not apply to those incapable or unwilling to follow basic safety protocol. I believe the criteria should be kept to a minimum, what is described in the email fall well below anything close to safe.

    11. I have also refused to sign off on a CCDW student’s in Kentucky. Unsafe handling of Firearms not acceptable in my class, no matter age of student. As instructors we have a responsibility not to sign off on students that show no ability to be able to handle firearms in a safe manner.

      Paul Shouse
      Kentucky CCDW Instructor

    12. I was seven years an NRA Certified Instructor when I asked to be appointed as a Training Counselor.. The first thing I learned was the need to block inappropriate persons from becoming instructors. As part of a large organization, I went so far as to request that my certified instructors let me know of persons seeking the training who should not become instructors. In each instance that I received information, it was confirming my sense of an individual from time on the range. The NRA reads its mail, and my graduates course evaluations led to the invitation to train and develop Training Counselors. NRA had never before done this, always using their own staff. Appointed at the highest level, Master Training Counselor, and credentialed for every course the NRA offers, I was in a training with a candidate for Senior TC. Already a certified instructor, and advanced to Training Counselor. Based on the direct observation of this individual’s attitude and safety focus,, I submitted a three page evaluation, which combined with other information the NRA had received (but had not told me about) they removed all of the individuals credentials.
      Last year the NRA removed a training counselor appointment, and worked with the individual for a probationary year before restoring Certified Instructor credentials. I concurred in their decision based on direct training time with that individual, and shared my evaluation with NRA.
      I have developed over a hundred Training Counselors, Senior Training Counselors, Chief Range Safety Officers (who can train and certify Range Safety Officers), and Certified Instructors. When the NRA was developing a new course they brought me to their HQ to participate in a trail run. The consensus of my graduates and the NRA Education and Training staff is that safety is my middle name. I am honored to uphold the safety standard every day, everywhere.
      When TC’s or Instructors give a pass to an individual who does not have the Knowledge, Skill, and Attitude .to use a firearm safely and effectively, they diminish the value of training, and they endanger our God given right confirmed in the constitution, by setting up a future disaster, committed by a TRAINED citizen.
      Plenty of people look for just such incidents to argue for increased restrictions, and their goal is a firearms ban.
      Now thirty-five years an NRA trainer, not one of my graduates has ever been arrested, never an incident involving violation of the key firearms safety rules. That does not happen when “Training” is nothing more than a cash exchange for a Participation Award.
      I am old school, but I remain youthful, aspirational and unapologetic. There is no excuse for saying someone can, when they can’t. Clenched fist of truth.
      sign me ~ Training Counselor

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