While a national debate unfolds about whether arming teachers will prevent mass shootings at schools, one North Texas weapons training academy is letting educators test their mettle behind a pistol for free.
"We want to help," said Tim Bulot, owner of Strategic Weapons Academy of Texas in Ennis. The academy recently offered 16 North Texas teachers pistol training during a free session that included how to deal with gunshot trauma.
Bulot said he and his wife came up with the idea during a conversation about arming teachers after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.
The class was called, "Defensive Pistol Training for Teachers." Information about the class spread via social media and word of mouth.
The issue of arming teachers as a way to make schools safer has been at the forefront since the Feb. 14 shootings in Parkland, Florida. President Donald Trump's latest plans for school safety call for providing "rigorous firearms training" for qualified school employees.
While Trump has touted arming teachers as a viable solution, many in the public are skeptical. For example, a recent NPR poll found that 59 percent of Americans oppose training teachers to carry guns.
Bulot, a tactical sergeant with the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office, said for the class everyone left politics at the door and focused on acclimating teachers to handling handguns. They also discussed how the teachers might react in high-stress situation, since many people — even police officers — can react in a way they wouldn't expect.
"We taught them as much as we could," Bulot said. "They learned a lot, but there is a lot more to learn."
Kim Raney, a teacher who attended the class, told CBS 11 that the overall issue of school safety is scary.
"We do our best to have security at our schools, but you never know what's going to happen. And it's better to be prepared than not prepared."
Recent media reports about the class, which was held on Saturday, spurred more interest, said Bulot, who wants to add an intermediate session for teachers who participated in the first one, as well as add another introductory class.
"It just exploded," he said, adding that teachers are calling him for more information. "My inbox is jam-packed with emails from all over the place. They just want to learn."
A key part of the lesson was to let teachers find out whether carrying a weapon is a responsibility they want, Bulot said
Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn said arming teachers is just a starting point into a complicated issue.
"While I am not against arming teachers, I am against overburdening that teacher with a heavier responsibility. Our teachers work hard, whether in private or public school," Waybourn said.
In 2013, after the Sandy Hook mass shooting and before he became sheriff, Waybourn taught a gun course at Kennedale High School. He said about 700 teachers showed up. But not all of them ended up wanting to be armed in their classrooms, he said.
"There were a lot of teachers after that class that told me, 'I don’t need to be carrying the gun. I just realized that.' And that’s part of that training. And I call that success," Waybourn said.
Staff writer Jeff Caplan contributed to this report.