Veronica Lewis (courtesy masslive.com) (1)

“A woman brought a hammer to a firearms lesson and then tried to kill her instructor by shooting him in the face with a revolver,” the AP reports from her trial. “Lewis fired three shots at [Darryl] Montague, striking him twice in the jaw and once in the abdomen, Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan said. [Veronica Lewis, above] fled, and she gave a false phone number when she was apprehended, he said. Lewis lives in a community therapeutic residence, a state-regulated home that provides short-term treatment to people with problems such as alcoholism, drug abuse or mental illness.” There’s an important lesson here . . .

Beginning shooters are often evangelical about their newfound gun rights and gun skills. They have a strong tendency to invite newbies to the range, to introduce them to guns and share their love of firearms. To repeat their own conversion experience.

On the face of it, in general, that’s a good thing. The more people who are familiar, comfortable and positive about shooting guns, the safer our gun rights become. Culture eats strategy for lunch; firearms freedom must win the culture war and legislative battles. Yes but – here be dragons.

For one thing, there are good reasons why some people don’t want to be around firearms. “I could never carry a gun,” an NRA member told me at a rubber chicken dinner. “I’d shoot someone.” That’s not the kind of person you want to take to the range. If you’re a beginner talking guns to a non-gun-type, listen closely to their objections to a range date. If they sound slightly “off” or emotional or convincing, don’t argue. Walk away.

Montague was found lying at the edge of a road, police said. Paramedics and police initially thought he may have been struck by a vehicle, but they discovered he had been shot in the torso and jaw.

He was hospitalized in critical condition.

For another, mentally ill people can be extremely clever. Take it from the ex-husband of an alcoholic drug-user, substance abusers sure know how to lie. In that sense, know who you’re inviting to your ballistic get-together. If it’s someone who’ve you’ve know for years to be of sound mind and body, that’s one thing. If it’s someone you met at Starbucks, that’s another. Don’t go there. A range date I mean. Starbucks’ Clover machine is awesome.

Lastly, never take a newbie shooting on your own and always keep a spare, loaded concealed gun on your person at the gun range. Think about it: you’re going someplace with a bunch of armed strangers. Someplace where bad guys know there’s a supply of firerarms. Why wouldn’t you make sure you’re armed – and I mean immediately armed – at a gun range? And stay situationally aware; if your new friend’s acting weird, if a bunch of gang bangers make the scene, abandon ship.

Montague’s mother, Ann, said Lewis had come for a lesson on Friday saying her friends had been shooting and she wanted to try it. She returned on Monday saying she wanted to learn more.

“She didn’t even know him to get any inkling to decide that she should do such harm to him,” she said. “I don’t know how she can live with herself.”

Shooting is an amazing hobby. It’s calming, exciting, challenging and endlessly fascinating (hint: find a non-square range to practice moving and shooting). But it has its dangers, however small. Observe the Four Safety Rules like they were handed to you by Moses himself and be careful of the company you keep. That is all.

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54 Responses to Guns for Beginners: Beware of Beginners!

  1. she kinda looks like someone I exchanged bodily fluids with on a repeated basis with back in college. . . . and yes, that chick had issues too.

    • We can easily identify stupid people, lazy people, ignorant people, mean people, nasty people and many other different kinds of people, but crazy usually doesn’t jump up and announce itself. Until it does and your bunny gets boiled.

      • If crazy calls some state-run halfway house for druggies and the functionally insane home, then there’s your first clue.

        The the thing is, there’s always a first clue. Some, perhaps many, I’ll even be generous and say most, of them are only clear in hindsight. That leaves still quite a few others that were blaring, glaring and begging for intervention prior to the big splashy spree shooting. These often go ignored or shunted off to someone else’s desk, as has been the case with several of the most high profile killers from Coumbine on.

  2. As an instructor, it is good to be reminded to be cognizant that we are targets to Progressives and some mentally disturbed people.

    • “As an instructor, it is good to be reminded to be cognizant that we are targets to Progressives and other mentally disturbed people.”

      Couldn’t resist, had to fix that for you.

      • Well, they do believe in the efficacy of a picture of a gun with a circle and slash over it to keep out a mad man with a gun.

        That’s crazy.

        Then there is also the fact that most of the mass shooters in the US have been of the leftist bent.

        So if walks like a duck and acts like a duck, well, you know.

        • They believe that anyone can snap at any time , or any place. Given that, they would rather a would-be shooter be disarmed while sane and on their premises. If he snaps, he snaps, but at least he won’t already have a gun on him.

          Sure, someone can snap at home, I suppose, then travel to any location to unleash mayhem. Or he might just kill himself at home. Even if he heads out into the world to hurt people, at least that opens up the slate of potential targets, whereas if he snaps while armed on your premises, you’re instantly at the epicenter.

          That’s one of their arguments as I’ve heard it explained before, anyway.

        • Johnathan-Houston – That’s the main reason why it would be infinitely better if they snapped in public – in a public that is armed and prepared to defend itself. There is no reasonable or rational or Constitutional way to prevent criminals or crazies from getting guns if they want them. Even outlawing guns entirely cannot and does not work (Australia/England/Japan, etc.) And since there is absolutely no way of knowing with any certainty when or if someone who was perfectly legal and rational five minutes ago will “snap” and go on a rampage the only logical solution is to have the ability to stop that rampage at the earliest possible time after it begins.

          Armed civilians ready and willing to protect themselves is the logical answer. Not the perfect answer, but certainly the best in an imperfect world.

        • I think everyone would be a lot further away from “snapping” if democrats would stop stealing their stuff, making life way harder than it has to be, and spreading insidious hate and slander in the media…

  3. The pro-gun community – and the anti-gun community – need to be as concerned about this incident as about the mass shooting in Charleston. Both Lewis and Root are dangerously mentally ill just as James Holmes is. More than anything else, we need better means to identify the dangerously mentally ill and better means of treatment, and better procedures to determine the appropriateness of confinement balanced against their civil rights.

    • ” More than anything else, we need better means to identify the dangerously mentally ill and better means of treatment, and better procedures to determine the appropriateness of confinement balanced against their civil rights.”

      And just how do you propose we do that?

      Here’s a free clue:

      Some of the brightest of the bright, truly brilliant people don’t function and or behave like most folks. They walk to the beat of a very different drummer.

      They’re NOT INTERESTED in going along with the crowd. They are perfectly content with their oddball personalities. Terms like ‘eccentric’ describe them.

      The vast majority are NOT DANGEROUS.

      There is no practical way to screen the dangerous out without resorting to un-constitutional methods.

      • Ah, someone who understands me…

        Not behaving like a neuro-typical does not define whether that person is above or below the line… Only that they are not on it.

        Most neuro-typicals, however, presume themselves to be the ultimate pinnacle of human evolution, so they presume anything different from themselves is less than themselves. The idea that someone would be better than them in any way is unfathomable.

        They come to the eventual conclusion: “Lock up and kill anyone smarter than a rock.” Of course, they never call it that…

        How can there be something better than normal, when normal is, in their own words, the best thing you can ever be? So, anything above normal must crazy because there’s no such thing! Therefore, it is actually below normal and is dangerous.

        • “So, anything above normal must crazy because there’s no such thing! Therefore, it is actually below normal and is dangerous.”

          There you go, Dustin, you’ve managed to get the hang of Progressive logic.

          It’s not only substance abusers who can lie convincingly. Crazy people can too and they can appear “normal” while doing it. That kid who stabbed 3 and shot 3 at a SoCal college is an example. Get to know the people you’re taking to a range so you can judge their stability.

  4. Never taken anyone to the range except close relatives/spouse. It seems we old guys who have baggage need to be extra vigilant. I have a crazy ex too RF…and I get to see her antics on facebook …and last I knew(30 years) she carried a gun(illegally of course)…Happy 4th!

  5. Before putting a gun in anyone’s hand, whether friend or total stranger, it is incumbent on the gun owner to first establish the motives and psychological fitness of the “student” or “truer-outer” person. A simple conversation including the motive aspect should be sufficient for an alert gun owner to establish primary sanity – followed by basic firearms safety instruction.

    For me, this is second nature, but for others, unfortunately, not so much (Chris Kyle, Charles Vacca). Then again, all instructors should have learned the first time that they weren’t cut out for it (Terry Dunlap-Columbus, OH Dispatch).

  6. Good to hear the guy survived. I worked mental health and one thing is for sure, you can’t read a book but its cover.

    I see it like teaching someone to drive. I couldn’t control more than one person behind the wheel. You’re new, one loaded gun out at a time.

    • Range club I recently joined only allows one bullet in the gun for the first target shot. After that, you get 3 for the next try. After that, you can load up your magazine or cylinder. May not have helped in this case though. As someone stated some mentally ill people can be very clever and sly. Would be great if there was some way to weed these folks out without destroying the rights of the rest of us in the process. Not sure if that is possible though ?

    • But Ralph, all the gun grabbers keep telling us it takes years of training — something that only police and military personnel have — to be able to shoot a handgun and hit the intended target. What gives?

      • A youth who can’t hit a cathedral at thirty yards with a Gatling gun in three-quarters of an hour can take up an old empty musket and bag his grandmother every time at a hundred.”
        —Mark Twain “Advice to Youth” speech, 1882

  7. As someone who actively seeks newbies to take to the range, I generally deal with people I personally know well, or friends and family of friends and family. I also never introduce people to an actual firearm until I’ve had a conversation with them about gun safety and what is going to happen during their trip to the range. And that’s a separate engagement from range day, not a meet up immediately before heading out.

    I use the same approach when teaching people to rappel. I’ve met some people who don’t seem to have the attention span to triple check their harness and my knots–I don’t take those people out, and I don’t go on trips with them. They’re accidents waiting to happen.

  8. Guns for beginners? Are we talking rifle, shotgun, or pistol? First, I would stay away from auto loaders of any kind. I know I’m gonna get mail for saying that, But it’s so easy forget there is another round in the chamber, just waiting for someone to pull the bang stick.
    For handguns, either a single shot, such as the Contender, or a revolver, being careful to only load one round at a time, until the new shooter gets accustom to the gun. Stay away from anything heavier than a 38 special.
    For a rifle, a single shot, or an inexpensive bolt gun in a lightweight caliber, such as the 22 hornet, or 223 Rem., again being careful to load only one round at a time.
    Pretty much the same for a shotgun. The are many single shots on the market.

    • I do the same thing for a semi auto when I teach classes. i load one round, and eject the mag, rinse and repeat. Also get people plenty of practice racking the slide properly.

  9. Um… what??

    Take it from the ex-husband of an alcoholic drug-user, substance abusers sure know how to lie.

    Hey Farago, how many ex-wives do you have? Did you not post a picture, here on TTAG a couple of years ago, of you taking your ex-wife to a handgun class? Is that the same “alcoholic drug-user” that you’re now warning us to be aware of, stay away from, and keep them away from guns??

    Not being snarky or facetious, but if it is the same ex-wife, your comment above seems just a tad hypocritical, ’tis all.

    • I used to go shooting with my [second] ex. As I discovered her substance abuse problems – which were hidden for some time – that stopped. I locked-up my guns, didn’t give her the combo and bought a retention holster. Ultimately, I took out a restraining order and divorced her.

      I admit: I was slow to wake-up to the danger(s). I also admit: some of the lessons I share on this site are hard-won. Or clearer in retrospect. So it goes.

      • RF,

        Sharing your regretful experience is a teachable lesson that you have been gracious enough to share with the world. Personally, I am hoping that some good comes out of it … e.g. someone else learns from your experience and is able to recognize an unstable family member and act accordingly much sooner.

        Thank you for being honest. I certainly appreciate it.

      • Thank you and pardon, Robert:

        For clarifying and graciously sharing a painful past and hard lessons learned.

  10. Assuming that the man knew she “lives in a community therapeutic residence, a state-regulated home that provides short-term treatment to people with problems such as alcoholism, drug abuse or mental illness” then why did he take her shooting?

    The lesson here is to either know the person you are taking to the range for the first time, or make better choices if he did know her.

  11. “I could never carry a gun,” an NRA member told me at a rubber chicken dinner. “I’d shoot someone.” That’s not the kind of person you want to take to the range.
    Agree. I would not want to take someone who eats rubber chickens to a gun range either.

  12. Whoo boy…now she’s in real trouble since she…. gave a false phone number when she was apprehended

  13. More like ‘Beware the mentally ill’. Let’s not forget what happened to Chris Kyle. Neither he nor the guy he took to the range were beginners.

    • I think it is worth adding that being a competent shooter does not necessarily make you competent to teach others to do it. Instructor certification exists for a reason. Me and a buddy of mine were teaching a couple of girls to shoot at a rural cabin once and he might have been paying more attention to her ass than how she was holding the pistol. It is only because I looked over and yelled “WAIT!” that she didn’t squeeze off a round from his Sig 226 with her weak hand thumb right behind the slide and hammer. I still cringe thinking about how that might have gone if I hadn’t been looking on from ten feet away.

      A friend of mine told me how his dad, who was an FBI agent, broke his thumb and nearly lost his thumb tip back back in the day when a fellow agent let him try a 1911 at the range. This guy’s dad had only ever fired revolvers. The ‘instructors’ in both these cases were competent with their own guns, but clearly not competent to teach others.

      • I neglected to mention that my buddy, who nearly let the girl maul her own thumb shooting his gun, is a federal cop, trained at FLETC.

  14. I think we need to hear a little more to this story. For instance how do they find him on the side of the road if he’s the instructor.
    You make some good points. I would also caution those getting lessons from anyone hyping tactical anything and or dressed like a swat member or a sniper.

    In other words avoid these hole in the wall gun class’s. They are popping up everywhere. I got schooled at a gun club in sponsorship by the NRA and taught by ‘old school’ shooters who didn’t come from a background of carry&conceal,,,the latest fad for lack of a better term. I won’t even go to a range that’s staff by anyone under 40 myself.

  15. “Lewis lives in a community therapeutic residence, a state-regulated home that provides short-term treatment to people with problems such as alcoholism, drug abuse or mental illness.”

    You know, it’s much more concise to say “She’s a democrat.”

    Democrats resort to violence to get their way far more often than do any other self-identified political group… Take assassinations as your first example.

    It’s probably her “underground” way of trying to get rid of all the evil, bad firearms instructors…

  16. Uh, lesson number one: START WITH A RIFLE AND STAND CLOSE ENOUGH THAT THEY CAN’T POINT IT AT YOU!

    It’s too easy to do unthinkingly point a handgun in an unsafe direction. Beginners are very much prone to it.

    Don’t put a handgun in the hand of a beginner! DUH! DUH! DUH!

    Now, if this person would maliciously do so; QUADRUPLE DUH!

    Beginner REQUIREMENTS: OUTDOOR RANGE! RIFLE! NO EXCEPTIONS! EVER!

  17. She is a prior convicted violent felon from NYC who moved to VT 10 years ago to take advantage of VT “no wait” public assistance program (a.k.a. Welfare) and open liberal arms in the Burlington area. Her brother, also a convicted felon from NYC, moved to VT with her…he be dead in Burlington, 2006, after threatening another upstanding citizen and daring him to shoot. Victim has been teaching firearms safety and use for many years, as has his father, on their private range. The family is deeply involved in promoting 2A rights here in VT. Another example of ever increasing population of people raised to become leeches upon society, and act without restraint.

  18. What is the recommended policy for public ranges (i.e, those operated by municipalities)?

    No rentals or sales, but once a month, the pubic can shoot 22s that members of a local gun club provide AFTER a mandatory range safety course. Eye & ear protection offered too. Local guns stores with indoor ranges require that gun renters be accompanied by a buddy. No suicides since that policy was adopted.

    Will appreciate understanding the “best practices” employed at other public ranges.
    Thanks.

  19. Now, let’s all take a moment and ruminate upon the insanity of the NRA insisting that its class instructors must NEVER have a loaded firearm on their person while teaching a firearms class. It’s one thing to require that the firearm stay concealed and unhandled during any part of a class, regardless of reason, short of actual use in self-defense — I could certainly agree to that — but to demand one-size-fits-all that the instructors create and be victims of their own miniature “gun-free zone” is far beyond the pale.

    • I never knew they insisted on this….I know several VERY professional instructors that keep a holstered handgun on them at all times, key word is holstered! Its like a working dog, do not pet! The gun stays holstered unless of course a psycho starts shooting people.

  20. As an NRA instructor, I can also state that it isn’t necessarily the crazies who might kill you.I can’t count the number of times I’ve been muzzle swept or almost so – newbies quite frequently forget those safety rules, and you have to constantly be a few steps ahead of them. And – make sure the instructor/student ratio is high enough to keep a set of experienced eyes on each and every student whenever they have a gun in their hand.

    Another potential warning sign – the folks that “have some experience” but show up in class with some antique Lahti or other wall hanger….

  21. When people say crazy things its best to believe them….I think its scary/sad/pathetic when people say things like “I couldn’t carry a gun I’d end up killing someone” or “I dont want a gun, sometimes I get sad and I don’t want to kill myself” and that’s usually when I’ll give them the good ol’ 1000yard stare or just walk away…All I can say is stay aware of the psychological signs of people not to mention the obvious ones and be aware of your surroundings. If I have to go to a sketchy gun range I’ll go to the last lane if its available so I can see everyone that comes in by looking one way.

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