There is currently a renaissance taking place in the firearms industry. If you take a look at the landscape, especially in relation to training opportunities; you will find a young, innovative group of instructors beginning to take the lead. There is also a change in the composition of the gun culture as a whole. No longer are you able to use the stereotypical southern white male demographic to describe those who own guns and enjoy shooting. Our community is rapidly evolving on many different fronts.
Concurrently, there are many members of the “old school” who are resisting the change in philosophy and composition that is taking place because they feel uncomfortable with or threatened by it in some way. This happens in every aspect of societal evolution and has been something that innovators in all industries since the beginning of time have had to deal with. There are always going to be people who would rather stick to their oil lamps than turn on the light bulb. Part of the resistance has to do with nostalgia and tradition, while some can be chalked up to plain old stubbornness. Whatever the cause or motivation behind the resistance, its existence is something that has to be overcome in order for the renaissance to reach its full potential. That being said, I believe that there is a right and a wrong way to go about interacting with the “old school”.
The wrong way to do it is to come running into your local gun club or range like a bull in a china shop and try to turn 30+ years of Jeff Cooper and NRA stuff on its head overnight. I have seen young instructors destroy relationships with organizations and individuals simply because they couldn’t keep a lid on their ego when it came to disagreements over what the best caliber or training methodology is. Despite your convictions and how passionate you may be about them; the way that you approach promoting them is going to either isolate you or win you converts and customers. Keep in mind that the “old school” often owns the land or controls the board and can either be your best friend or your worst enemy depending on how you choose to present yourself. It would also behoove you to remember that many years worth of blood, sweat, and tears have been paid by the old stalwarts so that you have the ability to innovate. It would be a mistake to disrespect that legacy but it happens all too often when my generation butts heads with the previous ones. Don’t forget that it’s these guys who introduced a lot of us to firearms in the first place and it’s because of their actions that we still have the ability to enjoy gun ownership despite many attempts to infringe on our rights over the years. We owe a lot of gratitude to those who have come before us for the fact that we even have a gun culture to evolve. They built this house in many respects and it would be unwise to walk in and start ripping things off of the walls.
The right way to go about dealing with the “old school” is to get involved with your local organizations in a way that shows that you care about the gun owning community as a whole as opposed to just yourself and your philosophies. If you can show that you are an active member of the community and are interested in putting in your time as a volunteer to promote the shooting sports and the 2nd Amendment generally, then your forum for presenting your ideas is going to grow. Just being reliable and courteous to people goes a long way and you should be just as polite to the guy who still shoots a 1911 in the Weaver stance as you are to advocates of whatever your methodology is. Your goal ought to be influencing people, not irritating them. The best way to do that is by first making friends and then letting the spirited discussions of tactics and techniques happen organically. Most of the people who have taken my classes so far have been my friends first and even if they may not agree with everything I am teaching, they still send their friends to my class primarily because of the relationship I have with them. If you have a solid reputation of being a nice person who is reliable and pitches in; your influence will grow considerably faster than if you are regarded as just a young, egotistical “whipper-snapper” who just makes fun of people who don’t do it your way.
That same idea goes for newer, “non-traditional” members of the shooting community: people who clearly don’t “fit the mold” of what a gun owner is purportedly supposed to look like. Yes, there are individuals who you may not agree with on any other socio/political issue who just so happen to own the local gun range. If you constantly bad-mouth the NRA or are vocal in your support for candidates and parties that have a long track-record of supporting infringement of the rights you wish to exercise, you shouldn’t be surprised when you are less than welcome at a given establishment. If you want to be accepted by a community, you first have to show that you wish to be a part of it in the first place. If you can’t stomach the people who run the club, feel free to start your own. That may not be what you want to hear, but it’s the way things are. Clearly, there are some socially “liberal” individuals who believe strongly in gun rights. The problem is that generally speaking, those individuals have not been ready to stand and fight when the left attacks gun rights because it would mean standing with a majority of conservatives. If more of these individuals would show a willingness to hold the line with gun rights advocates on the “other side of the aisle”, there would be less animosity. If you are one of those individuals who doesn’t agree with the membership of the NRA on other social issues, I would still encourage you to join and I for one welcome you to the fight. There are always going to be some “old school” types who won’t accept you regardless of your willingness to join the fight, but I believe they are few and far between for the most part and you can’t waste a lot of time lamenting their attitude towards you. Most responsible gun rights advocates want as many people of as many shapes and sizes on the team as possible, but we can’t help it if you don’t like the color of the uniform.
I can sum up my approach to dealing with the “old school” with one catch phrase: education over agitation. I want people who are seemingly stuck in their ways to take my class and then make their decision as to what they will do with the information I present. I want them to know first and foremost that I want the community to grow and that I want people to be better able to defend themselves. That is undoubtedly a shared aspiration. If you can approach the old, seemingly cantankerous, NRA vest-wearing types with your ideas and show them how it benefits the community as a whole, the light bulb has a tendency to come on. I would rather have the torch passed to me than to try and rip it away. After all, in another 30 years there will be some young, hotshot instructor who wants the torch from me. This is the nature of progress in society.