We have another Shooter Profile to share with you as part of our series, “The New Face of Gun Ownership in America.” People get into shooting for a variety of reasons: hunting, competition, self defense, or just for fun! Tom Stocker is a local resident and businessman who decided to learn about firearms and shooting as one element of his personal security plan. Please read our Q&A with Tom to learn about what prompted him to learn more about firearms and shooting, and his experiences as a new shooter.
Name: Tom Stocker
Home: Lakewood, CO
Eric Frohardt at BluCore asked me to participate in BluCore’s “Shooter Profile,” the intent of which is to profile the so-called new breed of “shooters” buying firearms and learning how to use them. I do not consider myself a “shooter,” as shooting a firearm is incidental to owning a firearm. Also, the term “shooter” has the military context of the guys who kick in doors as opposed to the guys back in the head shed who fill in paperwork. In any event, I own (via a gun trust) firearms for strictly defensive purposes as one element of a personal security plan. Learning how to handle these firearms, which includes learning how to shoot them but which is far broader than merely shooting them, has been an exciting, fun and rewarding adventure for me. I’m glad I undertook this journey.
BCSC: How long have you been shooting?
TS: 8 months.
BCSC: What got you into shooting?
TS: The immediate motivation came from the politicians, or at least some of them. While they used the language of “reasonable” or “commonsense restrictions,” it became obvious to me last fall that their real goal was to take away the rights accorded to us by the Second Amendment. This was confirmed to me this January-March by the cram-down legislation of the Democratic dominated Colorado legislature. Cram-down legislation by elected public servants doesn’t sit well with me (another example is Obama-Care). So I decided to “vote with my feet,” and bought a firearm, as is my right to do.
Secondly, I have three sons, who together served five combat deployments with the regular Army and Colorado Army National Guard. I never owned a firearm when they were growing up, and thus they had no exposure to firearms. The Army changed that and they all became proficient in handling various firearms. My boys and I are very close to one another and they were very supportive of my thoughts to buy a firearm. My wife was also very supportive.
Third, looking around the world that I have known for nearly 66 years, it became apparent to me that personal security is first and foremost a personal responsibility. Personal security, and by that I include the security of my wife, loved ones, grandchildren, etc., can be enhanced through many different actions. One is owning a firearm, and KNOWING how and when to use it.
Finally, about two years ago, I saw an article in the Denver Post about BluCore. I saved the article and put it in a file marked, “Security.” There it sat until Dec. 22, 2012, when I had had enough of the politicians telling me what I couldn’t do and decided to visit BluCore. My oldest son, who did three combat deployments, the last one as an EOD team leader in Afghanistan where he was decorated for valor for saving the life of an American soldier during an ambush, came with me. It was very crowded. I had never been in a gun shop and was taken back, unnerved really, when I noticed that all the sales personnel were carrying guns. I got the attention of one of the sales people (who I later learned was a young man named Jake), showed him the article that I had carried with me, and asked whether he thought I should buy a gun for security reasons. My son was standing nearby smiling! Jake thought that a gun would be a great security tool and pulled out a nice Springfield handgun. He handed it to me. I had never held a gun in my adult life (the last gun I fired was a cousin’s .22 single action revolver in 1959 when I was 12 years old!) and didn’t know how to hold it! With the none too subtle encouragement of my son, and not knowing even how to hold the Springfield, I decided that this would be a nice gun to own. The only decision was whether to buy one with a black slide or silver slide (I didn’t know what the slide did!). I picked silver because it looked cool. I filled out the background check, paid, and left. It was several days before the check came through and I could get my new gun. My boys thought it was hilarious that I didn’t buy any ammunition. Why did I need ammunition–I didn’t even know how to load the thing at that point, and besides I found it a little scary having a gun and ammo! And that is how I got into shooting.
BCSC: What type of shooting do you do the most?
TS: The only place I have ever fired a firearm is at the BluCore range.
BCSC: What types of ranges do you like to shoot at?
TS: I would like to shoot at an outdoor range, but haven’t got to that point yet. My boys tell me that it is a much better experience, or at least a different experience, than in the confines of an indoor range. But the BluCore range is ideal for me, close to my office, very well lit and ventilated, very safe, and, now that I know many of the employees, very friendly.
BCSC: Do you have a concealed carry permit?
TS: Yes. As I said above, I came to the conclusion that security is a personal responsibility, and having a concealed carry permit, and carrying, seemed to me like a logical part of a personal security plan. To get this permit, I took not only the basic NRA class sponsored by BluCore, but also BluCore’s more comprehensive 8 hour class. In a way, this is also a bit of a finger in the eye of the politicians who said that I should not own a gun.
BCSC: If so, what type of gun do you conceal?
TS: Usually, a compact, but it varies depending on the circumstances.
BCSC: Do you have a gun at home for self defense?
TS: Yes, this is one of the many actions I have taken this past year to increase personal security.
BCSC: Are you a hunter?
BCSC: What is your political affiliation, if any?
TS: Republican. Not only have the left leaning politicians been the immediate stimulus for me to buy firearms, but the left leaning bent of the country in recent years has become a major concern to me. I am certainly not against taxpayer funded safety nets for those truly in need, but in an rather transparent effort to buy votes, the politicians have so liberalized the concept of “need” that the country will eventually bankrupt itself. In the process, the country will sacrifice the individual pride, self-reliance and strength that is its core. If the government takes away a person’s pride, it takes away that person’s individuality and makes him or her a beggar looking to the government for sustenance. The ultimate result is a symbiotic and self-destructive relationship. At some point, the core will deteriorate to the point where the resulting vacuum will be filled by some other system of government. If history is any teacher, and it is, that new system will not be a constitutional democracy.
Thus, I have become very involved, or more accurately, re-involved, in the political process this past year. I keep framed reproductions of the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address on my wall. These sacred documents encapsulate America’s core values. Countless men and women have fought and all too often died defending these values. All three of my sons served honorably, and all three were in life and death situations (my youngest son was scheduled to be a Chinook gunner on Extortion 17, but in a last minute scheduling change was substituted out before liftoff–38 died on that flight, including 22 Navy Seals). As I tell my clients, bad things happen to good people and when they do you have two choices: (1) be a victim; or, (2) stand and fight. This is a personal decision each of us has to make. But I will not be a victim–I will fight in whatever way I can for the principles these founding documents espouse.
BCSC: What is your favorite gun to shoot?
TS: This is a funny question, because it seems that every new firearm I buy is my favorite, at least for a while. Today, I would answer, my S&W M&P.
BCSC: What is the next gun you’d like to get?
TS: Maybe something with a built-in laser.
BCSC: What are the best reasons to learn how to shoot?
TS: Owning a firearm in America is a right, but as with any right, it carries responsibilities. It seems to me that anyone who owns a firearm should also know how to competently and safely handle it, store it, use it, etc. These responsibilities are enhanced for those of us who have concealed carry permits.
Thus, after buying my first firearm as described above (and a gun safe), I engaged Micah at BluCore to teach me how to use it. This he did, with gusto. I fired my first rounds with him on Jan. 9, 2013! Now, 3,090 rounds and 49 hours of BluCore training later, I feel that I am beginning to be comfortable around firearms. I intend to take a lot more BluCore training over the coming winter, not only shooting training, but also non-shooting training which I think is equally important.
There is no better way to learn than finding those who are smarter and better educated than I about whatever the topic is, and learning from them. In this BluCore excels. I cannot imagine any higher quality firearms training. At BluCore, I am learning from the best. Firearms skills, as with most others in life, are perishable, and need continual refreshment and updating. I’m glad I saved the article about BluCore, ultimately went in, and bought a firearm. Since then, learning about firearms has been an exciting and fun adventure that I have no regrets I undertook.
BCSC: What would you tell others who think shooting is not for them?
TS: I suppose that many folks may believe that shooting is not for them. Each has to decide for themselves. But I would encourage them to consider their personal security situation and go to BluCore and take a class or take some 1:1 personal introductory training. BluCore will provide a gun–just give it a try before passing judgment. Or simply spend an hour with someone like Jeff Houston to discuss the pros and cons of gun ownership for defensive purposes.
Perhaps my wife is a good example. She always thought guns were scary and was not anxious to shoot one. Plus, she has small hands and can’t hold a regular sized handgun. So she took BluCore’s Women’s Basic Pistol class. She reports that the instructors made her feel entirely safe and comfortable. She fired 60 rounds from a compact 9 mm and placed in the middle of her class for accuracy. Now she wants her own gun! She learned that not only is there a lot more to handling a gun than meets the eye, but shooting it and shooting it accurately, which she did, is fun.
I’ve invited several left-wing local politicians to BluCore to give shooting a try (at my expense). No takers. They can pass laws, but I question whether they have any real understanding of what they are dealing with. At one town hall meeting, I could not even get one to hold an empty 30-round PMAG! Perhaps he found the PMAG scary?
What I am really talking about is not “shooting” per se or shooting just for the sake of shooting. What I am talking about is “shooting” as one element of a personal security plan. The real issue is taking control of one’s personal security and having the tools and skills to do so. Owning a firearm and knowing how to use it is one of those tools and skills.
A big ‘thank you’ to Tom for taking the time to share his thoughts and experiences. Like Tom, many people are incorporating firearms as part of their own personal security plan. As Tom mentioned, “knowing how and when to use [a firearm]” is very important! The media tries to portray gun owners as being cavalier, but that is not what we have found with our customers. We see customers all day, every day who are serious about gun safety and training. They take classes or private lessons to build their knowledge base and skill level, and then they come on their own and practice because they know that frequent training is essential to building ‘muscle memory.’
Thank you for reading this installment of our blog series, “The New Face of Gun Ownership in America.” You can read more about our blog series here, and also check out our first Shooter Profile with Rachel Allon here.