Wasatch Front teachers had their concealed-weapons crash course over Christmas. Now, five months after the Sandy Hook slayings, Utah’s leading gun lobby is offering a second concealed-training session for educators who plan to carry guns on campus — this time in St. George and with a live ammo shooting range.
The Utah Shooting Sports Council will put on this weekend’s gun school for free, saying it wants to help all school employees better protect their students and themselves. Similar classes have drawn fresh interest across the nation since the Dec. 14 slaughter of 20 first-graders in Newtown, Conn., and the subsequent National Rifle Association call for armed teachers to tighten security.
That message resonated for Melanie Spencer, a special education aide at Valley High School in Orderville, who plans to attend the weekend course, get a permit and carry a gun to school.
“I want to go I guess to be prepared in case we have any crisis in our school,” says Spencer, an Orderville native whose experience with guns comes mostly from the annual deer hunt. “We don’t have a lot of problems here, but it could happen here.”
The session opens Friday evening at the Dixie Center, where attendees will learn how to handle a firearm, how to load and unload, and the highlights of Utah’s handgun and use-of-force laws. On Saturday, certified range-safety instructors will provide guns and ammo for any educator who wants to squeeze off some rounds at the Southern Utah Shooting Sports Park. Attendees are encouraged to pack their own guns and accessories, but plenty of extras will be on hand.
“We’re not arming teachers, we’re educating teachers,” explains Clark Aposhian, the council chairman and a tactical firearm instructor. He says the majority of people registered hail from Kanab, Kanarraville, Cedar City, St. George and Hurricane. “We’re expecting to fill it up.”
The Dixie Center lists the estimated number of attendees at 200. Aposhian says roughly 70 have signed up, but he expects more.
“If it’s anything like the last one … ” Aposhian says, turning his focus to media interest. “We’ve had requests from international media. I’ve never used Skype so much for interviews.” Aposhian says the two-day event has drawn inquiries from Ireland, Australia, Japan, Russia, Venezuela, Canada and the United Kingdom. The council’s Dec. 27 concealed-carry class at the Maverik Center filled to capacity and captured widespread news interest.
“The international media thinks it strange that teachers can carry handguns,” Aposhian adds. “They may think it’s the Wild West. But when they actually look at the videos and the pictures of primarily women, it pretty much erases that stereotype. These are not flag-waving, Second Amendment-reciting activists. These are teachers, first and foremost, who want the ability — that extra option — to protect themselves.”
Besides Kansas, Utah is the only state that allows concealed weapons permit holders to holster firearms on school grounds, according to the USSC.
Both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers argue arming teachers won’t boost school safety, saying “guns have no place in our schools.” The teachers unions prefer to target mental-health services and bullying prevention.
Teachers from Magna to Midvale said they attended December’s gun class to be better prepared and better protectors. But Stan Holmes, a member of Utah Parents Against Gun Violence who wraps a 30-year teaching career at Alta High this month, calls arming educators “ridiculous.”
“That would be a policeman’s worst nightmare.”
Learning on the range
O The Utah Shooting Sports Council is hosting a free concealed-carry weapons permit class this weekend for Utah teachers and school staff. The event, which has drawn interest from at least 70 educators and international media, will be held in St. George.
Friday • Dixie Center, 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Saturday • Southern Utah Shooting Sports Park, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• Register online at bit.ly/gunteach