Tami Parker Other Duties as Assigned

How I Accidentally Became a Member of the NRA


The National Rifle Association (Eddie Izzard voice)

So … I’m a member of the NRA, and it happened by accident.

A couple of years ago, I’m tooling around on Groupon. Just seeing deals in my area, that sort of thing. Shoes, manicures, haircuts … the normal shabazzle.

An offering caught my eye — a gun safety class at a crazy good discount.

I’m a writer, I says to myself. And I sometimes write stories with guns. Also, I am currently afraid of guns, and this is not a great situation to be in.

So I bought the class, thinking I’d get a little experience in safely handling a gun. You know. Nothing fancy. I just wanted to know more than “point that end away from you and pull the trigger” as far as guns were concerned. Get some experience actually shooting a gun so that when I wrote about it, it would be more authentic than just regurgitating things I’ve read in other books.

Right? Right. So this all sounds great.

The Class

We drive out to the gun range where the class was being held, and enter what I recall as feeling like a big nice garage. There are chairs and tables set up, an old tube tv on a rolling cart, and a long table filled with different types of guns up at the top.

Pretty close to what I expected.

The room fills up pretty quickly and I thinks to myself, “Self,” I says, “That is more people interested in basic gunmanship than I thought would be here.”

Turns out, I was right on both counts.

  1. The class was super full because laws in Wisconsin were changing so that you had to have a license if you wanted to carry a concealed weapon.
  2. This was not “basic gunmanship” (I’m assuming that’s the right term. Please don’t disabuse me of the notion if I’m wrong.). This was a “concealed carry” licensing class.

So the room was filled with people who knew more about guns than I do about horses, all of whom were forced to watch painfully contrived videos about the benefits and dangers of concealed carry.


The Students

Two of us in the class stood out.

Me, because my still-ignorant self sat at the front of the room and so was one of the first people to introduce myself as “an author looking to know more about guns.” — when everyone else was like “Joe, and I’m here to get my license.”

Awareness of context clues, I do not have.

A fellow in the back who may NOT have been in some sort of mob/mafia situation … but who DID have two “bodyguards” and who ALSO happened to have a gold-plated pearl-handled something  of a gun that the man leading the class requested he display because it was so cool it needed to be shared. Also, I remember something being said about either a chain of massage parlors or dry cleaning companies.

I tried not to listen too closely. There are some things I’m happier not knowing.

The Lesson Plan

ANYWAY, so the class was almost entirely “watch this series of videos,” all of which showed various situations that were defused by the hero having a concealed gun handy. A woman followed into a bathroom. A guy attacked while his car was broken down on the side of the road.

There was also a lot of advertising for various gun-themed vacation/training packages? It’s been a few years, but I do remember feeling bemused at the amount of advertising in the class.

Right. So. The teacher clearly was torn between “oh god, this young lady in the front is clearly in the wrong class” and “everyone else is so bored and is only here to get licensed” so it was a very strange vibe.

I never did actually touch a gun.

On a practical note, I did learn that the teacher strongly recommended mace as a self-protection choice, which I appreciated. Laws about gun use and concealed carry are not straightforward, but peppering someone is far less likely to lead to jail time for a victim to may or may not be able to prove they were defending themselves.

Licensed to WHAT now?

Anyway, end of the class and we were told that we now had our licenses to carry a concealed weapon.

I realize I was slow on the uptake here, so you’ll have to forgive me, but it wasn’t until THAT INSTANT that I realized … I can carry a gun. Secretly. Hidden about my person.


Additionally, I found out via the mail that I was now a card-carrying member of the NRA, to boot.


Politics about gun ownership aside, I think we can all agree that unless I get some serious training, -I- should not have a weapon. Concealed or not.

Me. Tami. No guns. Checkaroonie.

And yet.

Looming Future

Some day, I feel like someone is going to find out I’m a member of the NRA and that I have a concealed carry license, and I am going to have to answer some very serious questions.

I just … don’t know how to answer them without pointing to groupon and saying “oopsie.”


  • I love everything about this story. <3

    I see you are a member of the NRA and have a concealed carry license. As such, I have some serious questions. Tell me. Is human consciousness just electrons flowing through neurons, or is it something beyond the physical? If a machine could exactly duplicate your mind right down to the same pattern of synapses firing, would it be you? Could it predict how you would react in every situation? If all we are is physical, how are we free?

    (Full disclosure: I literally Google'd "serious questions" to find these. My philosophy professor's may be weeping. But if I can't see them, do they make a sound?)

    What I think you should do, though, is go find a place with an indoor pistol range. They usually have classes that cover most skill levels. This is coming from someone who will never get a conceal-carry and only has firearms in the house because it was a gift.

    I tend to think of shooting as a skill everyone should learn. Basic familiarity can improve overall gun safety because you learn some simple safety rules and respect for what the weapon can do. It also cuts through the fake gun bad-assery in action flicks that some people think is real (which cuts against the real gun bad-assery that sometimes happens). And it's fun.

    I don't believe in the self-defense aspect of a firearm unless you're training regularly, particularly in urban, active-shooter scenarios. The stats I've looked at sound a lot more like Hollywood success stories. For every gun-slinging hero, there's a lot more people that got their guns stolen and turned against them or accidentally killed a loved one. Even more committed suicide (which, maybe they would've accomplished anyway or maybe not). And then there are the people that think they've magically transformed into Wyatt Earp. (You're not Wyatt Earp, and, if you were, I'd be even more terrified because time-traveling Wyatt Earp landing in the 21st century can't end well.)

    • Definite silent weeping happening, lol!

      I definitely intend to do this thing with the indoor range and the shooty safety (for ACTUAL newbies). I just … need to figure out where that would be. And get the courage up to do it. (Social bravery is a thing I am practicing but which does not come naturally to me.)

      I agree on the self-defense, personally. I will not deny the possibility of someone having enough training and expertise to have a concealed weapon and potentially use it correctly in a dangerous situation … but I also wholeheartedly acknowledge that I will probably never be that person. Even with training, panic situations are not a place where I shine. (And I’m talking like … “did I check that delete query carefully enough before I executed it” which is miles away from “there’s a man pointing a gun at me”)

      True on Wyatt … but wouldn’t THAT be a fun book to read?!

        DELETE blahblahblah;
        — insert verification logic here —
        — Uncomment this and run it when you’re sure it’s in a good state

      • I totally get that. It’s probably easier if you get to go with someone you know that has some knowledge about things. One thing you may be able to do is convince your employer to send a group out as a fun team-building exercise.

    • That last paragraph is filled with stuff you simply cannot talk about with a gun enthusiast, unless you want to hear about why those things don’t apply to them.

      • Which is why I tried to very carefully frame it as being about ME. Because just as I do not feel qualified to carry a gun, I also do not feel qualified to evaluate an expert’s level of expertise with their own weapon. =]

      • Sadly, I haven’t met that many gun enthusiasts as much as I’ve met hunters and a few Wyatt Earp’s. I’ve had good conversations with the gun enthusiasts I do know, though, around that topic — though you’re right about how they feel special.

        The hunters I’ve been around were far more practical. The Wyatt Earp’s were ok so long as they weren’t currently armed. My mom truly believes that she could stop a shooter with no training because she’d be “in the moment.” She was pretty sad when I informed her that I’ve not only seen how terrible a shot she was without the pressure of someone else with a gun but that adrenaline makes you worse. The other Wyatt Earp I knew was a friend that pulled a pistol out in front of me when I was 13 or 14 to show it off. I yelled at him until he put it away and told him he was going to shoot someone if he wasn’t careful. A few years later, he did just that.

          • For the record, I think it turned out “ok”, insofar as getting accidentally shot by your friend is an “ok” thing. It was a few years after I had moved away (probably the end of high school / beginning of college for me) and I lost touch with him.

            So, I just did some internet stalking and they both seem like they’re alive. The guy that got shot is alive at least. Mr. Earp (dude, mister Earp is my faaathar) doesn’t have public posts on his Facebook page and I’d rather not friend him out of the blue.

  • That is so funny!

    I think I’ve lived every aspect of the “gun question”. My extended family hunts; some are poor enough they need to shoot a deer or two in order to have meat in the winter. My dad was an abusive alcoholic who loved to put guns in people’s faces. My stepfather was a lunatic gun nut who nearly got me killed once and ended up shooting himself accidentally. There was a mass shooting at the mall we walk at.

    Me? I consider myself a responsible gun owner (even though I don’t currently possess one). I’ve taken classes. Husband Ros and I used to shoot and are planning to take it up again (and buy guns). We enjoy it. Though poor Ros is a lousy shot. The noise startles him, so he flinches every time he pulls the trigger, throwing his aim off. One day the instructor looked at his target sheet (where half of the bullets missed dummy completely). Then he glanced at mine, with its neat circle of head shots. “Jesus, buddy,” he said. “Don’t ever piss your wife off.”

    None of the NRA hype rings true to me. I’ve never felt like a gun made me safer. A guy at the mass shooting actually was carrying concealed. He never got a clear shot. His gun was useless. Wyatt Earps (great term Brad-O!) scare me to death. One of them saw a shoplifter at a local Home Depot. She whipped out her gun and started blasting away! To me, the Wyatt Earps are more scary than the criminals.

    The complaints of gun haters ring far truer to me. Adding a gun to domestic violence is horrible. I had armed hostage negotiation skills from the time I was six. Accidents happen. My stepfather’s lucky to be alive. And few things are as “exciting” as trying to tell your Dirty Harry-loving friend — calmly, so they don’t panic — “That gun you’ve stuck in my face? It’s loaded. Please put it down. This punk does not feel lucky.”

    I think of shooting as a dangerous hobby, like mountain climbing. I enjoy it. It can be more than that. My cousins and grandfather raised kids who loved hunting and treated their guns with enormous respect. No accidents in many, many decades. No abuse or threatening. Their guns helped them survive grinding poverty.

    I am thinking about getting a concealed carry permit. Not because I want to be an Earp! But there are rare times when a gun would be useful and I don’t want to walk around looking like John Wayne’s sister. One such time still haunts me. Out in the middle of nowhere, we found a deer that had been hit by a car. Three of her legs were shattered. She was in agony, dying. And I couldn’t do a damned thing to put her out of her misery. It was the days before cell phones so we couldn’t even call for help.

    I guess in the end I’m a moderate. I support gun control laws. I’m not threatened by them. I’m not afraid of guns but I don’t fetishize them either. I’m not a member of the NRA because they’ve become so radicalized and fringe. On the other hand, when my grandfather died I kept the “NRA Golden Eagle” t-shirt he had just received in celebration of his 50 years in the NRA. When I’m feeling particularly puckish I wear it to Whole Foods and watch my fellow liberals freak out.

    • Lol, I can’t even imagine the looks of horror you get in Whole Foods!!

      Thankfully, I have never had the bad experiences with gun-toting friends and family. The one friend I do have that I know is a bit of a gun-nut is the most careful, methodical person I know. Zero chance of him being even slightly careless with any of his guns.

      But I also know that’s not the norm.

      It’s a political pickle, that’s for sure.

      And my brother offered to take me shooting next year after the weather warms up. Well, he offered to take me in the dead of Wisconsin winter, but I demurred. I’d like to be able to feel my fingers when this happens. So I’m hoping I’ll get that experience soon!

      • There are gun owners who are sane and responsible. And then there was my stepfather Jack, a demented Green Beret.

        One day I run out of toilet paper while I’m on the pot. I grab a roll from the shelf and behind it I find a gun. Loaded, of course. (Jack always used to say, “An unloaded gun is a club and if I wanted a club, I’d get a baseball bat.”)

        Later I ask Jack why there’s a loaded gun hidden behind the toilet paper. “Well, what if someone broke into the house while I was on the crapper?” he asked.

        “I assume you’d shoot them with one of the two guns you carry, concealed, at all times,” I replied.

        “But what if they both jammed?”

        I admitted that I had not considered the possibility that a man could be attacked while on the toilet and have two guns jam on him. Jack grinned happily and thought he’d won that debate.

  • LOVED it! Great post about a timely topic, with a “fish out of water” perspective. I hope that your classmates paid attention, though – there’s no greater danger than an incompetent/ ill-trained pistol-packer. I know that the NRA gets a bad rap. It’s just another lobby. Remember – the NRA is to the Second Amendment what the ACLU is to the First Amendment. The latter has blood on its hands, as well.

Tami Parker Other Duties as Assigned