I was teaching a Utah Concealed Firearm Permit class for friends and family a few weeks ago. The course was being taught in an office building after business hours in one of their conference rooms. It was a class of about 10 or so new concealed carriers and I was the only instructor.
Respecting the property owner’s policy against bringing firearms in the building, we taught the classroom portion of the course in the conference room, and then moved to the parking garage to provide students an opportunity to safely have a “hands-on” experience. I had an empty revolver and semi-automatic pistol in my car, and some dummy ammunition to practice with. We never handle live ammunition unless we are at a range conducting live fire, and never in the classroom, ever! I feel it is important for students, regardless of their experience, to have this hands-on dry-firing experience as it helps to cement the safety concepts we have been discussing into their minds. It also gives me a chance to evaluate their comfort level and better tailor the rest of my presentation to the students needs.
Our hands-on experience was taking place at about the same time that the custodial staff was emptying the garbage from the 6 story office building, and one sweet little cleaning lady noticed the semi-circle of students around the trunk of my car passing firearms back and forth. Everything was done in a safe manner, treating each gun as if it were loaded (although they were not), keeping them pointed in a safe direction (toward a bare concrete wall in the garage), and specifically practicing keeping our fingers out of the trigger guard area at all times. However, this concerned woman was observing what was happening from outside our group and was not aware of it being in a safety class.
She nervously approached us and asked how long we were going to be there. I responded that we were teaching a class and still had perhaps a couple of hours to go. I did so in a very friendly voice and tried to reassure her that, yes indeed, this was all legit and approved. I usually dress business casual, but on that day I was particularly dressed like a professional instructor should be, including a tactical-style shirt and pants, with patches identifying my role as an instructor. Dressing the way I do I often get mistaken for a police officer.
She evidently did not believe me, because about 30 mins later, after we had reconvened in the classroom, we were visited by 3 cops. They had been called on a report of a disturbance with firearms. The officers were totally cool; they had little doubt about what was going on and nothing at all came of their visit, but they were obligated to respond to a 911 call and dutifully checked it out. We had a good laugh, and I am confident that I’m not the first concealed permit instructor to have the police called on him due to some misunderstanding. It retrospect, the whole experience is actually kind of hilarious.
But there is a lesson to be learned as well. I don’t fault the sweet lady, possibly an immigrant in a land where the language is not her native one, just doing her job when she saw something and so she said something. No problem there. The lesson is that firearms are so easily associated with something evil and the reason, I feel, is a lack of education. Just look at this lovely custodian and her crew who (apparently) have little experience, or perhaps negative experiences, with firearms. Combined with a lack of information, or outright misinformation, it was enough to make someone nervous.
I have taught many students who felt differently than I do about firearms, but almost without exception they still walked away from my class having had a positive experience and newly armed with factual information about firearms, how they work, and how to handle them safely. I strongly encourage everyone to take a class from a knowledgeable, reputable, and safe instructor. The class could be a concealed permit class, an NRA basic shooting class, or a merit badge. Make the choice to become informed, but be prepared if you do because you may actually find you like it!