Gilberton Borough, Pa. Police Chief Mark Kessler and James Yeager, the CEO of Tennessee-based “firearms and tactical training” center Tactical Response, have become friends since they both achieved notoriety and followings among gun rights activists for their inflammatory online videos.Kessler may lose his job due to the the series of clips he filmed in which he railed against “libtards” and Democratic politicians while firing automatic weapons. On Aug. 30, the Gilberton City Council voted to suspend Kessler indefinitely because the weapons he used in his clips were town property.
Likewise, Yeager became famous earlier this year and briefly had his gun permit taken away after he posted an online video in which he he threatened to “start killing people” if President Obama took executive action on gun control.
The experiences have brought the two men together, and Kessler told TPM in an interview on Wednesday they are now friends. In fact, as he waits to figure out if he will lose his job, Kessler has even followed in Yeager’s footsteps by trying to make money teaching people how to shoot guns. He has begun advertising “a Beginners pistol course” on his website.
Kessler also has something of a working relationship with Yeager. His site encourages students to come to him if they are “beginners,” but it suggests “advanced firearm people” contact Yeager’s company. The posting even led to a blog post this week from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups and extremists, that claimed Kessler would be working working for Yeager’s company. However, Kessler said in an interview with TPM that he’s “not working with” Yeager.
Kessler and Yeager met in person last month when Yeager was in Pennsylvania to teach a “fighting pistol” and “fighting rifle” class.
“James is more tactical. He teaches more tactical training. … We just went out to eat dinner and that was it, chit chat. But I stay in touch with him a lot, and I told him, I said, ‘You don’t mind if I refer people to you who look — who come to me and want more advanced training,'” Kessler said. “He’s like, ‘No, go — absolutely not. Go ahead.’ So, I like — I don’t get nothing out of it. … I don’t get kickback, or he doesn’t pay me per person for referring people.”
During Yeager’s trip to the Keystone State, he also taped an appearance on Kessler’s podcast. The two men discussed their favorite types of bullets, among other things. Yeager, who has worked as a police officer and as a security contractor in Iraq, said his preferred round is the 9mm.
“Nine millimeter is lethal,” said Yeager. “Everybody I’ve shot with a 9mm died.”
Yeager did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
Kessler’s first class is scheduled to be held Oct. 5, but his site said he plans to hold “more courses on a regular bases (sic).” Though he wouldn’t say specifically how many students have signed up, Kessler told TPM on Wednesday he has been getting substantial interest in the training course, which costs $300.
“I’ve got a lot of interest, I could tell you that, from pretty much all walks of life. To tell you the truth, I mean males, females, you know, straight, non-straight people,” Kessler said. “That’s another myth. … Everybody thinks I’m a true believer. … I’ll put it this way, I’m Catholic OK? I was born and raised Catholic and, you know, I’ll always believe in that, you know, a man and a woman, OK? But, hey, I don’t care who loves who. That’s none of my business and it’s none of the government’s business either.”
Though his videos showed Kessler shooting at pictures he identified as Secretary of State John Kerry and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Kessler said anyone can attend his classes. In general he feels he has been unfairly demonized as a “big, bad monster.”
“I’m not even a conservative. I do not even consider myself a conservative. I consider myself a libertarian and a constitutionalist. … I’m really different. I have different views than your — than the left and the right. You know? I agree with some of the stuff from the left and I agree with some of the stuff on the right, but I kind of go in the middle,” explained Kessler. “The only people that I have a problem with are the people who want to take our rights away, whether it be free speech, or our right to bear arms, or, you know, violate the Fourth Amendment.”
Though Kessler has been suspended indefinitely, local officials have not made a final decision about his job. That will come after Kessler’s attorney meets with officials at an as-yet-undetermined date. Kessler said he does not know what will happen.
“I just have to wait and see what the attorneys are going to do. … It’s just a lot of stress on me and my family, my wife and my kids,” said Kessler. “It is what it is. Yeah, I did do the videos and they were up for weeks prior to all the attention. … I just got to deal with it now. If I lose my job, I’m a true believer one door closes, another one will open.”