New Shooters – Dr. William Holda and his wife

Today, I took Dr. William (Bill) Holda and his wife Scotti to the range for the first time. Dr. Holda is the president of Kilgore College. These folks had never held or shot any handgun.

Several months ago, Dr. Holda discussed his views regarding concealed carry on campus, in an interview on TV. He had apparently picked up a lot of misinformation regarding the Luby’s massacre at Killeen, Texas, and offended a great many gun-loving people, including me, by what he said about it. None of us like for misinformation or falsehoods to be used in ways detrimental to our second amendment rights.

I found out about it from Tamara’s blog View From the Porch, here. When I saw that this was someone from the college I attended (a very long time ago), I looked up his address on the college website, and sent him a polite email. I suggested that he get educated on this subject so he could have an informed opinion. I also suggested some sources for good information, for instance The Cornered Cat.

Sadly, a great many other people also responded to Dr. Holda, on a very low level – basically, “go to hell”. Folks, this behavior does not help our case. Apparently, only two or three of us were civil to Dr. Holda.

I was, frankly, surprised to get a reply. Dr. Holda made it clear that, having screwed up, he wanted to understand the reality, he wanted facts, and he wanted the considered opinions of people on our side of the fence. He gave every impression of wanting to know if he was wrong, not just in the facts of the Luby’s Massacre, but also in his beliefs about guns and shooting in general. I can respect a man who is willing to question his own beliefs when confronted with evidence that those beliefs should be challenged.

So, we corresponded back and forth quite a lot, over the last couple of months. I explained my views on this subject – basically, any gun-free zone that is enforced only with signs is a kill zone for evil people. Several others were involved in the process as well. Dr. Holda seems to be open to actually learning about this subject, so I invited him to let me take him to the range and show him the basics.

So, today was the day we went to the range, and I met Dr. Holda and his wife Scotti face to face for the first time. Friends, these are some nice folks; polite, well spoken, and by all indications willing to learn. Neither had ever even held a handgun, much less shot one. My own experience teaching this stuff is limited to helping someone a bit greener than myself get started; so this is really my first experience with teaching this subject. We were also joined by my best friend Rick who helped out with explaining things several times.

After introductions, we started off by covering the range rules, how to know when the line is hot or cold, and that all guns always point downrange. When the line is cold, the guns are supposed to be unloaded and hands off.

Next, we talked about basic gun safety, the four rules. I didn’t actually go down the list, because I had sent them to Bill previously, but I made sure that they understood “All guns are always loaded, even if you just unloaded it”, and “Keep the gun pointed in a safe direction”, and “No finger inside the trigger guard until you intend to shoot. Ever”.

Then we started talking about how to run the gun. I have available two Springfield Armory guns, one XD 45 ACP with Lasergrips, and one XD-M 3.8 9mm. I set out ammunition for .380 Auto, 9mm, and .45 ACP, and showed them the difference between the calibers, between hollow point and round nose, and why hollow point is the desired tool for self defense. They truly are new to this; I had to explain how a bullet works, and the parts thereof. I explained the mechanism of the gun, how to hold it, and what was going to happen when they pulled the trigger. I stressed where NOT to put your thumbs, and explained the action of the slide. I especially covered the safety features of the gun.

We then got ear protection on everyone, and I ran one magazine of .45 through the XD at a target, so they could see and hear what it was going to be like.

I must confess at this point that I totally forgot eye protection until we were nearly through. I used to wear glasses 100% of the time, until I got my eyes operated on a couple of years ago, and now I don’t need them. Consequently, I keep forgetting to put safety glasses on. I’m working on it. Forgive me, this is one thing I really screwed up on today.

Next, I loaded four rounds in the 9mm. I stationed myself where I could see Dr. Holda’s hands, just to his right so I could intercept him if he tried to turn around with the gun in his hand; showed him how to hold it, and pointed him at the target. I instructed him to shoot twice, then place the gun on the table so Scotti could have a turn and do the same thing. This all went smoothly, and I paid close attention as they individually set the gun down or picked it up. I correct thumb position a couple of times so nobody would get cut by the slide.

Having done that, I showed them how to load a magazine; how to insert it into the gun; how to rack the slide. I showed them how ejecting the magazine does not necessarily unload the gun, leaving one in the chamber, and made sure they understand that several people die every year because of this mistake. We talked briefly about sight picture, and on the .45, I explained the use of the Lasergrips.

We talked briefly about posture. I didn’t go into detail on the several standard postures, we just touched on this subject.

The other thing I forgot to go through in detail until later was how to unload the gun, removing the round in the chamber. I emailed Dr. Holda later and explained the steps. The next time I find myself teaching shooting to somebody, I’m going to make myself a checklist.

They ran a couple of magazines through both guns, with targets at the first wire, and did well enough that I moved them to a target on the second wire. Accuracy was better than adequate for now, especially given that “sight picture” was a brand new concept.

After we were done with the shooting, we visited a bit, and they left.

My interpretation of the day:

This is a bit of a unique situation. Most people that take up shooting either do it for fun, for hunting, for self defense, or even all three. Dr. Holda and his wife are, so far as I can tell, doing it for another reason: to learn about an aspect of reality that is about to have an impact on the college for which Dr. Holda is responsible. I believe that Dr. Holda is sincere in his desire to understand this from the inside out. From conversation, I believe he will consider actually carrying on campus himself when it becomes legal to do so. Dr. Holda, his wife, and several others over at Kilgore College are signed up to take the CHL course in a few weeks; I have corresponded with their instructor; so I know they are serious about it.

Dr. Holda, from what I can gather, has been anti-gun in his beliefs at least as regards college campus carry. I am fairly sure that he would really prefer the status quo, but he believes the law will be changed to allow campus carry; so he is taking steps to learn everything about it that he can, even to the extent that he and his wife intend to become licensed. This is the act of a very responsible person, in this context. I have to say that I admire the man for his willingness to tackle something new like this, without apparent hesitation or trepidation. His wife Scotti showed the same willingness. Both acquitted themselves as well today as anyone I have ever seen. Both were in good humor and seemed to enjoy the experience, and I enjoyed their company.

I believe that Dr. Holda relayed what he thought at the time was the truth, in the TV interview that started my involvement in this. His sources were anti-gun sources, and we all know how they paint anything to do with guns. Garbage in, garbage out. This does not make Dr. Holda a bad person, and his actions since then have been exactly the actions someone would make who, having publicly displayed ignorance, sincerely and honestly wants to correct that situation. I believe Dr. Holda is an honorable man trying to do the right thing.

Having said all that, we haven’t talked politics or religion yet. (Grin).

As for me, I learned one major thing about my own skills, and that is this: If I’m going to teach anyone, next time I will make a check list. Doing it off the top of my head, I missed a few not-so-trivial things, particularly eye safety and showing them how to remove the round in the chamber.

Well, you live and learn; or you don’t live long. Happy New Year!


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