Saturday, June 20, 2009

Intelligent Risks

This is an excellent article from Jeff Stier in Forbes on intelligent risk-taking, a subject I have a passing interest in and knowledge of:
We as a society need to redefine our relationship with risk. Rather than running away from it or trying to regulate it out of existence, we should learn how to evaluate it properly. Only then can we foster innovation--and enjoy greater freedom and success.
The drive to totally eliminate risk in our society is not only doomed to failure, it is misguided in the extreme. Should we succeed at the level the current administration envisions, we become like the sad nation that was once England, peasants with big screen televisions. By all means guarantee equality of opportunity, but never equality of outcome, because that leads us to the grey hinderlands of "self-esteem" and programmed failure. RANT MODE OFF!

To my regular commenter NJ Larry, a wonderful comment on my previous post. Let me quote a little of it here: 
The number of gun OWNERS vs active shooters is way out of proportion. My guesstimate is that 1 in 100 gun owners actually break out the gun more than 1 or 2 times a year. That is why SASS has like 70K or 80K members. Three quarters of which went out once and stopped. Why the acronym of the month gun match, IPSC, IDPA, 3 gun whatever has 50 guys show up.

That is why the NRA still floats around 3 to 4 million members. Why only 60K to 80K of the eligible NRA members actually vote for the Board of Directors. Those gun OWNERS who see themselves as active shooters or 2A participants is miniscule. Beyound miniscule, its GD microscopic.

Don't fool yourselves. Be realistic. MB has a great website and blog and forums. How many folks are active on these? DUDE COME ON ! A blog post gets 10 comments? The forum is filled with thousands of posts by the same handful of guys.

This is a VERY small community. Somehow we have been led to believe that WE are legion. BS. It is by the skin of our teeth that we maintain our rights. The only good thing is that the anti's are even smaller.
That is, unfortunately, mostly true. I would modify it somewhat by saying it's not that we aren't legion, it is that our legions won't march with us. I talked about how some years back I sat down with some of the top media strategist from the "gay pride" movement of the mid-1970s, arguably one of the most successful engineered social change of our time. If you remember, in the 1970s calling someone "gay" or "queer" was legally the same as calling someone a "murderer," de facto libel, a slur so egregious it had legal remedy (as I learned in my libel classes in my role as magazine editor). Think of how much things have changed in 3 some-odd decades!

Their media spinners told me something I have never forgotten. "You have, what, half the country with guns? If we had 50% of the country, we would own the country. And yet you guys always play defense. We played defense, and it got us ostracized, beaten and killed. One free piece of advice — out of the closets and into the streets."

As Larry pointed out, owning a gun doesn't make you a member of the gun culture. It should, but it doesn't. I believe that part of the reason for that fact is we have for too long let our own worst examples step up and represent the culture. All my life I have heard, "It's safer to fly under the radar." Or, as the Japanese say, "the nail that sticks up will be hammered down." I read an "under the radar" comment as recently as last week on one of the big gun forums, with the person opining that the safest thing for a sport like cowboy action shooting was to stay under said radar.  

I, along with compatriots like Paul Erhardt, Scotty Moore, Jim Shepherd, Tom Gresham and many other, have waged a very long, very public battle to do exactly the opposite...out of the closet and into the streets. And, NJ Larry, we have been an extent. I think we always believed that the whole industry would rally behind us, and many have — look at the companies who sponsor the television, radio and Internet shows, who back our often off-beat media initiatives, who stand and spit in the faces of our enemy (the great Ronnie Barrett comes immediately to mind). 

One of the biggest problems we face is that we have yet to find a way to reach out to the the people who own — not shoot — guns; who plink once or twice a year; who would be with us if we gave them vapid reasons. That was part of my issue with the big NSSF 20/20 initiative...from the very beginning the process made no attempt to address the larger market. Instead, it defaulted to the standard shiboleths of "More Youth Involvement!" "Greater Retention of Existing Hunters and Shooters!" "Mentoring Programs!" Let's be honest here...those are the very things we've been bandying about for decades, and where has it gotten us? Not that a 20% increase in shooters and hunters isn't a noble goal and something the industry should pursue, but to me it has the feel of a holding action...playing defense.

I am not preaching survie the next 4, maybe 8 years, we have to be a united front on defense of our rights. At the same time, we need an aggressive offensive to take the battle for the hearts and minds of the uncommitted to our enemies. That means innovative and, heaven help us, out-of-the-box thinking.



Steve said...

At my gun club in New Hampshire, I have seen an increase in both membership and attendance at the range since last fall. Up until last September 5 or 6 new members joined every month, after it was 16-18 per month and it still has not let up. We reached the membership cap last December, started a waiting list, then raised the membership cap and are close to having to start a new waiting list.
I used to see the same group of 20 or so mostly older guys every weekend: at 43 I was one of the youngsters but now I meet new people of all ages from all walks of life every time I go shooting. I have heard similar stories from friends about other gun clubs in the area.
I think that the prospect of and then the actual election of Obama sparked an awakening in many Americans and a newfound appreciation for our very fragile rights. As in most things 20 percent of us are probably carrying the water for the other 80 percent. ‘Twas ever thus, but as more people take up shooting, more people will join that 20 percent.

Dan said...

Well Michael,

For me, I have been somewhere between active and lounge tuber on shooting and particularly shooting sports since... well, forever.

I have gone literally YEARS without doing anything more than cleaning my firearms. And, I have throughout the years been active in shooting "sports" such as clays and trap and skeet... not that I am much good at either compared with the "gifted". And, not that I am denigrating all shooting activities as "sports". My opinion, if I am doing it, it is probably not a sport. ;)

The same pattern holds true for my association with the NRA. I have been, have not been and currently am a member. Outside the NRA, I have zero interest in other firearm associations.

I have always had a more than passing interest in firearms and have spent some fair amount of time and cash (particularly since last November) in the acquisition of items firearm related... from gunsmithing education to ammunition to parts and on and on and on.

So, it is from this perspective that I say the following... Most folks are either too time constrained and/or too cash constrained to participate much, if ever. It is not that there is no interest. It is that the interest lies somewhere South of the top 10 list of things to do with your time and money.

Shooting is many things. It is fun. It is therapeutic. It is a dandy way to put dinner on the table. It is possibly the greatest force equalizer known to man. It is also out of reach for many (can't get to the range / there is not one close), tedious (waiting on line when the range is full), expensive (we know all about that one), aggravating (not being able to just up and do it) and on and on. I am fortunate that I live on the outskirts of the middle of nowhere. I can wander out to my 25 yard (backyard) range and wear out the paper, steel and rubber all day long. I have friends who have a large cleared acreage where we can do the same at ranges to 500+. Not everyone (nearly no one) has this ability, nor do they necessarily want it.

So, for my part, I have a couple rimfires (Ruger Mk III and 10/22) that work really well for friends of mine who want to learn a bit. And, we get together once in awhile (maybe 6 times a year) and put a few down range. I also have arms that range up to .45 Colt and 10 gauge for when someone thinks the miserable little .22 is useless.

To end this oh so lenghty diatribe, what little I read on the Internet shows me that some folks get it right. Jay G comes immediately to mind with those new shooters he introduces to the "gun". Shooting Gallery and pretty much the whole Wednesday Night at the Range lineup is good stuff. But, always remember that too many people saw Bambi, Fern Gully, etc at a young age and extrapolated from that experience that guns are EVIL. And that therefore, hunting or anyting else to do with guns is EVIL.

I have spent the better part of four years trying to coach someone very close to me out of that mindset with modest (read almost none) success. She likes the 10/22, but I still DVR my Wednesday Night shows and watch them by my onesie so as to not have to hear... "Well, they shouldn't be hunting anyway."

Overload in Colorado said...

Michael has said it before: it's an image problem. The gun culture needs a makeover. We need positive gun-using role models on TV and in movies. We need more 'Gun Saves...' stories in the news. Stories of how being in the gun culture help keep youth out of trouble. Mr Bane has blogged about televising the shooting sports. I'd love to see a more casual shooting sport, something like golfs Skins Game, or a shooting version of HORSE. Something with banter and shooting.
Or, how about a televised event involving two teams. It would need to have speed AND accuracy. In the corner of the screen there'd be a gauge with a needle swinging back and forth showing who was winning in real-time.

I've been impressed with how the GSSF gets people who are gun owners, but non-shooters, out to the range.

We need more ranges. I'd be nice if guns were quieter so people wouldn't be against ranges.

We need the political positives of having a 2nd amendment pointed out. How many massacres or genocides would have been prevented? Look at Iran right now: armed police, unarmed protesters, if it ends badly, like Tiananmen Square did, it needs to be pointed out that 2a might have changed the result.

Bottom line: We need people to be proud of being gun owners.

Hazcat said...

First as we all say it needs to be FUN! Not every one wants to compete.

Second it needs to be affordable. So think .22.

We need the rimfire challange and just rimfire family days.

Why do you think the old shootin' gallery at the carni was so popular? Cheap, fun and some what a challange.

Local ranges need to advertise in the local papers for family outings. Free classes, available guns, some hotdogs and ammo. Say a ten or twenty cover charge. .22 cals ONLY that day. No eargeshplitin louden boomers.

Make it nice for mom and the kids. Make it a family day!

hillbilly said...

There is a simple remedy that's already been suggested in the replies.

Take people shooting.

I work in a discipline in higher education that's famous, (or is it infamous?) for being anti-gun.

You know what I do? I invite my colleagues to the range.

They have fun. Several have bought guns and shoot.

It's easy.

Take folks shooting.

Today, I volunteered at a local NRA Women on Target event. We had 47 women show up for instruction, lunch, and an afternoon of shooting handguns, rifles, and busting clays.

We created many new shooters this afternoon.

To heck with "flying under the radar."

Be loud and proud, baby....loud and proud.

And make sure folks have fun.

Flash Powder Hal said...

It has to be local and consistant too. Talk to co-workers about your joy in shooting-hunting. When you go shopping wear that NRA hat, S&W hat, etc.
Our sport isn't illegal, immoral or fattening and we need to be PROUD of it - Every damn day!

Jkwas said...

Lots of good comments. It's becoming harder and harder to take people shooting lately when even the range is out of ammo in popular calibers. I went with a co-worker the other day and they were out of .38spl and 9mm. (of course .380) If you ask me, this is hurting the sport right now more than anything. How long before people lose interest in a sport they can't get equipment for? It's like owning a dirtbike you can't get gas for, How long is polishing the machine going to last before you move on to something else?

Anonymous said...

One of the biggest problems we face is that we have yet to find a way to reach out to the the people who own — not shoot — guns; who plink once or twice a year; who would be with us if we gave them vapid reasons.--MB

O.K., how is this for vapid? Join the NRA and get a nifty set of custom steak knives.

When the NRA meekly submitted to Ronald Reagan's dictum that "politics is the art of the possible," they forfeited credibility with their activist base.

By way of contrast, I want repeal of the NFA and GCA of 1968. I want the BATFE disbanded. I want the Second Amendment to be incumbent on all the states.

The NRA has absented themselves in this fight. You can't win big if you don't plan big, and the NRA is enthralled by small-minded men.


Anonymous said...

I few thoughts come to mind concerning this topic.

The first is, as Michael has said, we've been misdirecting resources by devoting almost all of our efforts to retaining current hunters and recruiting new ones. As he said, this ignores a large and growing sport shooting segment of the gun owning population.

The second is, sport shooting is not the only emerging group of gun owners that needs attention.

There's a large and growing group of gun owners that are primarily concerned with owning firearms solely for personal defense. This may even be the largest growing segment of the gun owning public during the time period since the last election. I would guess the latest run on guns, ammunition, and reloading components isn't primarily focused on building a personal stock of guns and ammunition for future hunts or for future shooting competitions.

What options do these folks have, once they've purchased a firearm for personal defense? They can watch Michael's TV shows (which are very good, by the way), they can track down local trainers (of varying quality and cost), or they can travel to one of the very good, nationally known firearms training schools.

However, as one of the previous posters mentioned, most folks aren't going to invest a great deal of money in their shooting activities. So, most folks won't spring for the cost (and travel expenses) for a class from a nationally known school. They likely won't even spring for the cost of a formal class from a good local trainer. Even if they do, where do they go to practice making presentations from the holster and incorporating movement into their personal training drills? Behavior like this will get you kicked off most traditional ranges in very short order.

I think this is a large, and growing, segment of the gun owning public that has not been adequately addressed. I also think providing an avenue to bring these folks into the gun culture, even peripherally, can be a very good thing. It may even influence their political views. We don't need some kind of national organization to accomplish this. It can be done very affectively at a grass roots level. I know this because some friends and I have been doing it for about the last five years.

A hand full of us organized a small practice group that was initially for our own benefit. We rented range facilities once a month and started holding practice sessions that consist of skills practice drills and defensive simulations that are distinctly not competitive. They are focused on developing our shooting skills and personal defense tactics. After a while, we opened these “practice events” up to anyone who wanted to participate.

After we did this, we started to have folks show up asking where the handgun training sessions were being held. We initially explained that they weren't really training sessions. But, when this continued to happen, month after month, we started conducting short classes in basic defensive handgun skills concurrent with our practice events. The practice event, including the class, only costs $12. Interest continued to grow.

More below.

Anonymous said...

After the recent election, the range operator had so many requests for reasonably priced defensive handgun training that he approached us about holding some stand-alone classes. Since the start of daylight saving time, we've been holding two of these each month on Monday evenings after the normal range business hours. These start at 5:30 pm and run until dusk. Almost every one of these we've held has been booked to capacity. Over three hours or so, we teach basic skills like the draw stroke, stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger control, and safe gun handling. We then encourage the folks in the class to come back on subsequent Monday evenings to work with our more advanced group. This group learns and practices a different set of more advanced skills each session. These classes are cheap, we only charge $10 each session. This covers our range rental, and consumables expenses. We don't make any money off these. If we're contacted by someone who doesn't have a gun or a holster or a magazine pouch, we loan them what they need, including the ammunition.

Last fall we got to know some folks in a rifle building group in a city about 70 miles north of where we hold our practice events. When we told them about our events, they asked if there was an organization that could help them get a practice group of there own started. They were specifically interested in learning defensive shooting skills and weren't at all interested in holding shooting competitions.

Over the winter months, we held three, monthly dry-fire training classes for this group. When the weather warmed up, we helped them conduct two live-fire practice sessions similar to ours at their local range. Starting this month, they are going to be holding monthly practice sessions for their own group.

These practice sessions provide a place for folks to practice the skills they can't practice on more traditional ranges. They also provide a place where they can go and have some of the more experienced shooters coach them along. It's not uncommon to see several of the more experienced shooters helping the newer shooters with their equipment or techniques.

This is all being done by a group of six ordinary guys, and was started by just three of us. Over the course of things, several of us have attended classes at Gunsite, Front Sight, and at local training facilities like the Swanson Tactical Training center. Over the past three years we've been bringing nationally known trainers to town. These include trainers from Gunsite and Gabe Suarez.

This is very much a grass roots effort. If we can do it, there's no reason other ordinary guys in other locations can't do it as well.

B said...

+1 on the 22 idea. We need an IDPA division to just shoot 22s, and we need to not stigmatize it. By doing so we greatly reduce the cost barrier, as well as the time needed to reload, etc, and we still get them 90% (at least) of the benefit.

Second, we need to work on college students. They're very approachable by other students, and tend to be pretty malleable in their political beliefs -- my brother and I took dozens of people shooting over the years -- mainly because we had fairly easy access to the ranch from A&M.

What about a program to donate a range to universities? Start w. the biggest ones.

Third, we need to separate guns from politics. Self-defense is a human right, it should not be linked to either party, esp. as both parties are perfectly willing to betray us. I think we really need to hammer that idea, that weapons laws aren't about guns, they're about forbidding a citizen from protecting himself (herself as much more resonance) against harm.

Also, +1 on the NRA and the GOP failing us -- they've both taken gunnies for granted and achieve little to nothing in our interest. We had a GOP majority in both houses, and a GOP president, and got nothing for it. TX had some good bills this session, and the NRA didn't even mention their existence.

Anonymous said...

Gun owner image has nothing to do with what kinds of shooting events you can hold, or how hard ammo is to get at your local range. It's not ballistics, it's POLITICS.

Here's the question that clarifies the issue. What is your immediate first thought about open carry? If your first thought is "tactically stupid," you're part of the problem. Your first thought ought to be, "We're here, we're armed, FGUTI."

It doesn't matter how long you dither around looking for another door -- there's only one way out of a closet.