Words mean things.
Rush Limbaugh has been making this point for decades. And, no matter how you feel about Rush, he’s correct on this one.
Despite the popular beating that English takes for being an inconsistent, hodgepodge and difficult to manage, the English language, properly used, is an amazingly precise communication instrument.
Lately, I’ve seen the word “empowerment” thrown around a great deal. Particularly in the firearms industry. To the degree, in fact, that it’s become nauseating. I browsed one range website yesterday that made use of the word no fewer than 100 times when describing company values and mission. This company’s raison d’être is “empowerment”. It says so. Right there on the internet.
Everybody’s using it. It has become a multi-industry catchphrase. But, what does “empowerment” mean? If words, do indeed, mean things and if we are going to effectively communicate, we have to define terms and use them appropriately.
“Empower” was coined as a word somewhere in the 17th century as a compound of “en” and “power”. However, it never really entered common parlance until the mid-1980s.
One can obtain the textbook definition here. Without getting overly pedantic about it, I think it’s fair to say that:
Empowerment = Confidence + Competence
Further, if one of the components of empowerment is competence, we must clarify that competence is developed through “training”. At Distributed Security, our working definition is:
Training = Instruction + Practice
So, competence (and therefore, empowerment) is inextricably linked to training. Through that lens, I offer this piece from the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Ok. Let’s unpack the article:
- +/-180 gun-novices
- 1 or 2 instructors
- a church basement cum pistol range
- 9 hours
- a few revolvers
- Intention… “empowering” the attendees.
My rebuttal, point by point:
- Even in the Army (where mass training is the model) you do not instruct basic marksmanship or administer range training with more than one company (<100 men) of novices
- The Student:Instructor ratio in the army is roughly 10:1. Not the best case 90:1 ratio identified above.
- Church basement? Does that seriously require rebuttal?
- 9 hours is too much to teach anyone to “fire a gun”. And, it is wholly insufficient to train men or women to a level of competence.
- How effective do you suppose each of those hours were if each participant had access to a pistol for only a fraction of the time? Again… does that require rebuttal?
- This ridiculous dollar amount reinforces the specious notion that training should be inexpensive or free. Per the article, the $25/head was to cover the rental expense of the space. So… the instructors were free? Their time was free? Where I’m from, you get what you pay for. And, if you pay nothing, well… You do the math. What sort of result would you expect if your auto mechanic charged you nothing? Further, $25 x 180 participants = $4500. If that is the cost to rent the basement for a day, I need to reconsider my career choices… I don’t need a job, I need to repurpose my basement. For that price a very nice, legitimate range could have been rented for a day or two.
- If the intent was to empower, and we accept that empowerment is a function of competence, and that competence is a function of training, then this episode was a miserable failure.
Based on the definitions above, does that experience sound “empowering”? Does that constitute “training”? At best, that scenario speaks to “exposure”… but, certainly not training. To be fair, the headline had it right; “Learning how to Fire Guns”.
All that said, I want to give credit where it’s due. Kudos to Arm the Populace and to the ladies in attendance, I think their intent was admirable. I also think it was misguided. What the article demonstrates is a good (if tentative) first step, but falls severely short of anything resembling “Training” as we understand it… much less “Competence”. My concern is that what has been achieved is 180 women with a false sense of confidence about their firearms competence
If we accept that, as a civilian, gun handling and gunfighting is one of the most potentially lethal activities you can engage in, doesn’t it follow that one has a responsibility to train to a high level of competence? So that, one is not simply a danger to oneself and others?
Finally… answers and solutions
In the interest of providing solutions to problems, as opposed to simply armchair quarterbacking, consider the following:
Gun owners owe it to themselves and their loved ones to engage in real, effective, efficient training. We at Distributed Security, Inc offer World Class Combative Firearms Training. We have the broadest and deepest curriculum, developed and delivered by some of the most experienced Instructors in the business.
In contrast to the exercise from the article above, DSI training is offered, complete, as pre-range (online), hands-on (on range), and persistent, ongoing practice supervision, at a student:instructor ratio of 3:1. A model no one else in the Firearms Training Industry can replicate.
For a complete look at our training offerings and what we see as necessary to develop the degree of competence you deserve, visit us at https://distributedsecurity.com/offerings.html
Buy a gun. Get trained. Properly trained.