BROOKSVILLE, Fla. -- Hernando County business owners said they got a big response when they began offering free firearm safety training to teachers in the district in the wake of the Parkland shooting.

  • Firearm safety class for teachers receives big response
  • Two businesses offered free training to teachers
  • 135 teachers signed up for the class

"We figured 20 or 30 teachers would sign up," said Donnie Arnold, owner of Downrange Concealed Carry and Tactical Training. "I've got about 135 teachers put through the class for free."

Arnold said that amounts to about $8,000 in free classes.

"It really shocked me because it was portrayed that teachers didn't want to have firearms, didn't want to be armed," Arnold said, referring to media coverage of Parkland.

"I fully expected it. There's dozens and dozens of teachers that already have their permit," said Steve Champion, owner of American Gun and Pawn.

His business teamed up with Arnold's to spread the word about the offer.

Arnold said teachers were welcome to join the classes, which are held twice monthly. Participants learn basic laws and rules, how to safely carry, handle, and transport firearms, and take part in live fire exercises. They can then go on to get their concealed carry permit.

"This class doesn't mean they can carry their firearms on campus," Arnold said. "It doesn't mean they can carry them at school. This was my way of giving back to the community and to see how many teachers actually wanted to do this."

About a dozen teachers took part in Arnold's Saturday class, but they weren't from the Hernando district -- they were from Pasco County.

"I do a lot of running, I'm outside a lot by myself, so it was a personal protection class for me," said Amy Troyer, a physical education teacher with Dr. Mary Giella Elementary School. 

Troyer said she found out about the class from an e-mail sent by a fellow teacher. 

Champion, who's also chair of the Hernando Board of County Commissioners, said he'd favor a change in legislation that would allow teachers to carry on campus.

"We're hoping for an educated group that can actually make an opinion to talk to legislators," Champion said. "So, if you want to change the legislation, you need to have the people that it's affecting the most educated on the issue."

Troyer and other teachers in the class she took told us they're not necessarily in favor of teachers being allowed to carry firearms in schools and that recent shootings weren't the main motivation behind taking the course. 

"I'm not saying every teacher should be able to carry," Arnold said. "Some people have more knowledge, some people have less knowledge, but I think everybody needs a fair chance to defend themselves." 

The classes are no longer being offered for free, but teachers from any county can get a 50 percent discount if they sign up at American Gun and Pawn in Brooksville.