Update 8/1/17: If by chance you were smart enough to click through the link that The Trace had about this article in order to read what I actually said, let me repeat what I have written elsewhere on this blog about the NRA.
Yes, the NRA pays me to write for them, and yes, I make money when people join the NRA using the recruiting link I have on the side over there ->. I support the NRA, and I support the NRA’s mission. I also went to church before, during and after the Jim Bakker/Jerry Falwell/Jimmy Swaggart scandals, because I know the message will go on, no matter how fallible the messenger is.
Now, on to what you came here to read.
Included with the new NRA Carry Guard concealed carry insurance is some training in how to use a firearm and other stuff. From the NRA’s own website,
THE NRA CARRY GUARD TRAINING PACKAGE
No matter your skill level, NRA Carry Guard offers world-class firearm training. But next to knowing how to protect yourself physically, nothing is more important than protecting yourself legally.
RIGHTS & RESPONSIBILITIES
NRA Carry Guard members receive immediate access to our Rights & Responsibilities video curriculum, featuring hours of instruction that will prepare you for the modern reality of self-defense.
Well that sounds kinda cool, right? But who are the people doing the training? Well, to be honest, I’ve never heard of any of them. This puzzled me, so I went about searching for the credentials and history of the trainers associated with the “Gold Standard” of concealed carry insurance, and what I found out was rather troubling.
There was no history. Well, very little history, and that is not what you want in a nationally-recognized training program.
To find out who the people associated with NRA Carry Guard were, I searched for the names of all the people involved in this program, using keywords like “‘name of instructor’+training” or “‘name of instructor’+concealed carry”. I was looking for the (digital) impression they have made in the firearms training community, and to be honest, it just isn’t there.
As an example, here’s the same search criteria, using my friend Jon from Phoenix Firearms Training instead of these guys. Jon’s training company isn’t the biggest one in Phoenix, but there are still ten pages of results for him using one of those keywords.
“‘George Severance’+concealed carry”? One page of results, and it’s all about his involvement with NRA Carry Guard. To the best of my ability (and I do online marketing for a living, including Search Engine Optimization), there is no evidence online to show that he was involved with concealed carry training in any way prior to his involvement with NRA Carry Guard.
Now it could be that all of the civilian firearms training done by these trainers has taken place in places that don’t mention the training online, or they don’t have websites about what they do because they don’t feel comfortable in today’s digital age, and Lord knows that technophobia runs rampant in the firearms community.
But are such things emblematic of the best thinking in firearms training today? I don’t believe so. We should take advantage of every opportunity we have to spread knowledge of the safe use of firearms, and that includes venues such as websites, social media and online video.
Let’s take a look at what I did find out about each trainer in the NRA Carry Guard program.
Veteran U.S. Navy SEAL
NRA Carry Guard National Director
Through more than 20 years in Naval Special Warfare, George led special operations teams on four continents as a Team Leader, Platoon Commander, Troop Commander, Task Unit Commander, Operations Officer and Executive Officer.
That’s quite a resume, but George’s background in civilian training seems to be limited to running a fitness camp that uses Navy SEAL techniques to whip us landlubbers into shape.
That’s cool, but what does that teach me about having a fast draw stroke, or shoot/no-shoot situations?
Veteran U.S. Navy SEAL
NRA Carry Guard Training Director
As a veteran Navy SEAL with nearly 12 years of active duty service, Eric had some of the best firearms training in the world and learned from some of the world’s most elite tactical shooting instructors. He’s the co-founder of BluCore Shooting Center.
Eric also has a background in teaching fitness. He’s also been involved in the launch of the Springfield Saint, a campaign that was managed by Ackerman-McQueen, the same people who manage advertising for the NRA.
Some coincidence there.
Veteran Green Beret
NRA Carry Guard Lead Instructor
Jeff served as a Green Beret with U.S. Army Special Forces, completing service in 2009. He was deployed multiple times to Iraq, and has excelled at completing various tactical shooting courses with both assault/tactical rifles and pistols.
I, too, have “excelled at completing various tactical shooting courses with both assault/tactical rifles and pistols”. Why am I not involved in this as well? Oh, and in another AMAZING bit of coincidence, Jeff just happens to be the director of training at the range that Eric opened up in Colorado.
Funny how that happens.
James R. Jarrett
Veteran Green Beret
NRA Carry Guard Curriculum Director
As a veteran Green Beret, Los Angeles Police Department officer, federal agent and deep-cover intelligence operative, James R. Jarrett has decades of experience as a tactical weapons practitioner and instructor.
James has, by far, the most results for firearms-related keywords of any of trainers. For example, he has a full six pages for his name + concealed carry. However, James’s training calendar looks a little… sparse. Now it could be true that he’s off somewheres training units that can’t talk about the training he’s giving them or he doesn’t want to train in the often-brutal Arizona heat, or it could be that he’s just not that busy.
Anything is possible. Not all things are likely.
Now let me be absolutely crystal clear about one very important thing: I am not impinging, in any way, the sacrifice and service these men have put in defending my rights and my family’s ability to live in peace. I am in complete awe of anyone who signs up for the military and runs towards the sound of gunfire, and I always will be. I am actively encouraging both of my sons to serve in the military when they are of age: That issue is settled, and I will hear no more about it.
However, I have to ask, what relevance does that training have to my life as a married, middle-class marketing guru? Yes, there is value to training from someone who has seen the elephant and won a battle for their life, but that experience needs to be made relative to my life if it is to be valuable to me. From what I’ve noticed about the resumes of all of these trainers, all of them stress their military creds as qualification to teach civilians. Do I really need military training? What does suiting up and kicking in doors with an M4 in my hands have to do with me keeping my family safe at home? I can see how training with a SpecOps type can make me FEEL safe, but isn’t the point of all of this to BE safe, regardless of how we feel?
I’m not getting it.
I’m a member of the Armed Citizen’s Legal Defense Network, and the training DVD’s I received (and watched) from that organization were from guys like Massad Ayoob, John Farnam, Tom Givens and Marc MacYoung, all people who are recognized as leaders in training civilians how to safely defend themselves from the lethal force and also defend themselves in the courtroom afterwards. The US Concealed Carry Association has guys like Andrew Branca, Mike Hughes and George Harris on their training roster, filling similar roles, and they have a proven history of success in the streets and in the courtroom.
Speaking of the courtoom, all the training that Carry Guard seems to talk about is how to shoot people with your gun more better and more quicker. Where is the training in the legal consequences of using lethal force? Where is the less-lethal training? Where is the de-escalation? Where is the acknowledgement just having insurance isn’t enough, you need to do your part and not get into any fights you’re not supposed to get into? Talking about military service is one thing. Talking your way out of a fight with an angry, belligerent drunk is something else.
There are a lot of things to consider if you’re considering post-incident legal help, and one of those things is who are the people who are backing each program. In this case, while the military background of the NRA Concealed Carry trainers is very impressive, it seems to apply more to the streets of Khandahar than it does to a Walmart parking lot, and the NRA needs to consider adding in more options with the training and background that relates to the needs of me and my family, rather than the needs of special operations warrior.