Students considering an online course to satisfy the training requirment for an Arizona CCW permit should be aware of the NRA's policy regarding online training by NRA instructors. The short version is that the NRA does not permit their instructors to associate their name or their instructor credentials with any online firearms training course.
In a policy update released on November 8, 2011, the NRA Training Department went on record stating the following:
"Under no circumstances may the NRA's name or your NRA credentials be associated with any online firearms training course. If the NRA's name or your NRA credentials are associated with a course, you must, among other things, actually work with the students, face-to-face, to allow you to evaluate whether they perform the safe operation of a firearm, and shoot with a sufficient level of skill. This policy applies to any course which might result in issuing any certificate which bears the title of NRA Certified Instructor..."
The policy update continues stating:
"While the NRA allows NRA Certified Instructors to use their titles in association with courses that are not NRA courses, as long as they make a very clear disclaimer that such courses are not NRA approved, the use of a disclaimer is not sufficient to allow [the NRA instructor] to use the NRA's name or [the NRA instructor's] credentials in connection with an online course..."
Finally, the update states that:
"Violation of these policies may result in the revocation of [the instructor's] NRA credentials"
How did we get to the point where online courses were being offered? Perhaps a brief history of the Concealed Weapons Permit program in Arizona will help explain things.
Since 1994, Arizona has maintained a Concealed Weapons Permit program, administered by the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Since the programs inception, there have been many changes resulting in reduced training requirements and expansion of the number and type of training programs that satisfy the statutory requirements for issuance of an Arizona CCW permit.
Beginning in 1994 and continuing to 2005, AZ DPS required individuals wishing to obtain a permit take a 16 hour DPS approved course, undergo a criminal background check and pay a fee of $60. In 2005, the Arizona Legislature approved changes to the law reducing the training requirement to an 8 hour DPS approved training course. Students still had to undergo a criminal background check and pay the same $60 fee.
In 2010, the Arizona Legislature passed a law that has been referred to as a Constitutional Carry law. Under this new legislation, anyone in Arizona legally allowed to possess a firearm could lawfully carry a concealed firearm anywhere it is legal to have a firearm, without the need to have a concealed weapons permit.
In addition, the legislation significantly changed the role of the Arizona Department of Public Safety in administering the Arizona Concealed Weapons Permit program. The law provided that among other training options, any firearms safety course taught by an NRA Certified Instructor would satisfy the training requirement for the AZ CCW permit. DPS was also no longer responsible for the review and approval of the training curriculum.
As a result of these sweeping changes, there was a dramatic expansion in the number, variety and length of courses offered by NRA instructors who were anxious to try and attract potential students.
Since the law no longer mandated any specific curriculum, inevitably online courses appeared providing video-based or interactive online training, some of which required less than a one hour investment on the part of a student. Some online courses attempt to provide real value in the training experience while others are thinly veiled shams that are basically online diploma mills.
One could legitimately ask if the Arizona Legislature intended this type of training to be acceptable when they passed the new laws in 2010 or are the online courses an unintended consequence of poorly written legislation.
The bottom line is this. While the Arizona Department of Public Safety will accept online training for the Arizona CCW permit, the NRA instructor that issues those training credentials is violating NRA policy and could be stripped of their credentials.
Prospective students might ask themselves if that is really the type of instructor they are interested in training with or should they be seeking out someone that can provide them with legitimate firearms safety training and skills development.