A local instructor is offering free concealed handgun classes for teachers, school staff and day care workers in the Central Texas area.
Johnny Price, owner and instructor of Waco-based Big Iron Concealed Handgun Training, said he has seen an overwhelming response from teachers, school staff and even some administrators eager to take the free classes.
“I think the majority of them have been thinking about it, and been interested in possibly getting their (conceal and carry) license,” said Price, a Texas Department of Public Safety certified instructor. “I think many of them want to see what it’s all about and learn more.”
Price said he decided to offer a class for teachers and other school staff about a week after the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman took the lives of 20 children and six adults before turning the gun on himself.
Price modified his concealed handgun class, tailoring it for teachers and school employees while keeping it in line with the state’s guidelines.
He said the class also covers ways to prepare for and be aware of threats that endanger children, teachers, faculty and staff.
“It isn’t just about the gun, it’s about how to pay attention and read the signs and hopefully avoid having to resort to that level of force,” he said. “They learn about dispute resolution, and how to be alert and read the situation. The gun is just a tool and a last resort.”
Since he began offering the classes, Price said he has had about 400 participants, including teachers from local districts.
Price will instruct about 100 people Sunday from the Academy Independent School District.
Academy Superintendent Kevin Sprinkles said he asked Price to come to Little River-Academy and conduct the class after several teachers, principals and other members of the community asked him to.
“This is something that a lot of people have been interested in doing,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for those staff who are interested and may have contemplated learning more about this.”
Sprinkles said offering the class to staff wasn’t simply a response to concerns raised by the shooting in Connecticut, but another potential tool in the district’s commitment to safety and security.
“We have added things like controlled-access points and taken other security measures over time,” he said. “This is in no way a knee-jerk reaction.”
The discussion of allowing concealed weapons on school campuses has been reignited recently, both after recent shooting incidents and as President Barack Obama publicly presented new recommendations to combat gun violence.
In Texas, some public officials have openly advocated allowing concealed weapons in schools, including Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who called for state-funded firearms training for teachers and administrators to guard against school shootings.
Killeen educator David Bass said he knew of “a few” teachers who had taken advantage of the classes.
Bass, who has a conceal and carry license and is a longtime member of the National Rifle Association, said he was not in favor of allowing teachers to carry firearms in schools.
“I served in two combat zones, and even the most highly trained, professional soldiers can make mistakes,” said Bass, who spent 21 years in the U.S. Army before becoming a teacher.
“If you allow teachers with minimum training to carry weapons in their schools, it’s almost inevitable that mistakes are going to happen.”
Bass suggested that districts should focus on improving school safety and security, and consider adding police officers to their schools.
“I am very comfortable with the police at our schools,” Bass said. “They are very professional and well trained.”
Guns banned in schools
Texas law currently bans guns in schools unless there is written authorization, leaving the decision to allow some staff to carry concealed weapons in the hands of the districts’ governing boards.
Sprinkles said his district has not changed its policy.
Similarly, Killeen ISD, which has its own police force, does not allow teachers or administrators to carry concealed weapons. The board of trustees has no plans to change Killeen’s policy.
“We have not discussed it, nor have we had any inquiry from parents to my knowledge,” said Shelley Wells, the board’s president.
While nearly all of the teachers, school staff and other educators who attend his classes will not be able to carry a weapon in their school even if they complete the state’s concealed handgun requirements, Price said the training could prepare them for the possibility if their school boards decide to change policy.
“The school boards could do that tomorrow if they wanted,” he said. “I’m trying to arm the teachers with knowledge, so that they can be prepared if that happens.”