Teaching “the rules”

Caleb made a posting about “the rules” and it spurred me to finally write about something that’s been rolling around in my head for a while.

I written before about “the rules” — both Col. Cooper’s rules and the NRA’s rules. The first rules I learned were Cooper’s, then after spending a lot of time in KR Training Basic Pistol 1 courses I came to better appreciate the NRA’s rules.

When it comes to “which ruleset to teach new shooters,” what really sold me on the NRA rules? Teaching Youngest.

I started trying to teach him Col. Cooper’s rules, mostly because that’s how I started teaching Oldest and Daughter and the consistency for when I talk to all 3 kids is welcome. However it became cumbersome to discuss this with him. Why? Because children like things to be simple, and Cooper’s rules are not simple. Yes some parts of his rules are straightforward, which is good. But let’s consider Rule 1 and all the various exceptions that can be had to that rule. Consider as well that others may or may not have the same exception set as you (does dry fire violate rule 1? does cleaning a gun violate rule 1?). There was no way I could explain these rules to Youngest without risking overload… too many new things on a young brain is a sure way for things to get forgotten, and these safety rules are not something you want people to forget!

So I opted to teach him the NRA rules. That approach worked out great. The more I think about the NRA rules, the more I find them to be a better rule set that doesn’t have to have exceptions and qualifiers. To be fair, it’s not perfect. For instance, you have to discuss what a “safe direction” is (that between the muzzle and where the bullet would come to rest, it won’t damage anything you don’t want to damage… or perhaps that it does damage what you want to damage). While you can certainly discuss this with the child, they may not have enough depth of life knowledge to know what materials can and cannot stop a bullet; you can talk about how the walls of the house won’t stop it and give some references relevant to the child’s life experience, but will a brick wall stop a bullet? Depends upon the bullet… these things a child just can’t know.

I’m not going to go with Caleb and say Cooper’s Rules are merely guidelines, but I will say they risk that, especially the much vaunted Rule 1. Once you start having a parade of exceptions, how useful of a rule is it? Once it starts being too complex to follow, is it going to serve the intended end? When there’s no established set of exceptions, how dangerous can things become? And should there be exceptions in the first place?

Any time I drive to the range with the kids we always talk about what we’re going to do, including a review of the rules. This last range trip with Daughter started off with her telling me the Cooper rules, but then I opted to reinforce with her the NRA rules. Then we had a discussion about the two rulesets, strengths and weaknesses of them, how they overlap, how they are unique, how they work to reinforce each other and ultimately in the end knowledge of and adherence to the concepts an directives of both rulesets will serve you best. I think in the end it’s best for people to know both sets of rules. There are subtle aspects the Cooper set touches on the NRA set does not, and the NRA rules touch on things the Cooper set does not. What needs to happen is teaching people the rules as statements and immediately following into discussion of the rules to ensure they are more deeply understood. And while I may prefer the NRA rule set, I will always teach Cooper’s ruleset as well because there’s good mindset in there and if nothing else… gunnies tend to prefer Cooper’s rules so it’s just good to know them.

Updated: Ah, I see. Caleb’s posting came about due to some other discussion, like from Sebastian and SayUncle and JayG who seemed to start all of this.

Actually yes, I do believe there are people out there that demand the rules be taken literally (Cooper himself, for one) — they are rules, after all. But when pressed, it’s hard to find people that don’t violate the rules in some way (e.g. dry fire, cleaning the gun, etc.). However, these people will always find ways to justify their position.

So to me, that just weakens “The Rules” as rules. To have exceptions, to have “allowable violations”, and so on… what good then are The Rules? If for no other reason it removes simplicity. You make a rule too hard to follow well… just look at the tax code from the IRS; extreme example, but thus is the slope. Even things like the “i before e except after c” rule has so many blasted exceptions, no wonder it’s difficult to learn the English language.

Interesting in all of this discussion it only beats on Cooper’s rules. I’d like to see more discussion then about a better rule set. Could the NRA’s set be better? If so, let’s make that The Holy Grail and move foward. If that isn’t good enough, then why are we as a gunnie community satisified with what we’ve got — this less than ideal rule set? Why aren’t we trying to make something better?

6 thoughts on “Teaching “the rules”

  1. Cleaning is a rule violation? Not at my house it isn’t. I know you have to pull the trigger on an XD, but calling it a rule violation is a bit of a stretch.

    I still don’t see this big existential conflict with Cooper’s rules.

    If you think one set is better, that’s fine, but quit making up all these silly rationalizations for your preference. :)-~

    • They are rules violations, if you strictly interpret the rules.

      But just like you said “not in my house it isn’t”. That’s part of the problem right there. Everyone has their own interpretations of the rules, everyone has their own exceptions, their own allowances of what is or isn’t a violation. For everyone to have their own angle, that doesn’t serve very well.

      Ultimately I think it’s good to learn both sets and have a deeper understanding of what’s behind the rule statements. That’s really the better way to guide behavior in this regard.

      • I’m assuming the big problem for you and cleaning is rule #1.

        For me, the gun is loaded right up until the point the slide comes off and the gun can’t fire. It has never bothered me, and makes sense to me.

        I can sort of see why you might that think that way because you have an XD and you have to pull the trigger to break it down, (dumb design, IMO) but because you have to do that is exactly why rule #1 is important. I guarantee you people have been injured trying to clean an XD because they did not follow rule #1 (and 2, and 4).

        I think the NRA’s rules are fine for gun owners, but poor for gun users.

        • No, it’s not purely an XD thing. It could be a bolt-action rifle, a semi-auto rifle, a pump shotgun, a revolver, a pea-shooter, whatever.

          Cooper’s wording is simple and straightforward: “All guns are always loaded. Even if they are not, treat them as if they are.”

          There’s nothing in there about cleaning and how to deal with a gun during cleaning. Well there is: it’s still loaded. All guns. Always loaded. Thus even when cleaning, the gun is still loaded and should be treated as such.

          That’s my beef: the wording, the syntax, the absolute nature of the statement. We know it’s not true. Because we know it’s not always true, thus exceptions to the rule start to come about.

          Further you continue to say “it makes sense to me.” Again that demonstrates the problem: everyone has a different take on these exceptions and how it reads. When we write laws we make every effort for them to be clear cut. “It makes sense to me” really has no place in law-making.

          And it’s not just some bias towards the NRA rules. Consider that, strictly speaking, NRA rule #2 is violated to take down a gun that requires a trigger pull (like a Glock or an XD) because we’re not “ready to shoot” the gun (ready to field strip it, yes).

          So really, get to the end point that I was making: it’s best to teach both rulesets, both the stock verbage but then going into deeper discussion about what they mean and the mentality they are to bring about. Yes I find a simplicity in the NRA set that gives it the edge in a lot of respects, but both are worthwhile approaches.

          And if you think the NRA rules are poor for gun users… how? Please explain.

          • To take one of your examples, at the point you take the bolt out of a bolt-action rifle it ceases to be gun, and you can do whatever you need to do to clean it. Act as if it were loaded up until that point.

            I just don’t see the conflict there, and I don’t think “everyone” has a different take. Some people are just pot-stirrers. :)-~

            It’s too bad rule #1 is not universally followed because most accidents are with “unloaded” guns. Yes, they violated other rules too, but rule #1 puts you in the correct mindset to handle a firearm and reinforces the other rules.

            • You just want to argue. 🙂

              We’re not off base from each other at all. We might disagree on the details, but we’re both in the same ballpark.

              I do think Cooper’s #1 is very important from a mindset perspective. But I also think that’s about where it ends. I just don’t think it can be a hard and fast rule.

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