In a recent class we had a scary incident.
A student got hot brass down his shirt and did the “hot-brass dance”. Unfortunately, in this version of the dance he turned 360º and muzzled everyone on the range.
Some of you aren’t going to like how I chose to handle the incident.
Thankfully one of my assistants was right on top of him, physically restraining him to stop and control the student – and his muzzle. It looked a little harsh when it happened, but it was the right response. Sorry you’re getting burned, but muzzling everyone cannot happen. Get that under control, then we can deal with the hot brass.
Yes, it sucked this happened in class. No, I’m not happy it happened on my watch. It was a scary moment for sure.
At the end of every class, we go around to each student and ask them to tell us one thing they learned. When I got to this particular student, I forgot his exact words but it was something to the effect of “no one likes having a muzzle pointed at them!”. We all had a bit of a chuckle (stressful situations can bring out odd humor), but everyone also realized the seriousness and gravity of what happened – most of all, the one student.
My response to the student was straight from Dale Carnegie:
“And I know you won’t do that again.”
And I firmly believe that. He is a young man, and I am certain this incident is going to be a bright and vivid memory in his mind for the rest of his life. He was shocked, embarrassed, apologetic, and completely fathomed the gravity of his actions.
If you haven’t read Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, you should. What I did came right out of chapter one. This website summarized a story in that chapter:
Dale Carnegie knew that any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain—and most fools do—but it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.
Carnegie liked to tell the story of Bob Hoover, who was a famous test pilot and frequent performer at air shows. Hooper was returning to his home in Los Angeles from an air show in San Diego. Suddenly, both engines stopped in mid-flight on the aircraft that Hoover was flying. Using his skills and some deft maneuvering, he managed to land the plane, but it was badly damaged. Thankfully, neither Hoover nor the two passengers that were flying with him were hurt.
Hoover’s first act after the emergency landing was to inspect the airplane’s fuel. Just as he suspected, the WWII propeller plane he had been flying had been fueled with jet fuel rather than gasoline.
Upon returning to the airport, he asked to see the mechanic who had serviced his airplane. The young man was sick with the agony of his mistake. Tears streamed down his face as Hoover approached. He had just caused the loss of a very expensive plane and could have caused the loss of three lives as well.
No one would’ve blamed Hoover for ripping into the mechanic for his carelessness. But Hoover didn’t scold the mechanic; he didn’t even criticize him. Instead, he put his big arm around the man’s shoulder and said, “To show you I’m sure that you’ll never do this again, I want you to service my F-51 tomorrow.”
Next time you’re prone to condemning someone, try to understand him or her instead. Try to figure out why the person did what he or she did. That’s a lot more profitable and intriguing than criticism; and it breeds sympathy, tolerance, and kindness. Remember…”To know all is to forgive all.”
I could have yelled at this young man, scolding him in front of everyone. I could have expelled him from class, or maybe allow him to continue to participate but with a fake/plastic gun.
I didn’t because it was not an act of malice. He had shown a solid aptitude and willingness to learn all day, and had progressed well. The dance was a horrible mistake.
What good would have come from criticizing, condemning, or complaining about his behavior? This is a beginner/intermediate-level class, where people admittedly don’t know and are coming precisely to learn and become better. We can not expect them to be “perfect” by the very definition of the class. And yes, that sometimes (tho thankfully rarely) means the classes have a high pucker-factor; you do all you can to mitigate it but you simply cannot eliminate it. I didn’t condone his behavior; I wanted to respond in a manner where he and the other students in class would take home the proper lessons and remember those for a lifetime – because if I handled it like an asshole, that’s all they would remember.
Claude Werner often speaks that instructors would gain a lot more spending a weekend in a Dale Carnegie course than another shooting class. I’ll say it in my best Morgan Freeman: “He’s right, you know”.