Viral Video – Range Safety Officer Ensuring Safety on the Range

A video of a range safety officer actively intervening in a potentially dangerous situation has been making the rounds on the web and social media. As befits new media, I have seen many dismissive quips, but no serious analyses of the case. (Of course, I am not omniscient, so please post any you know of in the comments).

Until Monday, when I came across a video on Rob Pincus’s YouTube channel in which he breaks down the event and draws lessons from it. In fact, as he states at the outset, he draws two sets of lessons: one pertaining to gun safety and gun training and one to gun culture and gun politics more broadly.

Ensuring safety is arguably the biggest responsibility of firearms professionals. The professional firearms trainers I have been around are very focused on range safety. When John Johnston spent some time with me earlier this year on my home range, he taught me some valuable lessons about range safety. These both reinforced and went beyond what I learned when I took the NRA Range Safety Officer course in January.

To be sure, having my NRA RSO certificate alone does not guarantee that I would act as decisively as the RSO in the video did. I have never served as an RSO for an entire public range, but if I ever do, this video will definitely be in my mind.Pincus’s second point concerns gun culture and gun politics more broadly. Here is not wearing his gun trainer hat, but his Executive Vice President of the Second Amendment Organization hat. (Aside: I had never heard of the “2A0” until Pincus’s recent appointment as EVP, but more on that later.)

Many dismissive comments have been made on social media about the individual in the video who was violating basic gun safety rules. People have advocated for everything from a permanent ban from the gun range to a loss of life. Pincus suggests a more inclusive approach, one in which both the individual and the gun community learn from this incident to be better.

Pincus isn’t alone in this line of thinking in general. I recently posted about Erik “Trek” Utrecht’s appearance on Ballistic Radio (Ep. 272, 16 September 2018). Utrecht and co-hosts John Johnston and Melody Lauer distinguish between mere gun owners and responsibly armed citizens. Distinguishing between the two requires alot of what Johnston called “policing our own.” The RSO in the viral video did a good job of this.

But to Pincus’s broader point, Utrecht agreed with Johnston and added, “You’re right, we do have to do a lot of policing, but it is not by regulation. It is by making those people extinct through education and separating what is responsible and what is irresponsible.”

Making irresponsible gun owners “extinct through education.” Which means taking advantage of teachable moments like this viral range safety video, rather than simply mocking or dismissing the violator.


  1. […] A video of a range safety officer actively intervening in a potentially dangerous situation has been making the rounds on the web and social media. As befits new media, I have seen many dismissive quips, but no serious analyses of the case. (Of course, I am not omniscient, so please post any you know of… — Read on… […]


  2. Interesting video. I am a member of a private range, the Los Alamos Sportsman’s Club. Joining means a morning of education and indoctrination before you get your ID card and can use the range. Public ranges are another issue, and we don’t know what training people have under their holster. That’s obvious from Rob’s excellent video.

    Since we moved to Santa Fe its a 35 mile drive to my old range rather than a two minute jaunt (sob…) but there is public land about ten miles away with an informal firing range, i.e., a field with targets t one end and people at the other. I was there one day sighting in a new rifle when a family was shooting at the same place. I checked with them that I was setting up and they seemed OK but rather ambivalent. I put a few shots downrange and was adjusting my sights and ready to put another three round group downrange when out of my peripheral vision I noticed two of their elementary age kids running downrange. I told them I had secured my weapon as they pulled their offspring back to the firing line. But that indicated to me a certain lack of maturity on the part of the parents.

    A little while later a man and his teen age son showed up and they were obviously careful shooters. The family left.

    Given it was open space and I didn’t know the people involved, I was not about to go into one of my world class gun lectures. But here lies the problem: if we do retroactive teaching after someone nearly blows his buddy’s head off or a kid running down to a target is in the line of fire, we end up with casualties and also in the news, not to mention subject to one of those “Well Regulated Militia” sarcastic tweets.

    Thanks, Rob. Good video. I should get my RSO card one of these days.

    p.s. Never heard of SAO either. I recently joined the SAF.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rob’s “intellect & maturity” comment gel with my opinions on this vid.

    A complete assumption on my part, but in running a gun shop in a town with a prestigious engineering school in upstate NY, I saw very similar “intellect and maturity” issues weekly.

    I got foreign students visiting the shop to ooh, ahh, gawk and marvel primarily at the rifles on the wall. They often asked if they could handle them and take pictures of each other.

    The two men in the vid have the very apparent non-gun, and (IMO) non-American demeanor of the students who would visit my shop.

    I strongly suspect the range offers rentals and these two were there to take pictures of themselves ‘being American’ for their friends.

    Great job by the RO. He has a lot of cats to corral and hats off to him for taking decisive action.

    So much for my uninformed assumptions. What do we DO?

    I like Rob’s inclusive, educational paradigm.
    Welcome, but lay out clear expectations for noobs. Be prepared to inform re: proper procedures…and test the noob’s knowledge before handling g is allowed.

    A pain, not an *efficient* way to churn the stalls every hour to keep the revenue flowing? Yes.

    *Effective* in preventing negligent tragedies and scaring off (some) perpetrators of intentional tragedies?
    I think so.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As for the NRA “ask permission before touching,” I remember the “asterisk” caveat very clearly.

    Good policy in this age. Touching is not accepted in sterile classroom settings.
    In boxing gyms, close-knit grappling dojo and other arenas mimicking fox holes, water, food, sweat is traded, mixed and shared.
    A Saturday gun class with people you’ve never met and will never see again….straightening an elbow, pushing in a tummy, kicking a foot out a little wider is too intimate for most.

    And them there’s the male/female student/teacher issues and the risk of being a SCOTUS Nominee decades later.

    So, good policy.

    But NRA clearly teaches that if there is a safety issue, all bets are off and *attention* is warranted- intimacy issues be damned.


    • I would say one has to have a disclosure statement at the beginning of class: If I have to touch you to ensure your safety or to coach you to a better shooting position, I will do it as part of my job and you agree to it. If you are not comfortable with that, here is your money back and thank you. I’ll even try to find you a class you are more comfy with.

      I am not an RSO but I am an LCI (League of American Bicyclists cycling instructor) and we too have to occasionally make contact with students, lest they make intimate contact with the ground or have their helmet fall off. Bicycling is not a contact sport, but setting a person up and working with them might involve being in close quarters. That is a far cry from “copping a feel”. Inadvertent and inappropriate contact should probably be dealt with with an immediate apology, but if the nation goes truly paranoid, we are all at risk of losing our humanity. Maybe we already have…

      Liked by 1 person

    • I have been advocating for public school gun safety lessons for years. Not only is it Common Sense, it also reveals the political nature of why we don’t have them in all public schools in the US. Anti-Gunners tend to get hemmed up when you point out that we teach about many other Dangerous Things in school, if you care about kids and you think guns are dangerous, why not address the issue?

      Liked by 2 people

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