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By Travis Pike

Do I profit from death and fear? That’s the question I recently asked myself after that little good for nothing, cowardly sack of…who shall not be named attacked innocent people in a place of worship. I teach some basic classes on self defense, and concealed carry. I am not Haley or Costa, or Vickers, I’m kinda like Range Time but I actually served in the military for more than a weekend. I’m just a dude who teaches people things like basic gun handling, a concealed carry glass, and a basic defensive handgun course. I also occasionally pull my significant other in to demonstrate what works for my female students . . .

After the Charleston church shooting I had a lady contact me regarding attending a class. We’ll call her Sarah. She’d actually contacted me several times before about hosting a class for her, her husband, and another couple, but it never worked out. I commonly host private classes for busy people, and I try to keep a flexible schedule for all folks.

Anyway, she is a black lady, and she is quite religious, and attends one of our local nearly all-black churches. Like Charleston, our town is quite southern, and even though people in my town treat each other with respect, our places of worship are quite segregated. The social reasons for that are another story.

However, she wrote, explaining that after news reached her church of what happened in Charleston people where looking for answers, and ways to protect themselves. I didn’t have answers for the why, but I guess she figured I had one for the how to prevent and defend against it.

Suddenly my phone and social media accounts were full of messages from her congregation asking for classes, asking when I could be available, how soon would they get their permits, can we do a class today…all the normal questions you’d expect from people acting out of fear. I found myself feeling like I can’t possibly charge these people. It would feel like I’m gouging the price of water in the desert, or that dude on Armslist wanting 10 cents a round for 22LR.

I felt badly. The little capitalist in me should have been thrilled by the opportunity, but inside I was torn. These classes – in groups of one or two at a time, would take up a lot of time. Afterward, how many of them would really carry? How many would continue to carry after that new permit smell went away and that GLOCK started to feel heavy? I couldn’t tell them no in good conscience, so for the time being I asked everyone to stand by.

The truth is a bit of training only goes so far, and if these people didn’t continue their training, or at least practice on occasion, what good was the little bit they’d receive with me? Again, that shouldn’t be my business, but I feel like it’s taking advantage of a panicked populace. So what’s my solution?

I started seeing advertisements for other trainers in the area, not necessarily my town or even county, but within driving distance. A larger local operation about an hour away was basically using the tragedy to advertise subversively using that Luke verse about buying swords, and a Get Training Now, or You’ll Die attitude. I saw another trainer on Armslist straight up advertising the fact if the people in the church had training they would have lived, so you better train with him now! That kind of thing annoys me. Fear mongering isn’t the way to get customers, so now I was looking for a way to actively undercut them, without killing myself to do it.

I’ve pitched the idea of doing a basic gun handling class, covering safety and some defensive basics with a handgun on maybe a Wednesday and Sunday before or after church. That way I could handle everyone at once, and could do it at a highly reduced rate, enough to cover my material costs and save most of my time. I’m waiting to hear replies back from the Pastor and church board, but I really don’t have another solution. Doing onesies and twosies is a lot of time, and I have a normal job and a family, and I do value my time.

So that’s my solution. Is it profiteering? Or should I charge normal rates for everyone, and do my small classes at their convenience, but my profit? I don’t actively advertise as a do-it-before-it’s-too-late style of training. What would you do?

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29 Responses to How Do I Meet the Post Charleston Demand for Training Without Fear Mongering?

  1. Go do your job. If people want training, provide it to them.

    I would have no qualms meeting demand. I run a business and I deal honestly with my customers. That’s the best anyone can do.

    • What he said. Are you jacking up your fees? Or keeping them the same? Your providing a service to people. It’s just that all of a sudden a lot of people all at once have a demand for it. Charge a fair price and sleep well at night.

  2. You started a service because you saw a need for folks to have a basic level of training. You came up with the concept because you understood the issues of self-defense related to dealing with criminals. That business depended on folks coming to similar conclusions based on their experiences.

    You didn’t create the situation. It seems weird to have identified the need and then start to have second thoughts when folks choose to avail themselves of your service to meet that need.

  3. Quit the navel gazing. Do your job, man, and charge what it’s worth. And maybe you’ll save a life.

    Is that really so hard to understand?

  4. You have something these people need and they place a value on what you have to offer. Others will offer shoddy service at higher prices. Charge a fair price for good service and feel proud for what you do.

    • ^ This.

      If the church had a flooded basement and you were a plumber, you would help them out, charge them a fair price, and all would be well. You wouldn’t call them up and say you need me to fix your pipes or you’ll all drown.

      You sound like a decent, honest, caring person, do what feels right for yourself and your new clients. One thing to consider, if you give a discount or do a freebie as a Church sanctioned class, you may be able to take a tax deduction for it. IAMNATL though.

  5. I agree with the posters above. Your business, not your fault that there is more demand.

    That said, you could run a workshop preview class at a group rate to showcase what they will learn in the actual class with a little hands on time. That would weed out the folks that aren’t serious. Self defense classes don’t work well when people just want to pay the money and don’t actually want to work the material.

  6. I’ve been a newspaper photographer for 35 years. I’ve wondered, too, if I profit from other people’s tragedies, although the vast majority of newspaper photography is routine, general news, features, business profiles, building mug shots, etc.

    Yes, I often feel sad and voyeuristic when doing my job in the face of the of adversity and fear, but my job is to tell the story as best as I can. Sometimes people tell me they appreciate my photos for showing them how fragile life can be. Sometimes it’s, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” Prov. 31:8

    Do your job with a clear conscience and let others think what they’re going to think.

  7. It’s not gouging unless you raise your prices during a temporary spike in demand (like CTD).

    Charge a fair price, do what makes good business sense as far as lower rates for larger class sizes.

  8. They will value it more if they pay you for your services. Your idea of a group discount is the right idea to save you time and the church money.

  9. I would volunteer to do a single class at your convenience at the church for a reduced group rate. Otherwise, full rate at the the students convenience.

    That way your burden burden of conscience is lifted and everyone wins.

    Also as a trainer it’s not your place to judge the if, why and how your students will apply their knowledge. Horse to water and all that.

  10. You could always do what I do when I help someone out on the side of the road. If they insist I take payment (which I try never to do) then I will put it into the offering plate at church. there will be some people in the church who can’t afford your classes so why give a portion of the money to the church to use as “scholarships” for the less fortunate to attend you classes. Only you, God and the Pastor/deacons would know who got he scholarship.

    • He wouldn’t even have to know which individuals came with their own money and which with church donations.

  11. I would not get too wrapped up what or how you train, but think instead of what the people in that church need. These are not people of the gun, most need just enough to be safe handling a weapon and a spoonful of courage for when the moment comes again. Regards and do what you can to restore the community.

  12. “The little capitalist in me should have been thrilled by the opportunity, but inside I was torn.”

    The term Capitalism refers only to the fact that the “capital” is privately owned. Capitalism carries no mandate or directive to always profiteer off of every interpersonal interaction. It is nothing more than the emergent economic system when people are free to choose how they act.

  13. Sorry-nothing wrong with selling legitimate fear. I’ve sold life insurance,medical alarms,security systems and a long time ago I sold tear gas dispensers(very uncommon then). No one would buy most of these things without a healthy fear. And no one complained when delivering a death benefit check that it was “too much”. AND my conscience is quite clear. You don’t need a gun until you need it.

  14. The fact that you are even asking this question tells me you will ultimately do the honorable and civically responsible thing. Just follow your own moral compass.

  15. Why do so many people put a negative connotation on increasing prices with demand?

    After a hurricane (or other natural disaster), people raid the local grocery stores and buy up all the water and canned food. But do they need it? Probably not. And what about the people who show up late and actually need it? By raising the price to meet demand, the merchant ensures that the people who buy it are the ones who really need it, and that the people who really need it have some to buy.
    The merchants are smart and predict that the price will go up during hurricane season, so they stock up more than they would the rest of the year. This leads to more products on shelves, so prices don’t go up quite as much, and supplies last longer.
    The distributors see that increase in price, and realize that if they can be the first to get their truckloads of water to the disaster zone, they can rake in the cash, so they load them up and ship them out. This leads to an increase in the availability of necessities in the affected area, meaning fewer shortages, lower prices (but still above normal), and the people in need are more likely to get what they need.

    Another problem solved, thanks to the Free Market!

    Contrast that with the price controls that “anti-gouging” laws impose. Water stays cheap…for an hour or two, then it’s just gone. There’s less incentive for merchants to stock up, so they don’t bother. And there’s no incentive for a distributor to send the truck there, versus an unaffected area (perhaps less, because of the increased risk of a hijacking or truck damaged by disaster conditions), so there’s no rerouting of supplies. People pile into the superdome, and die of dysentery.

    As to the training question: Charge them what makes sense given the demand. If you feel like you’re gouging them, just remember that the ones willing to pay more are usually the ones who are more likely to continue carrying. So by charging appropriately, you’re ensuring that the right people get trained first.

    • Oh yeah…then donate some of that extra income to the SAF, so they can continue winning lawsuits to restore our freedom.

  16. The fact that you’re a conscientious about your teaching and that you care about those you train is already an indication that this not only a great opportunity, but a chance to “do good”.

    Get ’em trained!

  17. I’m very honest with people, especially when I am in a particular position of being above them or otherwise being able to take advantage of them. Be honest with them, that is all I can suggest.

  18. Wow, I would love to eat my other foot. I’ve never heard of “tactical training” instructor that didn’t get off on scamming the hell out of people…

    Mmmmm, shoes…. Tasty.

  19. Let your conscience guide you.

    Perhaps you know someone (or someones) who can give you a hand with the classes themselves.

    Being a church group, that could work out very well for them to organize a bi-weekly or monthly trip to the range after services.

    A little peer pressure to keep their skills up is a good thing.

    If they’re pleased with your instruction that could lead to a lot of new customers.

    You may need to hire employees…

  20. Do I profit from death and fear? Yes, but it is simply a supply and demand type thing. I think people are too lax and anti-gun in this day. If people actually had decent parents and grandparents, they would already know this type of stuff. Dysfunctional families abound.

  21. Go ahead with the training with enthusiasm and charge your normal rates. If you would normally offer a somewhat reduced rate (per person) for a large group, go ahead. That only makes sense because a larger group receives somewhat less personalized instruction or less one-on-one time with the instructor.

    Now that we addressed pricing, let’s address your concerns about accepting any payment. From the Bible …
    Romans 4:4 — Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.
    1 Timothy 5:18 — For the Scripture says, …“The laborer deserves his wages.”

    Finally, let us review your concerns about the the adequacy of your training and future training for your students. First of all, your training gets them well beyond 80% of where they need to be. You teach them safe handling and provide basic proficiency. In other words they have the fundamentals to use a handgun to defend themselves from an attacker. Assuming that your students then carry in church or wherever they go, even their basic skills mean that they have an excellent chance of prevailing over an attacker. And their basic skills virtually guarantee that they can, at a minimum, reduce the death toll of another spree killer. That sounds great to me.

    You are also failing to recognize another important consideration. You are training students who, by definition, will now be gun rights supporters. After all, if they suddenly realize how important it is to be able to defend themselves and seek training, they are not going to throw their rights under the proverbial bus tomorrow. Furthermore, by enabling people to actually defend themselves, you are eroding the image that government can defend them (which it never could nor ever will). In other words you are on the very front line doing what we all say is so critical to the long game: you are “taking people to the range and giving them trigger time”.

    Stop over-analyzing, get out there, and train good man!

  22. Sure, don’t gouge. I admire you for that. However, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect payment for services rendered, so don’t just minimize costs and only cover your expenses. You’re entitled to reasonable compensation. Unless you feel like doing charity work, then that’s fine and also admirable. There’s nothing morally questionable about charging, though.

    Also, I know Glock likes to capitalize the whole word like it’s cool or something, but I don’t like when people shout “GLOCK” at me. It’s a proper noun, not an abbreviation or acronym, so let’s just capitalize the first letter.

  23. There’s an old set of aphorisms about people who “know” or “know not”. One of them is “He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is asleep: wake him.”
    You are encountering people that were asleep but have woken up. “He who knows not and knows that he knows not is a student: teach him.”
    Good advice.

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