Armed teachers can save lives. While The People of the Gun know this, others who are less familiar with firearms don’t always recognize this simple truth. Forty open-minded Illinois school teachers and staff members participated in a free concealed carry course this past weekend to learn more about guns and gun safety. And, of course, how guns save life.
The Land of Lincoln’s gun rights group Guns Save Life sponsored the free opportunity for school staff, along with the DeWitt County Sportsman’s Club which donated the facilities. GSL Defense Training organized the class in the weeks following the Parkland, Florida school massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The timing seemed right in light of increased discussions both locally and nationally of arming more good guys with guns to protect America’s children during school shootings. We thought of it as a whole new sort of professional development for education professionals, countering an active shooter, just in time for back-to-school.
Sixteen GSL Defense Training instructors, including myself, along with five other Illinois State Police-approved guest instructors volunteered to instruct and coach. Forty school employees, who were not law enforcement or police officers, showed up, and thirty-nine graduated (we lost one student due to illness on the second day).
During introductions, we learned that the participants ranged from a school bus driver to an administrator. Elementary school, middle school and high school teachers made up the bulk of those present. One private school alone sent almost a dozen teachers, but most came from public schools. A few other school districts sent more than one. The vast majority of participants didn’t own a firearm. About a third of them had never fired a gun.
Even though few had familiarity with any sort of firearms, experienced red-shirted instructors remained no more than an arm’s length away to coach, assist and encourage safe learning.
Most notably — and much to Michael Bloomberg’s chagrin — those educators now no longer belong to the “never fired a gun” fraternity. In fact, they all gained the experience of firing 250 rounds over two days.
After introductions, these rookies learned basic gun safety, how handguns work, gun and ammo selection and a whole lot more. From there, we took them out to dry fire and discussed some entry-level tactics.
Later, GSL Defense Training attorney-instructors educated them about gun laws, self-defense law and Illinois’ complicated concealed carry act. Other lectures covered home and personal defense strategies, situational awareness and post-shooting interventions. Oh yes, and gun cleaning, too.
Attendees went from the classroom to the range and back, keeping them awake, alert, and drinking from a firehose of knowledge at every stop.
Instructors patiently worked with the new shooters, and refined the skill sets of those who had brought their own guns.
By the second day, participants and instructors alike witnessed a huge change from just a day before. The transformation proved obvious to all.
Not only did students lose their fear of an inanimate object, they gained a sense of empowerment.
We even brought in local Circuit Court Judge Randy Rosenbaum to discuss the real-world application of the law and to take questions. From there, they headed back outside to engage discrimination targets, employing their new skill sets.
Of course, the dreaded qualification came late Sunday.
All passed with flying colors. In fact, a majority scored a perfect 30 out of 30. Even the English teacher who had never pulled a trigger before.
Danielle, another first-time shooter pictured above, aced the qualification.
So what did these mostly non-gun owners think of their experience shooting? As class wound down, a teacher stood up to say, “I’ve taught for 26 years now and this is easily, by far the best teacher appreciation gift I’ve ever received!” The others applauded in agreement.
From a few of the evaluations:
Please tell us something we did well: “Wow! Everything! …All off the instructors are fantastic teachers. I have acquired new skills and confidence. I now know that I can protect myself and my family!”
“This was an outstanding class with knowledgeable and patient instructors and staff. Thanks for the teacher training.”
“The number of trainers out on the range shooting portions was very helpful and reassuring for inexperienced shooters. The class was also enjoyable and engaging. Great course! Very helpful and I really appreciate all of you volunteering to host us!”
Please tell us something we did well: “You took away the intimidation factor! Friendly, relaxed atmosphere yet stressed the importance of safety and proper handling techniques. Overall awesome experience. Thank you!”
“Best weekend I’ve had in a long time.”
Please tell us something we did well: “Making me feel comfortable with my mistakes, but also making it safe. The one-on. -one attention and critique was helpful in correcting my errors. Also, the fun atmosphere was AWESOME!”
“Instructors were excellent! Always friendly and helpful. I wish my bootcamp was so helpful and professional! Great learning environment. …Explanation and demonstration was awesome.”
How do you feel this course could be improved: “I wish we could have had more range time, especially the simulated pressure (yelling at us, etc.)”
We only fired 250 rounds…
“…Seriously – the BEST instructors that put you at ease. Fantastic course!”
“After this weekend, I feel much more comfortable with handguns and the laws about them.”
“Good balance between times of educational and experiential learning. It might be improved by taking another day or two to cover the material… Great instructors and a great overall experience.”
Shannon Watts, Gabby Giffords and the like depend on people who are unfamiliar with and afraid of guns. Gun control in general depends on fear and misinformation.
This weekend, we took the mystery out of guns for these roughly three dozen teachers. What’s more, we expect they will share their positive experience with their friends, family and fellow school staff members. And they’re now better equipped to protect their students.
All of which stands as more bad news for those who would like nothing more than to strip Americans of their gun rights.
John Boch is executive director of Guns Save Life.