Emotions on the Range

Reflecting recently after a long, exhausting week of instruction, I was trying to think through the firearms courses and the students that I’ve been fortunate enough to train. The outcome was a bit jumbled, though. I’ve taught a lot of classes. And without going through paperwork and databases, I’ve lost count.

Of course, sometimes certain moments and certain people stand out; there have been various triumphs and challenges that seem to come to mind rather quickly. And I often remember faces and expressions … especially after a student has taken his or her very first shot. I’ve seen shock, excitement, enjoyment, contentment, anxiety, uncertainty, curiosity, confidence, arrogance, surprise, awe and alarm. Pun intended, I’ve seen quite a range of emotions. (If you’ve taught firearms classes, I’m sure you’ve seen just about every reaction too!)

That got me thinking about a recent event in which a few of my students cried. Of course, the circumstances included very long days of intense training in very frigid temperatures. One gentleman shed a few tears as we debriefed, likely out of pure relief and gratefulness that the course was finally complete! Another student teared up earlier that day, likely out of pure frustration and nervousness that we still had much to accomplish. The tears didn’t surprise me. It didn’t seem to bother anyone else, either. I’ve seen my share of crying … for a seemingly unending variety of reasons.

In fact, two years ago, I wrote a blog post about crying on the shooting range (specifically about the women in my classes) and about how sometimes tears do fall — from fear about a painful past all the way to excitement about hitting a target. It’s something that firearms instructors see and need to address. As long as safety is never compromised, varied emotions on the range are nothing unusual or terrible. So it bewildered me when a few responses to the original post included attacks on the people who had shed tears, insisting that they shouldn’t be on the range with guns, as well as attacks on me, stating that I was being chauvinistic and misogynistic.

Just to clarify: Tears on the range aren’t always dangerous or mysterious … nor are they reason to check someone’s mental capacity or yank a gun out of his or her hands. And, honestly, I’m not sure how talking about the issue of crying on the range (and the possible reasons for those tears) would be chauvinistic or misogynistic.

A chauvinist is someone who believes in the superiority of his or her cause or group. And the typical male chauvinist is known to patronize, criticize or otherwise denigrate females in the belief that women are inferior to men and, thus, are deserving of less than equal treatment or benefit. And a misogynist is not simply a person who mistrusts and mistreats women but a person who despises women who are not subordinate … such as women with power and status or women who can stand up for themselves and make their own decisions.

Recognizing and addressing tears — or any emotion, really — isn’t belittling or demeaning. Want to see a real example of those things? Here you go. About women and firearms, one anonymous male stated:

“That’s the thing I worry about with armed people. Women, for example. The way they spend so much effort making them think every man is out to rape them. I’ve seen women almost get themselves run over by a car trying to give me a wide berth when walking at night. When [women have] succeeded in making a good portion of their group that neurotic, I worry about their decision-making ability.”

The thing is, people have all sorts of reasons for training. And like it or not, they have a lot of emotions caught up in that — whether it’s determination or humiliation or anything and everything in between. While we certainly expect people to come to the shooting range with safety at the forefront, we don’t expect them to shove every feeling to the background. It’s OK to experience and express emotion. It’s OK to question, reflect, flourish and flounder. It’s OK to be human.

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