Fellow USCCA Instructor Jim Kelley and his wife, Cathy, have dedicated themselves to offering a unique and effective couples-only license to carry class at Cape Gun Works in Hyannis, Massachusetts. He reached out to me recently to share that he and Cathy have held the couples’ class twice, with a third scheduled for this past Valentine’s weekend. I was excited to hear some of the lessons learned and successes gained.
The Couple Who Teaches Together…
“Cathy and I believed that some couples were not on the same page when it came to the idea of home defense,” Jim explained. “One partner might be pro-gun, and the other one hesitant (to say the least). We found out that when couples can come learn in a low-pressure (no live fire) atmosphere, they are very receptive to new information. We reduce the pressure immediately by saying our objective is to inform and have a fun class. [We tell them], ‘We understand that some of you may not be comfortable around guns, but by getting some facts, you would be better equipped to make an informed decision on what home-defense measures are right for your family.’ Phrases like this remind a nervous participant that [he or she is] in control of the decisions, and we are not conducting a brainwashing session.”
After Jim and Cathy present the required state materials, Cathy displays and demonstrates several of the options for women’s concealed carry. “And yes,” Jim clarified, “I make a point to tell the husbands: ‘Never, ever buy a gun or holster for your wife without her approval!’ The females are always amused by that statement. They also seem to be surprised at the number of choices there are on the market for their carry needs.”
The Couples Who Train Together…
The Kelleys’ low-key approach seems to be working. Aided by refreshments, valuable discussions open up, and the information give-and-take happens. And students have been providing a lot of praise and positive feedback for their approach. “Some people expected a gun class to be taught by some guy named Goober McMoonshine,” Jim shared. “They were surprised that a normal-looking couple would be both well-armed and willing to share knowledge. In other words, their preconceived notion [about the firearms community] was negative, and we were able to overcome that!”
With the experience of these couples-only training classes, Jim and Cathy have been able to draw some important conclusions. “First, gun-hesitant individuals will be more willing to come to class if they can participate directly with a spouse or significant other,” Jim stated. “This way, they may be out of their comfort zone but still have a hand to hold. (I mean that literally! Last week, one couple held hands for the entire class!) Second, professional appearance and a neat, appropriately equipped classroom — with tables for social distancing and a good AV display — go a long way toward breaking any negative attitudes toward a class of this nature. If it seems more like a college elective, we can place educated-but-resistant participants back into their comfort zones. So much so that at the end of the class, most students end up sticking around, chatting, then spending time in the gun showroom and watching shooters through the range windows. They [each] leave with the certificate necessary to apply for a license as well as a desire to learn more.”
Jim and Cathy have found and developed a clever and useful niche for reaching new gun owners and introducing them to the 2A/firearms community. But it doesn’t end there! Couples training can provide an important entryway for students to seek out more classes and continue the next steps in their firearms journeys, whether separate or together.