man holding whiskey

Professionalism at Arms, Part Deux

Professionalism at Arms, Part Deux


The fire crackled loudly causing me to lift my eyes from my copy of Dante’s Inferno and glance toward the hearth.


“Concerned that the Seventh Plane of Hell is opening its gates for you, Captain?”, the Major said from his chair with a chuckle.


“I believe that, in the final analysis, my dear Major, we both have quite comfortable accommodations awaiting us in warmer climates.”


“Speak for yourself, Captain.  My spirit is as pure as a newborn babe.  At least that is what I have been assured my ill-gotten gains have paid for,” he said, puffing on his Monte Cristo and staring into the fireplace from his high-backed chair.  “Do us a favor, Captain, and give us both another pour.”  I placed Dante back onto the bookshelf and strode over to the valet.  Lagavulin, 16-year-old for me; Laphoraig, ten-year-old, for the Major… his constitution being a tad more particular than my own.


As I poured into our glasses and took my seat across from him, he began to speak…


“I read your essay from the other week, Captain… the one on professionalism-at-arms.”


“Good to see you still take an interest in my writings, Major.”


He grunted as he studied his whisky in the dancing firelight.


“I think you may need to expand it.”


“What do you mean?”


“Tell me, Captain, generally who pays for weapons training?”




“No, practically.  In reality.  Who actually reaches into their purse and parts with their coin for the information you possess?”


“Well, generally people… well… patriots, who seek to develop an understanding of arms at the beginning, and a mastery of arms as they progress.”


“True.  Perhaps I should have asked the question in reverse.  Who doesn’t pay for training?”


“Hmmm… well, those who work for agencies, departments, military, or law enforcement personnel who have been instructed to be at our facility to learn about what we have to offer.”


“Exactly, Captain!  The consumer in those cases is not the individual agents or officers… it is the departments they are employed by.  When you train the general public you are dealing directly with the individual consumer.”


“Well, yes, Major… but I’m not sure I understand where you are going with this.”


The Major took a long draw on his cigar and paused before blowing the smoke into the air.


“Captain, the issue here is honestly probably not Artemis, but it is one that affects the community of trainers that Artemis is a part of.  When a school needs to enchant a consumer, it must make their experience enchanting.  When trainers teach government employees, the need to excite and inspire is tempered with the knowledge that the participants have been told to be there.  When trainers teach civilians there needs to be a bit of the Barnum and Bailey, don’t you think?”


“Well, Major, every good instructor is a bit of a performer.  It comes with the territory.  I don’t think we can indict our industry because we like to put on a good show.”


“No, that is true, but what if that ‘show’ you just referenced leaves out the dull, the mundane, and the confusing to focus on the shiny, exciting, and engaging?  What if the devil you are searching for in Dante is really in the absence of education the public is receiving?”


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“Are you suggesting, Major, we are producing a nation of technicians?  Individuals who know how to manipulate a weapon, without necessarily knowing when to manipulate a weapon?”


The Major sipped on his whisky and thought for awhile before he spoke.


“Can you shoot at a fleeing felon, Captain?”


“It depends on the circumstances, Major.”


“Citation, please?”


Tennessee v Garner.  An officer cannot shoot at a fleeing felon unless said officer can specifically articulate how the felon represents an imminent threat to society.  For a civilian, the same rule applies, but on a narrower scale.  Civilians can only use deadly force on a felon if they can articulate how they are using deadly force to prevent death or injury to a specifically identifiable third party who is in imminent peril from the fleeing felon.”


“A nuanced difference.”


“Yes, but an identifiable one.”


“So query, Captain… if a victim is putatively in fear for his life at one moment in time, and the assailant breaks off the attack and flees into the night, in say an automobile… can the victim shoot at the fleeing vehicle, which incidentally could be used as a weapon against other innocents upon the street… for the purposes of marking the vehicle for subsequent identification?”


“Major… you know the answer to that question.  Of course not.  First, the use of deadly force for purposes other than the stopping of an imminent threat is illegal per se.  In your hypothetical, the use of deadly force was to assist in subsequent identification of the vehicle.  Secondly, the argument that the deadly force was being used to protect hypothetical third parties that may or may not be on the street is not at the level of specificity to suggest that a threat against them was imminent… only possible.”


The Major took a long look at the fireplace again.


“Yet, Captain… have we not seen this before?”


Now it was my turn to look down at my glass of whisky and contemplate.  Indeed, the Major was right.  We have seen this fact pattern before.  It has happened time and time again across the country where otherwise law-abiding citizens, caught up in a moment of passion and righteous rage shoot at an assailant who has, for all intents and purposes, broken off the engagement.


“Yes, Major, I suppose we have.”


“What do we say when one of our law enforcement or military students acts inappropriately during a moment of duress?”


“We call it a failure of training.”


“Yes, Captain, a failure of training.  I posit to you that as an industry we may be doing just that.  As trainers we do our best to ensure that our students have the technical knowledge to be proper mechanics when manipulating their firearms.  We drill into each of them the awesome responsibility that comes with the bearing of arms, but do we really spend enough time and training explaining the emotional gravitational forces that could compel them to engage in illegal or immoral acts?  What is more entertaining for the paying student: actively participating in a lecture about when not to shoot, or standing on the firing line and engaging multiple targets under the direction of a competent instructor?”


“Well, Major, I do believe that our students at Artemis actually do appreciate the philosophical and  legal underpinnings of our teaching.  In fact, I would posit that many specifically come to us because of the more academic approach we take to skill-at-arms.”


“Oh my dear Captain, I do completely agree.  But Artemis is not an island, now is it?  There are many trainers that ply their trade that focus entirely on the how, and not, necessarily, on the when or when not.”


“Well, Major, I submit to your enlightened wisdom and, of course, your rank. What then shall be done?”


The Major raised his glass in the sign of a toast, “Proselytization, my dear Captain!  Our fellow patriots must be made aware before they can be held responsible!  We must endeavor to educate, not just those who may come through our doors seeking training, but to those who train others.  Ours is a movement, and movements need guides, as well as guardrails.”


I raised my glass towards his.


“To the guardrails, Major.”


“The guardrails, Captain.”

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