A preacher, teachers and guns are not a combination that usually comes to mind, but on Saturday, Feb. 2, this was indeed the case. James McAbee, pastor of Lighthouse Worship Center in Beaumont, offered a free Concealed Handgun License course to around 150 teachers from the Southeast Texas area. McAbee usually charges $50 for the course but waived the fee for educators.
“These aren’t ‘Little House on the Prairie’ days anymore,” McAbee said. “(Teachers) are the first in line for defense. If our teachers can conceal a firearm, and if the law, superintendents and school board decide to give them permission, I want to give them a free CHL and get them prepared.”
McAbee said that he was inspired to become a CHL instructor after two men broke into his church and tried to stab him with a broken 2x4.
“They tried to take my life, and I had to hold them at gunpoint,” he said.
Deana Bunting, a Vidor High School nurse who attended the class, was also the victim of a break-in when someone entered her house while her husband was not home. She was alone with her three children.
“It was a very scary situation,” Bunting said. “I didn’t have a way to defend myself.”
Bunting said the intruder fled after the alarm system went off and although she wasn’t harmed, the incident inspired her to learn how to defend herself with a firearm.
“I started practicing shooting at that point,” she said. “I went to a gun range with a friend. I just want to be able to protect my family and myself if anything happens. We live in a crazy world.”
Bunting said that she is unsure if Vidor Independent School District will allow teachers to carry weapons, but she would not be against it if they decide to do so in the future.
“I don’t think teachers are a danger to the students in any way, shape or form,” Bunting said.
Sgt. Danny Moore from Beaumont ISD Police Department said, however, that as of now, there is a state law prohibiting teachers from doing so.
“You can’t carry a concealed weapon into a school, sporting event, place of worship or hospital,” Moore said. “This is part of the law regarding the concealed handgun license and also applies to UIL events. As far as the parking lot, that’s up to the employer. We’re not going to search vehicles unless we have probable cause to.”
But Anna Riley, a theatre teacher from Central High School in Beaumont, said she believes that some form of protection is needed for teachers and students.
“My district allows police on campus, so we have a little protection, but other districts don’t,” she said. “I believe those schools do need some form of protection.”
Riley said that schools should have some way of locking the school down, much like is done at a prison.
“It’s kind of sad, but I don’t know other ways to protect our kids,” she said. “My school locks the gate so people can only go in and out of the front office area. I don’t know if that’s good for the kids to be imprisoned like that, but it’s a form of protection.”
Mike Buffington, a driver’s education instructor from Lumberton ISD, said, guns should be kept out of reach of students.
“That gun should be on the teacher’s person or locked away in a very secure place,” he said.
Other measures besides arming teachers should be implemented by school districts as well, Buffington said.
“Some schools are using metal detectors,” he said. “Doors need to be locked. You have to have a more secure environment.”
Buffington did say that even with these measures in place, no school would be perfectly secure.
While it is unclear whether teachers will ever be able to carry concealed handguns on campus, the debate as to whether they should be able to will continue, and the many waves of teachers who showed up to Dirty Harry’s Gun Range in Orange will be prepared just in case.