Before I launch into a lengthy discussion that borders on political (extremely rare for me), I’d suggest that you read the above blog post thoroughly, verify any thing you require verified on the Virginia Senate site, at least skim the comments and then return here.
But only if you want to.
THE TACTICAL COMMUNITY, BY WAY OF BACKGROUND
These days, as I’ve said elsewhere, I’m so far outside the “tactical community” that I may as well be Obi Wan in the desert. That being said, I believe I can say that if not a founding member, certainly an early single digits membership card member in the beginnings of the “tactical community.”
A long time ago, in a country that now seems quite far away, in the 1980s, there were some institutions that planted the seeds of the tactical community as it exists today. The founding of Gunsite by COL Cooper, as the first commercial “combat/tactical shooting” school was one, to be followed by Roy Chapman of the Chapman Academy. The next generation included Clint Smith, Gabe Suarez, etc. etc. That was shooting. Outside of law enforcement, the military, and .gov agencies concerned with law enforcement or intelligence, most civilians learned shooting by being taught by family members or friends, quite often with military or law enforcement experience.
They were “trained.”
In the 80s, there was a security related phenomenon that took hold during what was called “The Coal Wars” in the coal mining country of the Appalachians. That was when the predominantly Scotch-Irish coal miners hewed true to their ancestry and began walk outs and strikes against unsafe labor practices. The mining companies began hiring, true to their ancestry, the latest generation of hired goons to come in and break the nascent unions and force miners back to work. Then the miners, true to their heritage, and coupled with a deep body of experience in explosives honed in the mines and in the large number of returning Viet Nam veterans, as well as their heritage of shooting, ambush, hunting again reinforced by their large number of Viet Nam veterans, started not just blowing up buildings but suited executives when they couldn’t snipe them.
So then there was a demand for “security personnel.” Problem was, the times had changed, and there were concepts like “liability” etc that called for “trained personnel.” So where was the training to protect executives from high level threats? In the Secret Service. Some retired SS personnel founded “executive protection training” companies (Vance International, Dick Kobetz Black Cat) and then one noteworthy institution ESI or Executive Security International started up to provide, for a fee (quite often a very large fee) to provide accredited training in principles of executive protection.
These schools offered a level of training that was on par and in some areas exceeded the curriculum of the Secret Service or Diplomatic Security Service. They incorporated training in firearms, tactical response, empty hand skills, driving, profiling etc. They offered an integrated training package in “tactical subjects” and there were many noteworthy Elder of the Gunfighting Community involved in them (John Farnum, for instance, was lead firearms instructor for ESI in the Golden Years).
That was another foundation in the creation of the “tactical community” as the primary people going through those courses were not law enforcement or military, though they were a significant percentage — they were civilians looking to break into executive protection.
The third and smallest portion was tactical driving, dominated at that time by Tony Scotti and the Bob Bondurant Driving School, and for any serious executive protection operator those were must have stamps. One other government agency required for firearms Gunsite, Massad Ayoob’s Lethal Force, Bill Rogers; for driving Tony Scotti and brought in people from ESI and some others for executive protection training to augment the Secret Service training available to .gov folks. It’s noteworthy that for instance ESI was the only school offering force on force training for high threat protection operations in the 80s — even the Secret Service had not yet refined it’s Attack On Principal training to include that.
So how do I know?
Well, I are a student of such things, and back in the 80s made ends meet doing a thing or two in the field of executive and high threat protection. The organization I was fortunate enough to become involved with was, at that time, the only training company that provided a mobile training team and first as a student, then as an instructor and then as a coordinator I was instrumental (or around, anyway) in the beginnings of the tactical community. Kinda like Forrest Gump.
CQB Services, the Outfit I worked with, had, at the time, the single best collection of counter-terror instructors in the world. People like:
John “Lofty” Wiseman: Retired RSM 22d Special Air Service, headed up Selection, Training, and personally taught all aspects of combat survival.
David Scott- Donelan: Training officer for the Selous Scouts, Rhodesian SAS, and later operator with 1st Recce, South African Defense Force (Counter-Insurgency)
Gary Wistrand: Deputy Director, US Secret Service, two-time winner National Tactical Invitational Match, developer of SS sniper program, designer of JAR sniper rifle, nationally ranked competitive shooter)
Evan Marshall: Trainer with Detroit SWAT team and Detroit PD tactical units, famous for tactical writing/training/development and his groundbreaking and controversial research into stopping power.
Dennis Martin: at the time, considered to be the top professional bodyguard in the world, coordinated multiple high level high threat activities in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.
Timothy Mullin: at the time, the top firearms legal specialist in the country, author of TRAINING THE GUNFIGHTER.
Leroy Thompson: a gun writer known for his articles on executive protection.
There are some notable American alumni of CQB Services — Nick Hughes, and some obscure novelist in Minneapolis come to mind, both of whom attended courses as working professionals in the field and were later recruited as instructors because we were still in the field working.
CQB’s bread and butter course was “High Threat VIP Protection” — it was a distilled accelerated 5 and a half day course that averaged 16-18 hour training days with training continuing into the sleeping hours (we took over a hotel and required the students to run shifts and provide security since there was no “off” time) and culminated in a real world protection exercise. When I say real world, we had a VIP, often a real one, and we set off on a half day excursion protecting the VIP in the real world. Overseas we often ran those live fire (real ammo, real bad guys, real bad areas, with real VIPs) on the Selous Scout model of your graduation exercise was a real world operation.
That attitude and philosophy was the foundation of all we did, and we did it for the USGOV, LE, military units, all over the US and eventually the world.
As the US “Coordinator” I did all the grunt work that goes into keeping a MTT working: finances, marketing, airline/hotel reservations, payment, etc. etc. I also taught hand to hand, executive protection team tactics including CAT response, surveillance and counter-surveillance, “soft skills” or people management/body language reading. That was when I wasn’t off working as I did quite a bit back in the day, often as a singleton or a team leader.
So why the history lesson?
Well, I’ve been around the American tactical community for a very long time, long enough where I still stumble across e-mails from very young people like the late Paul Gomez or Craig Douglas from back when it was a “cool kid” ticket punch to know his first name instead of the mysterious SouthNarc of the old Self Defense Forum days, and I can legitimately point to many former students out doing extremely well as operators or trainers. I used to participate very heavily (over three million words worth, as documented off Geoff Thompsons long defunct forum and elsewhere) in online forums and Facebook.
I no longer participate.
So the reason for my historical perspective is to underscore, from my vantage as a very long member and observer of the tactical training scene, the importance of paying attention to the language of the proposed VA bill set out first thing in this lengthy post.
And before anybody starts in “Well it hasn’t passed, it won’t pass, whatever…” stick around and I’ll explain why in my opinion even putting such a law into a formal proposal is an unprecedented attack not just on the tactical community, but an entire way of life.
THE IMPORTANCE OF LEGAL PRECEDENTS
I was recruited from CQB Services into the old Federal Air Marshal Program by one of the senior instructors. I basically went for it on a whim. During the lengthy training at the FLETC Marana Campus, which hosted a number of other government and military organizations with an interest in counter-terror, I had the opportunity to attend a detailed briefing by the DOJ attorney who had orchestrated the legal strategy to support the first extrajudicial rendition operation the US did. This was the kidnapping of Fawaz Younis a low level and inept hijacker involved in a hijacking of a Royal Jordanian aircraft with 4 American citizens on board. Younis was a Hizbollah graduate of the Hizbollah hijacking academy in the Bekaa Valley, which had recently upgraded its curriculum based on information tortured out of kidnapped CIA Station Chief William Buckley, who among other things had coordinated counter-terror and counter-hijacking training in the Middle East.
The challenge, at the time, was that US was essentially forbidden by law to go outside and just kidnap non-US nationals for crimes committed against US nationals. So Younis was selected, not that he was so important a terrorist, but BECAUSE HE WAS THE EASIEST TO CAPTURE IN AN ORCHESTRATED OPERATION THAT WOULD ESTABLISH A LEGAL PRECEDENT.
Pay attention to that in bold and underlined.
The entire operation was built on that strategy. All the tactics, from using a boat in international waters, from having US Marshals and DOJ attorneys on hand as well as Tier One military operators, were designed to support the strategy of ESTABLISHING A LEGAL PRECEDENT.
Once that had gone successfully, it then became law and doctrine with case law to support it. So we could kidnap terrorists, legally, anywhere in the world, and bring them back to the US to stand trial.
The same model, by the way, underlies the American targeted killing doctrine, which allows for the killing of American citizens without due process by executive order/finding after approval of a small select committee. Didn’t know that? Anwar Al Walaki, an American citizen executed without due process via drone by order of President Obama.
So that particular legal precedent is: THE US PRESIDENT CAN KILL AN AMERICAN CITIZEN WITHOUT DUE PROCESS. It’s legal.
Several of my friends, most of whom have passed, were survivors of the German concentration camps. One in particular, who’d emigrated to South Africa instead of Israel, made the point to me one time: “Marcus, EVERYTHING Hitler did was LEGAL. Everything. There were laws that supported every single action.” He used the example of the disarmament of the Jewish population in Berlin. One Friday, the headline in the Berlin newspaper was the Chief of Police in Berlin and the head of the Gestapo proudly announcing the total disarmament of the Jewish population in Berlin. That Sunday, was the infamous Kristallechnacht, Crystal Night, where the Jewish population was attacked en masse by Nazi sympathizers and party members.
Back to the VA proposed law.
Nope, hasn’t passed. Yet. Might never pass. Probably not in its current configuration. But READ THE LANGUAGE. Essentially, that STATE law would criminalize tactical training in VA — and if passed, would likely be snapped up as a model elsewhere. Maybe even at the Federal level under a different administration. What it does is make unnamed bureaucrats responsible for determining the trainer’s INTENT in providing the training, and the INTENT of the people receiving training.
And someone is probably saying, So what? I don’t train terrorists, I don’t train bad people, I make people do a background check, I just teach my kids/neighbors/friends, whatever….
HOW’S IT’S ALREADY GONE BAD AND IT’S NOT EVEN A LAW YET
Here’s an example: A certain experienced trainer offered an intensive 5.5 day protection course to a group of students that included active duty police, active duty military, professional security, and a smattering of civilians. In an abundance of caution, that trainer made certain deletions to the training curriculum to restrict information he thought inappropriate for a civilian audience. ALL personnel attending the course either had military/law enforcement security clearances, or National Agency Checks conducted within 30 days of class start and verified before training commenced, which is a higher standard than many trainers even today. Some years after the graduation exercise, two of those students were arrested, tried, and convicted for supporting terrorist activities. They were, let me stress, at the time of training, cleared by National Agency Checks, double verified, and working in professional security positions. Even the law enforcement participants in the course had no problem with these individuals. So some five to eight years later they get caught up in a bizarre Federal case involving weapons, drugs, and terror affiliations.
Bang. Go to Federal jail.
The instructor in question has never been formally interviewed regarding that case. However, it was brought to his attention that a long (and continuing) series of elicitation attempts around “providing training” may have been connected to him becoming a person of interest because of that nebulous affiliation with those two, and the hunger of various Federal agencies to “make a case” regarding terrorist training. In one instance, a guy who started as a low level (county) member of the JTTF tried repeatedly to entrap the former instructor in everything from narcotics to firearms violations to “get access to this guy’s network.” That member and his associates (some local LE, some Federal, and a few private) went so far as to claim, on the street, that the instructor was a confidential informant in everything from narcotics to terror, in the hopes that the leaked disinformation and subsequent threats from street gang members — and other dangerous individuals — would drive the instructor to “coming inside” or to “make a run for it” and disclose his supposed terror connections.
It would be amusing if it weren’t real, and that the instructor maintains high level friends and connection throughout the international counter terror training community as a long time advisor and training designer.
It made him very Achy, Man.
So take that deliberately vague (for legal reasons) story as you like, or not.
The point is: if such a law anywhere in the US establishes that providing tactical training in good faith after due diligence will make instructors LIABLE FOR A FELONY after the fact based on the subsequent actions of students, who at the time of training were legally cleared, and the instructor had no reason to believe would be using the training with ill-intent — you could conceivably go to jail for teaching your kids to shoot, for teaching a neighbor, for helping a stranger on a public gun range, let alone providing formal training for money to civilians.
It’s not just an open assault on the entire tactical training industry. It’s an open assault on your civil rights as an American.
As people who know me will attest, I don’t do politics. So I have no political advice to offer you. Other people may. Me, I’ll continue to share my knowledge, my experience, and my opinions with those who care to listen and/or seek me out. But if I were a young tactical instructor in the open market, I would pay very very close attention to the implications of this proposed legislation, and I would take such measures as I deemed appropriate.
Whatever those might be.
And please do not take anything I say on here as gospel or privileged insider information or an attempt to persuade to any particular course of action. Verify everything yourself and do your own due diligence. Provided for informational purposes. ; )
Be grateful for what you have, and give thanks everywhere. Happy Thanksgiving.
The One Eyed Fat Man, pre-felony hearing.