Last Updated:October 30 @ 05:39 pm

Palm Beach County teachers seeking gun training, permits

By The Palm Beach Post

Following last month's fatal shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, gun ranges throughout Palm Beach County -- and the country -- are reporting an increase in teachers coming in for gun training and concealed weapons permits.

Some may see it as an unorthodox response to the Sandy Hook tragedy, given that Florida law still bars teachers and others from carrying firearms on school grounds. But local gun shops say the uptick is a natural response.

"With that tragic incident, I think there's a lot of people that are scared," said Joe Rice, a manager at the Palm Beach Shooting Center in Lake Worth.

The indoor gun range and store has begun offering free concealed weapons classes -- normally $75 -- to teachers who bring in their school IDs.

"After the tragic incident a couple of weeks ago, we saw somewhere in the news that another shop in Texas was offering (free classes to teachers), so we decided to offer the same thing," Rice said.

Already more than 20 teachers have taken advantage of the deal, he said. Some were experienced shooters motivated by the free offer, but the majority were first-timers. And some, he said, referenced the Sandy Hook shooting as a reason they came in.

It's understandable why gun ranges may be seeing an uptick in the numbers of teachers coming in, said Palm Beach County School Board member Jenny Prior Brown.

"It's frightening to be a member of a profession that's just been attacked," Brown said. "It is a terrible feeling to feel helpless. Is it surprising they would go and get firearms even if they can't bring them on school property? No."

Florida state law prohibits people from carrying firearms on school property, with few exceptions. The Palm Beach County School District further says that firearms are not allowed in vehicles parked on any school property, or at any school-sanctioned event.

But in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, some, including some legislators across the country, have suggested that allowing teachers to carry weapons is a discussion worth having.

On Saturday, teacher Rama Holtzman donned safety glasses and ear protection, and spent one of his last days of winter break at the Palm Beach Shooting Center to take his first turn at holding and using a gun.

"Have you ever shot before?" asked Chuck Papp, an instructor.

Holtzman shook his head no.

But within minutes,the fifth-grade teacher at South Grade Elementary in Lake Worth had made several clean shots through a target -- including one shot on the bull's-eye -- and had qualified for his concealed weapons permit.

Holtzman said he's been interested for a while now in learning how to shoot, but said the Connecticut shooting "expedited my decision ... to learn how to handle a gun."

If he turns in all his paperwork, Holtzman will join more than 1 million Floridians with concealed weapons permits.

But Holtzman said he's not sure he'll end up buying a gun. He's also not sure how he feels about teachers being allowed to carry weapons on campus.

"I'm not necessarily against the idea of teachers having guns in the classroom," Holtzman said. "I wouldn't do it because it seems a bit outrageous to me."

Others feel differently.

The Delray Shooting Center is looking into the possibility of opening up its classrooms to the Armed Teacher Training Program, a free class being offered by the Buckeye Firearms Association in Ohio.

More than 600 teachers in multiple states, including Florida, have expressed interest in the class, according to a press release from the association.

The class will go over not only the fundamentals of shooting and marksmanship but will also teach some first-aid skills and will help teachers "change their mind-set" about being able to fight back, said Jim Irvine, one of the founders of the association.

"We've had a wealth of requests over the country to share the curriculum and what we're doing," Irvine said, although he added that the association is still "working through things" before it holds its first class.

In the meantime, the Delray center is seeing an increase in teachers coming in.

"I think it has to do with Sandy Hook," said Mike Caruso Jr., the owner's son. He said he's seen a growth in the number of people coming in overall, but that he's especially noticed more teachers coming in.

"That always happens after a mass shooting," he said. "After the Aurora shooting, it was the same thing."

Indeed, sales at gun stores spiked across the nation following the Dec. 14 Connecticut shooting.

Florida set a record for gun purchases last year, with December setting a record for highest number of background checks for guns in a single month, according to numbers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

While the idea of teachers carrying firearms continues to be debated as the new year starts, Palm Beach Shooting Center employee Johnpaul Parkerson has his mind made up.

"Think of the poor teacher of Sandy Hook. She shielded those kids with her body," Parkerson said. "What if she had had a weapon? I'd rather be alive and deal with the consequences later of having a gun with me at school."

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(c)2013 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.)

Visit The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.) at www.palmbeachpost.com

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6 Comments

  1. Allen SComment by Allen S
    January 9, 2013 @ 10:56 am

    Every school needs teachers who are willing to go through gun training and are willing to carry and be ready for any attack on their school. We live in a time when too many people have turned away from the teaching of God’s Word and our society is as Timothy wrote…
    I Timothy 6:3-7 If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. (Also read the whole chapter)

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  3. CharlieComment by vietnamvet
    January 9, 2013 @ 12:55 pm

    Aren’t teachers American citizens, and covered by the Constitution?
    Is it not unconstitutional to deny them the right guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment?

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  4. susieqComment by susieq
    January 9, 2013 @ 1:03 pm

    All of these laws…permits…what is the disease of spirit that compels people to do what they do??? Does modern medicine with all of their inept explanations have an answer to that? I think not.

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  5. petersenonmainComment by petersenonmain
    January 9, 2013 @ 5:34 pm

    They should pass a law that all school personal that want to and can pass a background check have the opportunity to carry a concealed weapon and that information would be keep secret and not public record. The reason for the anonymity is so the crazies won’t know who has a gun. You have to admit that it would take a real nut to take a chance of walking into a place where a possibility of facing 20 or more armed citizens are willing to shot your but. As a matter of fact if you read Lott’s book More Guns Less Crime you will note that crime falls off almost as soon as a concealed carry law is passed even though not that many permits have been given out. In other words if there is a possibility of getting your butt blown off you have a tendency to think a little longer before you do something stupid.

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  6. davnkatzComment by davnkatz
    January 9, 2013 @ 11:13 pm

    I’ve said it before and will keep on saying it. At that elementary school, if just ONE teacher or administrative had been trained and licensed and had his gun at school to confront the shooter as he was breaking glass and shooting off the door lock, there would NOT have been 20 children and 6 adults. There would hAVE been 2 ADULTS DEAD – THE SHOOTER AND HIS MOTHER WHOM HE KILLED EARLIER. In all those other schools and colleges, the same thing.

    Fact is, just knowing people MIGHT have a gun and willing to use it is enough to prevent criminals from doing their dirty deeds.

    When I returned from Vietnam, a carload of punks tried forcing me off the road. Pretty darn sure they had no intention of thanking me for my service. A couple of shots into the hood of their car ended that venture, what ever their intention was.

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    • KBBComment by KBB
      January 15, 2013 @ 2:19 am

      davnkatz, agree with you 100%. It makes me nervous to go into a movie theater (or any other place) that has a sign posted saying “firearms are forbidden in this establishment”. Patrons would be safer if there were no sign posted at all. Let the nutcases wonder. BTW, thank you for your service.

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