I see it regularly on social media; the gun community rallies together to subject some poor soul to scorn, ridicule, and mockery for saying or doing something the group may not approve of. Perhaps they said something perceived to be stupid. Maybe they espoused a technique that defies the norm, or they may even have done something that is dangerous.
Whatever the reason, the comments and responses are usually a mixed bag ranging from those genuinely trying to be helpful by pointing out the error of the subject’s ways to those that are downright despicable suggesting the subject do the world a favor by taking themselves out of the gene pool.
I, myself, have been on the receiving end of such disparaging remarks on several occasions. At times it was because I was ignorant and was so bold as to ask a question about a subject that the whole of the group believed should be common knowledge. Other times it was because I worded a sentence poorly so my true intent was lost through a lack of communication. Regardless of the reason, it was typically rooted in a perception that my opinion is different than theirs and, therefore, it must be wrong.
My question is this: Where do we draw the line?
You see, I’m not suggesting that there aren’t people out there that deserve a modicum of ridicule. Anyone touting themselves as a professional shooting instructor should possess a certain degree of knowledge and/or skill depending on what kind of training they offer. If they clearly lack what should be basic knowledge or skill, it’s understandable that their fitness as an instructor would be in question. Those unable or unwilling to articulate a reasonable defense for their actions or methods need to be called out and, true professionals should be able to take criticism, disagreement, and dissent from others in stride.
But the manner in which we question the abilities or motives of other shooters is important. I believe that those of us in the gun community, instructors and shooters alike, should hold ourselves to a very high ethical standard. But we don’t always, it seems. When the conversation devolves into name-calling and insults, it’s no longer productive and it continues only to feed the adolescent proclivities of a certain few.
There is a line of propriety and decency that shouldn’t be crossed.
Those that cross this line should, themselves, be subjected to condemnation by the rest of us. It’s simply not alright to verbally bash some poor person over the head until they feel completely demoralized even if you believe yourself in the right.
Unfortunately, I have witnessed some knowledgeable instructors behave in this fashion. It was more than enough to taint my opinion of them; most likely forever. It has caused me to lose any and all respect I may once have had for them and I will discourage friends and family from taking courses that they offer. Some of these instructors are popular enough that others will support their inappropriate behavior claiming that they play by “big boy rules” or that anyone that can’t handle such criticism needs to “grow a pair” or some other such ridiculous notion.
If you are an instructor, proper instruction doesn’t stop at the range exit. Your job is to educate not denigrate. You should practice appropriate training techniques at all times, even while browsing Facebook or Twitter. If the best you have to offer someone is an insult instead of advice, you are doing yourself and the rest of us a disservice.
If you’re not an instructor you get a little more leeway because no one should necessarily expect you to act like a professional. However, that doesn’t absolve you from acting like a decent human being instead of a jackwagon. You should give the same benefit of the doubt that you expect to be given.
Scorn and disparagement rarely get desirable results. Instead, you should refrain from commenting at all because your comments aren’t helpful. If you approach the subject with respect and dignity instead you might just find that they are a lot more receptive to your advice.