CRYSTAL LAKE — A suburban Chicago gun range is offering free concealed-carry classes for teachers and reports that training slots are filling up quickly.
On Target Range & Tactical Training Center in Crystal Lake announced Tuesday that it is offering free instruction to up to six teachers or other school personnel at each of its concealed carry classes, which it offers about four times a month.
About 30 school employees quickly signed up for the class, and another 50 people called to inquire about it, a sales clerk said. It covers the two-day, 16-hour course required by state law for a license to secretly carry a gun in public.
State law prohibits concealed-carry license holders from bringing guns into schools. But On Target director of operations Tom Dorsch said the classes would prepare school workers in case the law changes.
“We respect what teachers are doing, and we want to at least give them the training,” Dorsch said. “We’re teaching good law-abiding people who are responsible enough to know how to carry a gun and keep it in a safe location.”
Dorsch acknowledged there are risks to having a gun in a crowded school and said the training addresses how to decide whether to use deadly force, along with basic firearm safety and cleaning and carrying a gun. Participants get target practice and run through various scenarios.
Since teachers must be ready for confrontations with or among students, he said, they may decide to keep their weapons locked up rather than carrying them during classes.
Arming teachers as a defense against school shooters has re-emerged as a lightning rod since President Donald Trump endorsed the idea following the shooting that killed 17 people at a Parkland, Fla., school last month.
Teachers unions and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel vehemently opposed the idea, and the head of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police advised it would be better to have professionally trained police and security guards.
On Wednesday, high school students across the nation were walking out of classes to show support for stricter gun control measures, a movement sparked by the Florida shooting.
Elliot Fineman, founder of the National Gun Victims Action Council, a nonprofit group in Chicago, said even trained professionals often miss their targets in gunfights.
“Arming teachers is not the way to go,” he said. “It’s not grounded in reality; it’s a fantasy.”
Fineman, who said his son was killed in 2006 by a mentally ill person who was able to buy a gun after being institutionalized, called for preventive measures like stringent background checks and smart guns, that would only allow authorized users to fire the weapon.
Though the On Target class, normally $225, is free to teachers, participants must have a firearm owner’s identification card, 100 rounds of ammunition, two magazines if using a semi-automatic handgun, a holster and belt and high-traction shoes. On Target will provide a handgun for training to participants who don’t have their own, according to a promotion flier.
Marc Jens, of Concealed Carry Safety for Personal Defense Inc. in Niles, another business that offers gun training, said the classes at On Target were a good start, but without a law allowing teachers to be armed, he said they amount to a “publicity stunt.”
For anyone to prepare for firing a gun in public, he suggested it takes much more training than the 16 hours required by law. For instance, police need a minimum of 40 hours of training in tactical scenarios.
As a retired police instructor, Jens said he favors the use of armed, retired officers and security guards to protect schools.
“I think it’d be a wonderful idea,” he said. “Many of us would be willing to step up. You’d have very trained people.”