CNN Photo Essay: Ohio teachers pose with their guns

by Chad D. Baus

CNN's Lauren Russell has written two articles on the move to arm teachers here in Ohio. Accompanying her article is a photo essay compiled by an Italian photographer.

From the article accompanying the photo essay, entitled "Teachers pose with their guns":

December's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut jarred parents and teachers around Ohio.

Thinking more had to be done to protect their children, a number of teachers and school staff members around Ohio have been signing up for a variety of gun training courses offered at a discount or for free.

Italian photographer Sebastiano Tomada Piccolomini documented a concealed weapons course for school personnel in South Point school district in southern Ohio, where it borders Kentucky and West Virginia. He followed them throughout the two-day course in the classroom and outside practicing their marksmanship.

About 30 or 40 school personnel participated in the class. Everyone Piccolomini photographed shared their names and where they taught.

"They were very open to be photographed," he said. "I think because they believed in what they were doing and that it was their right to study and earn the right to carry a gun."

According to the article, the photographer said the course was well-organized and emphasized safety.

The photographs were taken of teachers attending the fifth free class that Alan Wheeler, a firearms instructor who also serves as a Buckeye Firearms Association leader, had offered to teachers in the South Point district. The article reports that Wheeler has trained 250 teachers so far, and that while he had a few sporadically take his firearms classes before the Sandy Hook shooting, interest went way up afterward.

Ohio law stipulates school boards may allow teachers and administrators to carry a concealed weapon into schools. It was largely ignored until Sandy Hook. In December, state Attorney General Mike DeWine recommended that school boards seriously consider having a trained person with access to a gun on school grounds. He also pointed out that the law already allows for teachers and school personnel be permitted to be armed on campus.

Those who pass the concealed weapons course that Wheeler teaches receive basic training in how a gun works and marksmanship. When they pass this course, they can then take a more in-depth training course.

Christian and Wheeler think training teachers in firearms is a necessary step.

"If you'd asked me 15 years ago, I wouldn't have thought so, but after Columbine and Virginia Tech, it made me think we've got to do it," Wheeler said. "They’re the first line of defense for the kids."

His mother is a first-grade teacher, and he has many other family members who are teachers. His mother isn't authorized to carry a gun to school.

Wheeler still thinks it's important to have at least basic gun training.

"What if they find one on the playground?" he said. "They need to know how to safely handle it."

In Russell's second, more comprehensive article, entitled "In response to Newtown shootings, some states move to put guns in classrooms":

In Ohio, Buckeye Firearms Association, a gun rights PAC, has launched a program to educate teachers on how to take down a gunman.

"We were mocked when we first said we wanted to teach this class," Jim Irvine, president of Buckeye, said. "People doubted if we could fill the class."

Yet more than 1,400 school staff members applied for the 24 spots first offered in late December, he said.

...John Benner, president and chief instructor at the Ohio-based Tactical Defense Institute, has trained school resource officers for years. He taught his first class to teachers this spring.

The three-day class, sponsored by Buckeye Firearms Association, examined mass shootings and taught school personnel how to predict a killer's behavior and shoot on the run amid obstacles like narrow hallways and stairwells. Police officers and SWAT commanders help teach the course. Participants had to have a concealed weapons permit before registering.

Buckeye paid about $1,000 per teacher, which includes tuition, room and board, and ammunition. The group will cover tuition and board for the six courses offered this summer.

Benner would like to see all school employees – teachers, resource officers, administrators – learn to use firearms.

"I hate the idea of arming teachers, but we have to," Benner said. Signs and locks won't deter an attacker and police can't respond quickly enough, he said. "It's the only thing that's going to work."

Click here to view the photo essay at

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman.

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