We have all done it, some more than others. We have read a rule and then tried to parse it down to every single word in the process of understanding it. And sometimes that makes folks second guess what the rule actually means, or makes a rule mean what they want or think it should mean. Stop it!
We don’t write the rulebook with the intention that people will need to read between the lines to see the real rules and their meaning. We try to write the rules so they are as clear as possible, but if you give the same rule to 100 people, there is always a chance that a portion of those people will read and interpret the rule differently. These differences are usually because the people writing the rules (the DNROI, RMIs and USPSA BOD) have the sport and the rules deeply ingrained in their brains and think they are writing a clear rule. But, a member who is new to the sport might read the rule completely different.
Are all the rules in the rulebook perfectly written? No. Do we occasionally fix rules to make them more clear? Yes. Do we have a rule that covers every possible scenario that can ever happen at a match with a clear defined penalty? No, but show me a sport that does. And how large do you want the rulebook to be?
So, how does one learn what the rules mean? A good start is this blog. Other ways are taking the Range Officer and Chief Range Officer classes. And if you are a real glutton for punishment, and want to deal with those situations not covered in the rules, become a Range Master. No, these are not perfect solutions either. And yes, overthinking the rules still happens in even our most seasoned range officials.
We are especially concerned when range officials are reading rules in ways that unnecessarily punish the competitor. We have well defined procedural penalties and disqualifications outlined in chapter 10 of the rulebook. Penalties for not complying with Division rules in regards to equipment are defined elsewhere in the rulebook.
But what if a competitor does something that you think is wrong when you are the RO? What if you have consulted the rulebook, and there isn’t a rule that fits the perceived offense? Do you make something up and penalize or DQ the competitor? As the RO or CRO on the stage/squad, the answer is always no. If you come across something not covered by the rules, you should always call the RM, even at a local match. If your local match doesn’t have a designated RM, then you need one. Of course that means the RM still has to come to a conclusion, but that is the joy of being a RM: the lovely gray area in the rules that you have to fill using logic and reason based on the rules. Sometimes the call is right, sometimes it’s wrong. But at least the most experienced range official is making the call.
Recently we have seen quite a few rules discussions on different forums and social media where a fair number of ROs have given, or want to give, a DQ or a procedural for something not defined in the rulebook. Their reasoning is that the act was unsafe, or they parse a rule down so far that they are seeing a meaning that doesn’t really exist. Stop it. We only penalize for actions defined in the rulebook. If the competitor did something that isn’t covered in the rules, it is their lucky day. We can’t make up rules on the fly.
NROI often gets emails from members who are unhappy with the Division equipment rules, or think we need a new rule to cover some specific, and usually personal, incident. If you really want to get a rule changed or added, you should contact your Area Director (see the USPSA contact page to see which Area you are in and who your director is). The USPSA BOD has the final say on rule changes. And if you are unsure about the meaning of a rule, don’t hesitate to ask by emailing NROI ([email protected]).