The Cornered Cat
The *other* phone call

Some years ago, I was talking to Paul Lathrop​ of the Polite Society Podcast​ when he asked me if I had ever gotten “the phone call” — you know, the one from a student telling me that something I taught them had saved their life.

My answer was no. I had never gotten that phone call from the survivor of a shootout. But I have gotten many emails and calls from people who have used something I taught them to stay safer and avoid a situation that could have turned much more serious — a home invasion that never happened, an aggressive panhandler who turned away at a firm “I cannot help you”, a chilling trip to the grocery store where a decision to make a fuss inside the store may have stopped something terrible from happening in the parking lot. Those stories are heartwarming and scary, encouraging and energizing for any instructor.

But even with all that, I told Paul, that type of phone call isn’t my deepest motivation as an instructor. That isn’t what drives me to become the best instructor I can become. For me, it’s the fear of getting the other phone call — the one that breaks the news that someone I worked with, someone I taught, someone I cared about, died in a violent crime. And that whatever I taught them, it either wasn’t enough or it wasn’t right. “The funeral is Saturday. Will you come?”

Sooner or later, every conscientious firearms instructor must face that possibility. With every class you teach, whether it’s “only beginners” or people further along on their journey, you owe your students the very best work you can give them. And you owe it to yourself to learn as much as you can and to become as skilled as you possibly can become — because you never want to get that phone call.

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