VIDEO: Teachers Wield Weapons At Safety Harbor Training Course

One hundred Pinellas County educators received a free concealed weapons course courtesy of a licensed firearms instructor on Saturday.

Teachers of all ages, races, genders and grade levels came to Safety Harbor on Saturday to become students for a day, participating in a free concealed weapons course conducted by a Clearwater firearms instructor. 

Lenny Bogdanos, owner of International Protection Agency and head of the after school karate program for Pinellas County schools, conducted the course as a favor to his teacher friends, though he never expected the turnout the offer generated.

After sending a message out on his Facebook account, Bogdanos began receiving responses at an impressive clip — hundreds of emails and voicemails per day; the response forced him to split the class into two groups of 100 to be held over two weekends. 

“The turnout was overwhelming,” Bogdanos said during a break in the training. “They’re all good sports, they’re enjoying it, they’re listening, they’re taking it all in.” 

“The response has been awesome.”

The four-hour course was held at the Safety Harbor VFW Post #10093 in order to accommodate the larger-than-expected crowd. 

The participants, all Pinellas County educators, had to sit through a lengthy seminar on gun safety conducted by a Pinellas County law enforcement official that covered everything from how to handle a firearm to whether or not to tell your kids you have a gun. 

During the training, Bogdanos and other licensed instructors took groups of 10 teachers out back to make sure they knew how to load, unload and, yes, fire a gun. 

“Having a good instructor is like having a coach when you fight,” Bogdanos said. “If you can get your coach to pre-frame you properly, you’re going to have … a much more relaxed environment so they can think better.” 

Upon completing the class, each participant will be able to get a concealed firearms permit from the state of Florida, a process that can take up to eight weeks, according to Bogdanos.

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Two questions hung over the class: why take the course, and should educators be allowed to carry firearms on campus in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy? 

When asked, the teachers gave varying answers. 

“It all started with Sandy Hook,” East Lake High School special ed instructor Nancy Napierala said. “I think teachers should know what they’re doing when it comes to protecting themselves.

“If properly trained, I absolutely believe we should be able to carry firearms on campus.”

Safety Harbor Middle School teacher Jeanne Gagliardo, who is married to a retired New York City cop, had a different take on the subject.

“I’ve been around guns for a long time, so I felt it was time to learn how to use one,” she said. “But I don’t think we should have them at school, even if they make a law saying we can.” 

“I don’t think it’s a good idea. I mean, why would we? It’s dangerous.”

Meanwhile Alicia Mears, who came with a group of teachers from Forest Lakes Elementary in Oldsmar, said she sits squarely on the fence when it comes to the subject of teachers being armed in school.

“I’m neutral,” she said. “I wouldn’t do it, but if some teachers wanted to, I wouldn’t be opposed to it.” 

No matter where they stood on the issue of guns on campus, everyone asked said they were attending the class for one reason: to be better educated in the area of self-protection. 

“I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, but recent events made it more important to me,” said Terri Cunningham of Oak Grove Middle School. 

“I mean we’re teachers. It’s all about getting more education.”

Bogdanos said he will host another class next week, and he has been asked to conduct a similar course in Hillsborough County, if he can handle all the work.

"I'm running out of weekends and time to do this," he said. "It's been exhausting." 

For more information on Bogdanos and the concealed weapons classes, visit his company's website, internationalep.com.

Jeffrey Rosenfield February 18, 2013 at 07:50 PM
Good point Michael. As many of those we spoke to said, this was more about education than wanting to go purchase a gun. Although some did say that as well.
David Conkle February 18, 2013 at 09:35 PM
Perhaps one of our Republican Legislators should institute a bill requiring a law that all citizens must carry firearms on their persons at all times. Life would become survival of the best shot or better armed. We could thin the herd out, so to speak. And by the way, where are all the pro-lifers when it comes to deaths by gun violence? Yeah, let's arm all the teachers in every class room in America, bet the students will really sit up and listen then.
Dan Pressler February 18, 2013 at 10:05 PM
David - Properly Trained & Armed Staff would have either prevented newtown from happening or it would have resulted in far fewer deaths - the cops got there after it was all over (with the possible exception of the shooters death) the shooter broke gun laws prior to getting to the school - more gun laws would not have made a difference. a better mental health system probably would have
Harborite February 18, 2013 at 10:58 PM
It would be a terrible idea to have teachers carrying guns to school. If the teacher carries a gun on their person when teaching at school, they could have their gun taken away from them by one of the students who could then shoot the teacher or other students. If on the other hand, the guns are locked away at the school while the teacher is teaching, there won't be enough time for the teacher to retrieve their guns if a surprise attacker starts shooting. Only a trained police officer with body armor should handle any situation involving a Sandy Hook type of attack. A teacher challenging an armed attacker with a gun would also be a prime target for an attacker. Unlike what NRA's LaPierre said that "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun", this is not necessarily true. Many times the good guy gets shot or killed himself. A good example of this is Brendan "Dan" McKown, who had a pistol and confronted a guman at a mall in Tacoma, WA in 2005. The gunman then shot Mr. McKown twice in the abdomen which resulted in his permanent paralysis. Mr. McKown will spend the rest of his life in a wheel chair. In my opinion, teachers armed with guns in a school setting, will only cause our schools to become more dangerous places for the teachers and their students.
David Conkle February 20, 2013 at 01:16 PM
Unfortunately, we'll never know with full certainty whether a gun in the hands of an properly trained armed elementary school staff member would have made a difference on that tragic day or not, will we Dan. I definitely agree that we need a better mental health system, however, the condition that Adam Lanza was afflicted with was Asberger's Syndrome which is not a diagnosible mental illness. As a mental health professional with many years experience, I can tell you with great confidence that not even the best mental health system in the world can stop everyone with the intent to harm others. Having much to easy access to deadly weapons makes the act much more easy to carry out though. We need a thoughful balanced approach to address the issue of gun violence that kills too many of our innocent citizens each year. I firmly believe that we need to greatly improve our mental health system, but we also need to look at an efficent universal background check system, lower capacity clips and handguns which are used in 72% of all murders in our country.


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