Can we simplify “The Rules”?

Karl Rehn blogs about “The Rules” of safe gunhandling.

When most people recite “the rules”, they tend to gravitate towards Col. Coopers 4 rules. The NRA has their own version of the rules that uses only 3 statements. Karl argues that really all we have and need are 2 rules. Might sound controversial, but read what Karl has to say because he has sound reasoning to back it up. As a good engineer we should strive to make something as simple as possible, but no simpler. Karl is working to simplify.

It’s laudable because when people only have to remember a few basic things, we tend to handle it better. Imagine if we had to remember 10 rules, or 20 rules. Could you manage that? The modern movement in martial arts is to simplify and break things down to build upon natural responses and give you a few techniques that work for a wide range, instead of learning thousands of esoteric movements. Imagine if the IRS code was the size of a pamphlet instead of the monstrosity it is. Simplification is good, no matter how you slice it.

Karl touches upon one reason the NRA version is superior: it tells you what you should do. I’d like to briefly elaborate on that topic. I see it all the time. A kid is running through a place he shouldn’t be running. Some adult yells “DON’T RUN!”, so the kid starts to jog or do something else, which gets the adult upset because the child “isn’t listening”. No, the kid did what you said and stopped running. The trouble is, what is the kid supposed to do? By saying “don’t run” the adult eliminated 1 of a million possible things to do, so the kid picked something else out of that pool, but it wasn’t the one the adult wanted. If instead the adult told the child what to do, “WALK!”, then everything would have turned out peachy. I see this when teaching classes. A student is yanking the trigger. We’ll point it out to them, then the student starts to say in their head “Don’t yank the trigger, don’t yank the trigger….” and what do they do? Yank the trigger. If instead they tell themselves what to do, “slow smooth press”, chances are high they will do what they should do and achieve higher success.

Another point Karl touches upon is NRA rule 3: ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use. Karl wonders if that rule is necessary. I say it is, if you define what “ready to use” means. A gun being used for self-protection is of no use if it’s unloaded; so when it’s in the holster on your hip, it is ready to use. I think this is one of those rules that’s good to have because you never know what someone’s level of education or ability to grok the concept is. And that doesn’t mean people are stupid. Rather, look at kids. You aren’t born knowing how to safely handle a gun, so we much teach everyone everything. While I grant Karl’s stance, I think promoting this rule to kids (or adults) is good towards helping them develop proper safety habits and mindset. Imagine if it wasn’t in the ruleset, we might not discuss it at all or at least might not give it the emphasis it needs.

The NRA’s rules are simpler in their phrasing. They are direct. They tell you what to do, and don’t put any unnecessary conditions in place (e.g. “sights are on target”; read Karl’s reasoning there).  They are absolute, and you can’t be absolute if you’re unnecessarily complex. I mean, look at all the controversy around “all guns are always loaded”, and would that deny us the ability to dry fire? NRA’s rules should be followed even with dry fire and do not have any confusion if you can practice dry fire or not.

We can’t discount Col. Cooper’s contributions to the gun world: so much of what we have today wouldn’t be possible if not for him. But he was just a man, not a god. Not everything he did was infallible and perfect. If there’s something better, we should be willing to consider and adopt it. The good Colonel helped the gun world evolve, and we shouldn’t be afraid to continue evolving if it means improvement.

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