An Interview with Attorney Alex Ooley

This month we share a conversation with Network Affiliated Attorney Alex Ooley and discuss his thoughts on reaching younger armed citizens with coaching and education about living armed safely and responsibly in today’s world. For members who prefer streaming video, enjoy our more casual video version at .

eJournal: Alex, thank you for meeting with me. Members, this is Alex Ooley. He’s an attorney in Indiana – what part of Indiana?Ooley Interview

Ooley: Southern Indiana, basically south of Indianapolis but closer to Louisville, Kentucky. Culturally, Southern Indiana is more like Kentucky than the rest of Indiana, so I feel pretty connected to Kentucky, but Indiana is a great state.

eJournal: You’re almost a southern boy, a lawyer, and I think you’ve mentioned in the past you’re an outdoorsman, too. Tell us a little bit about your law practice; help us get to know you a little bit.

Ooley: My father was a first-generation attorney and I followed in his footsteps. I became an attorney in 2017, so I’ve been practicing for about seven years now. I started out primarily in civil practice, doing civil defense work, but I was more interested in the criminal defense world and started doing criminal cases in 2018, a year after I started practicing.

eJournal: What was that colorful comparison you made to civil work before we started the video?

Ooley: I was doing civil defense work and I worked primarily for insurance companies. It was a lot of paper pushing. I compared it to working on a factory floor; like putting together widgets. It was just not interesting to me. There are lots of people who do civil defense and make a good living doing it, but it was not for me.

I was definitely more of the mind that I wanted to protect people’s individual rights in court and there are more opportunities in the criminal context to argue about the constitution, to argue about individual liberty and rights.

eJournal: Your point about “defending people’s constitutional rights” and arguing constitutional issues, reminds me that you host a great podcast I listen to, one that digs deep into issues affecting armed citizens and particularly Network members. Tell us a little bit about your podcasting.

Ooley: I started podcasting as a guest when I connected with Paul Lathrop in the ACLDN booth at the 2019 NRA Annual Meeting in Indianapolis. A number of years later he took over a show for the Second Amendment Foundation, the Bullet, and was looking for guests.

eJournal: I’m pleased that we might have networked that connection.

Ooley: I became a regular guest on his podcast because he knew me from interviewing me in the ACLDN booth. I became a regular guest with Paul for a while. I love talking about firearms-related issues, but I care more broadly about freedom, not just firearms.

eJournal: How did that focus lead you to start The Forge of Freedom?

Ooley: I decided I was going to start my own podcast called The Forge of Freedom and talk about freedom more broadly than guns. That includes constitutional issues; that includes the law; that includes foundational principles about why we believe in freedom and why we should fight for individual rights and individual liberty.

eJournal: I’ve watched a number of your programs that addressed other topics beyond the right to keep and bear arms. I was stunned when you did what I considered a courageous show on jury nullification. For a practicing lawyer, speaking publicly to that topic is not without some risk. Don’t judges hate jury nullification?

Ooley: Judges, prosecutors, and legislators don’t look fondly on jury nullification, but we put the jury on a pedestal. The jury is a hallmark of our legal system. That’s the one thing that distinguishes our system from legal systems worldwide, yet we don’t want to tell the jury about the power that they really have. The jury has the power to nullify, if the jury believes that the law or the facts in the law lead to an unjust result. Juries – and people at large, because it’s supposed to be a jury of our peers – should know the power that they have if they’re going to serve on a jury.

eJournal: While The Forge of Freedom podcast addresses many subjects, it is only one example of your work. In addition to meeting you as a podcast host, we should meet Alex the gun owner and Alex the educator, too. Your family has been involved in firearm safety and personal safety education for how long?

Ooley: Over a decade now. Actually, my parents started our classes. They have some property in Florida, where unlike Indiana, you’re required to go through some training before you can obtain a license to carry a firearm in Florida. They had a difficult time finding what they considered to be quality education or training. My experience has been that it’s more difficult in states that require training because people just sort of flood the market to make money from that process.

We had taken some classes with the late Tiger McKee who ran Shootrite in Alabama; we took some classes with Massad Ayoob, and we took some classes with Gunsite. As we really started training, we were getting the confidence that we believe an instructor should have, but then we also got our NRA certification to teach basic pistol courses so that we can give certificates from a reputable organization. The NRA’s Training Division has always been reputable because training has been the NRA’s primary focus since they were founded.

One thing people don’t know about the NRA is that the association was founded as a training organization and training has been a focus of their mission since the beginning. After the Civil War there were some captains who were not satisfied with the marksmanship of their soldiers. They founded the NRA for the purpose of improving marksmanship among the general population and the NRA has carried on that mission ever since.

eJournal: What an appropriate observation, considering that we’re videoing at the National Rifle Association Annual Meeting! I think we get lost in the politicking and forget the history and why the NRA was founded. So, you and your folks got your instructor certifications, and you started teaching…

Ooley: We started teaching in Indiana. I wasn’t sure what to expect when we started out. As I said, Indiana does not have a training requirement. It’s nice because you get to teach people who really want the training. They’re not there just to get a license or just to get a certificate, so the quality of the students, the interest of the students, was really top-notch. That was a blessing.

eJournal: You reached committed people who wanted to know what you knew.

Ooley: They wanted to be responsible armed citizens which is what we want for every gun owner.

eJournal: One of the things that I value about knowing you is you’re in a completely different age cohort than I am. It’s awfully easy for people my age to address problems by saying, “We’ve always done it this way. This has worked. This has been successful,” but then we wonder why our younger students aren’t learning. Why aren’t they coming to classes? That raises a bigger question that, I think, should start with an exploration of the defense priorities of the younger generation.

I think we should be concerned about our millennials. This age group has got their careers started so has some income, but it takes a commitment to budget for classes. I sometimes wonder how people are affording to take classes right now. I also suspect that there are demographic factors that may make us less effective than we would like to be because we don’t even know what you need to know!

Ooley: There’s a messaging issue that needs to be sorted out that I haven’t yet exactly figured out myself. Part of it is that the younger generation, and my generation included, hasn’t been brought up with a sense that they personally need to take responsibility for their own life and the life of the people that they love and, if they have children, raise.

We really need to emphasize personal responsibility and the message that, while police often do a great job, they can’t be everywhere all the time, so you are your own first responder. A lot of people spread that message effectively, but at the same time I think that it’s tough to reach that younger audience. A lot of times, you’re not going to reach them through long-form video; it may be through short form video.

eJournal: It raises questions about communication styles and how we format classes, but first, I wonder if we need a PR firm to market the benefits of personal responsibility? If somebody else always carries the water and you drink it, what’s in it for you to carry water?

Ooley: I think that’s a vicious spiral we need to get out of. We need to encourage people to get out of that cycle and to take responsibility for themselves and their loved ones.

eJournal: You and your brother were the sons of military officers. I expect that there were demands made in your family that weren’t made in some other families. Maybe because of my age and being raised in a ranching family I had work as a child and felt good about doing it. I’m looking for the hook. How do we convince the millennial that taking responsibility is rewarding? Scare tactics aren’t convincing. “You’re going to die if you don’t do this” is not a very good hook.

Ooley: This is a timely conversation. I’ve been watching David Yamane’s presentation; he gave a free class here at the NRA Annual Meeting. He’s the author of the book Gun Curious and blogs at Gun Culture 2.0. He teaches university students. He takes them to the range to give them a taste of what it’s like to be a gun owner, what it’s like to have a firearm.

I think that if people get a sense for what personal responsibility is, it empowers them. I think that they need to get that experience. If they’re not getting the experience of responsibility at home when they’re being raised, as gun owners we need to be more evangelical and invite people to the range.

eJournal: Invite them to come to training even if intro classes are offered a discounted rate because I think once they get a taste of what it’s like to have personal responsibility, there’s no looking back.

Ooley: That’s true whether it’s gun ownership or maybe raising a family or growing your own garden. It’s really empowering.

eJournal: I like how the experiential aspect can be as simple as what Dr. Yamane does when he takes students to the range and lets them behave safely with firearms. He let them feel it, instead of reading or hearing a lecture about the value of personal responsibility.

In addition to the psychological or mental side, do you think that there are differences in the threats we face at different stages in our lives? I’m sure you are out in public a lot more than I am, for example, just because we are at different stages in our lives, but for what dangers do you and your generation need to prepare? Is it different than the generation Marty and I are from, or from your dad and mom’s age group? Do you see differences in the threats?

Ooley: I think it is obvious that society is changing. While there has always been violence in the world – terrible violence –now it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish between who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. You’ve talked about this at the Network a number of times before in the context of a riot. I mean, riots seem to be everywhere these days! You see them left and right on the news. I think you need to be prepared to avoid those situations if you can, but also prepared by knowing what your responsibilities are to protect yourself, and not only physically, but legally. I think that’s a context that really didn’t exist or wasn’t as prevalent 20-30 years ago.

eJournal: You’re right, so not only is the degree of exposure greater for you, but the risk is also different. How interesting that you mentioned the legal concerns and even just being unable to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. Is there more ambiguity for people? No one’s sure! There’s even the push back from your own age group that may make you out to be the bad guy if you take a stand, let alone, if you use force in self defense! How do you deal with that?

Ooley: The cultural environment is much different. You have to be worried about what the jury of your peers is going to think even if you do act completely justifiably. The view of guns by and large is not as favorable in some environments these days.

eJournal: Is that especially true for your younger age group? Is it worse?

Ooley: Not in Southern Indiana, but it is in downtown Indianapolis and Marion County, Indiana. There, I think, the view of guns is much less favorable.

eJournal: Knowing about that ambiguity, you would even wonder what are the witness statements going to be like? So, reaching younger people continues to be a PR problem. Returning to the way we teach, when you spoke of long form or short form video, I thought of Greg Ellifritz’s blog. He mentioned in one Weekend Knowledge Dump that the attention span was greatly decreased. How are you structuring classes if you’re teaching your age group or maybe Gen Z students? How would you structure your presentation? Are we losing them with our hour and a half video on use of deadly force in self defense?

Ooley: There’s got to be an effective way to funnel people to that long-form content because I don’t think you can convey an effective message in 30 seconds or 60 seconds. I think you have to be able to utilize short-form content to set the hook, to funnel them to the longer form content. That’s the model that has to be used to reach the people who have the shorter attention span.

eJournal: We need professional communicators – like you – to show us how to do that. I agree, even if we’re teaching gun safety, although this applies much, much more if we’re teaching legal aftermath, the KISS principle does not work. As Massad Ayoob taught us many, many years ago: It’s not simple and we’re not stupid. We’ve got folks who are used to getting everything they needed to know in six short bullet points, right? and I just don’t know how to get past that!

Ooley: This is something else I’ve been thinking a lot about with The Forge of Freedom podcast. I went to a government school, a public school, but we’ve all been conditioned to hear information, regurgitate it, and not engage in critical thinking at all. Maybe we need to somehow capture that sort of conditioning for the beginning part of the funnel. You see lots of social media that starts by asking, “What do you think about this issue?” and gives you options. When we do that, we’re eliciting engagement and then you get them to think more critically about the issues after you get that initial engagement.

eJournal: This is worth following up because I think losing our listeners’ attention is a real issue. At in-person gun classes, it’s pretty easy to engage with the students even if you have to ask, “Hey, second guy in the back row, what do you do about X?” right? He’s pretty much on the spot; he’s going to answer you. At the same time, we’ve seen also quite a turn toward virtual learning. Because the Network serves a national membership, a lot of our material has to be delivered virtually. The Forge of Freedom is delivered virtually, too.

I don’t know where post-COVID public education is going to take us – maybe into more remote classrooms and virtual learning – but you’re right the school system is where people are programmed and conditioned to take in material. We had better figure that out because when you’re my age, I want you to be the person here in this chair or whatever is the equivalent, getting the message to the millennials, Gen Z people and to the Gen Alpha to come next. We’ll follow up and keep exploring your thinking in that regard.

Ooley: I’m trying to figure this out myself and I’m asking what is the most effective way to reach people? I think that the Network has a great message about responsible gun ownership, which is what we want all gun owners to be, and so I think it’s important to spread that message.

eJournal: An example I used when asking you to speak with me on this topic bears relating for our readers and listeners. About a year ago, I was part of a group conversation in which a gentleman – a very good man who would be considered Gen X – dissented when another praised the work of Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman. My Gen X friend said, “People my age grew up playing video games and we didn’t all turn into mass murderers.” Kind of a throwing-out-the-baby-with-the-bath-water thing happened when my friend debunked the work of one very influential voice on whom many of us have relied for decades. If nothing else, it showed me that sometimes what I think is the most righteous thing in the world can be a real turn off to other people. That brought me up short, I must admit. The conversation really brought me up short.

Ooley: I have some thoughts on it because I really enjoy hearing Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman speak. I think his books On Combat and On Killing are amazing. He’s really an impressive person. I think his point about video games is well taken, but this generational point that you’re making highlights the discrepancy that we’re trying to resolve.

The older generation assumes that the younger generation has already been taught a certain set of values and character and a certain way of living. I think that that’s why the Gen X person you talked to thinks, “Hey, we played video games and none of us turned out to be mass murderers.” They were raised with a certain set of values and a certain moral foundation.

They’re not understanding that we have more broken families, and fewer people who believe in a Higher Being whether that’s Christian beliefs, God or whatever, you know? I think that people often lack a moral compass. We need to take that into account when we’re trying to communicate with the younger generation, as well. Maybe they don’t have the same set of values that we assume that they should have.

eJournal: Do you see in your own age cohort that the values that have led you to become the successful young father and attorney that you are, that those values aren’t present in the people that you went to college with? Are they floundering a little?

Ooley: I think so, and it primarily stems from a lack of a classical education. You know, it used to be that people would study not only the Bible, but they would also study classics from Greek literature, poetry, and things like that. You can learn so much from the classics about what it means to be a good human being.

I think that’s missing today and so a lot of the younger generation are trying to figure it out, but don’t have the guiding compass that some of the older generations had. I think that’s why something like video games may have a greater effect on that generation than it did on the older generation. That’s just my hypothesis. I’m not a psychologist. I was a philosophy major, and I have a law degree, so I have no expertise in psychology.

eJournal: We’re all trying to feel our way through this; we’re trying to work our way through the smoke. I do think having these kinds of discussions better prepares us to connect with younger people. I really respect the young man that you’ve grown into, and yours is the kind of success we’d like to see in the generations coming up behind us. Thank you for being part of the Network. Thank you for being an inspiration to us. As you figure these things out, I hope you’ll get in touch with me. I want to know the answers.

Ooley: It’s a group project; let’s help each other out.

eJournal: It took a lot of us to get us to this point; no single guy’s going to fix the problems. Any final takeaways you’d like members to think about?

Ooley: ACLDN has been in the business for a while. There have been lots of competitors crop up in those years and there’s been a lot of discussion online about which one’s better and which one’s worse. I will just tell readers and viewers that I’ve been a member of ACLDN for quite a while. I’m an affiliated attorney so I do have some relationship with the Network, but Network membership is meant for people who want to be those responsibly armed citizens we’ve been talking about. Network President Marty Hayes has said so many times that we don’t want to have members who engage in criminal activity.

We provide educational content, whether that’s through the Network journal or the videos and the literature that you get when you sign up for the membership, or the journal’s attorney question of the month, because we want to encourage people to learn as much as they can, so that they can act responsibly. Then, if they are faced with that deadly threat, they can act justifiably. I think the Network does a great job doing that. I definitely think that people should consider joining for that reason.

eJournal: Thank you, that means a lot. We’re in this together!

About Alex Ooley: A Network affiliated attorney since the spring of 2017, Alex is a passionate advocate for liberty and the Second Amendment, who has helped numerous clients protect and restore their gun rights. He represents the accused in a wide range of cases, including self-defense and gun-related cases. He and his father operate Ooley Law ( in Borden, Indiana. Alex is the creator and host of The Forge of Freedom podcast ( and is a certified firearms instructor.

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