The issue of whether or not educators should be armed is a hot button topic in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy.
With that in mind, a local firearms instructor with ties to the Pinellas County school system decided to do something to help teachers be better prepared when it comes to self-protection.
Lenny Bogdanos, owner of Clearwater-based International Executive Protection, is hosting a free concealed weapons class for teachers on Saturday at the Safety Harbor VFW Post #10093, and the response has been much bigger than he expected.
“About six weeks ago I put a notice out on my Facebook page offering free weapons safety classes for teachers,” Bogdanos said. “I was expecting 15 to 25 people. But I’ve received hundreds of responses.”
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Upon realizing the class would be so large, Bogdanos went looking for a bigger venue than he originally had in mind. That led him to Post #10093, which rents its hall to organizations interested in safety training.
"We have to do certain things like community service, charity work ... to keep our charitible status," said John Walton, senior vice chair of the Post. "This was one of things I saw that we could do."
Bogdanos, who runs an after-school karate program for Pinellas County schools, said he wanted to do something for teachers who have an interest in protecting themselves but lack the resources to do so.
He emphasizes he is not doing this to send a political message, nor does he condone teachers carrying firearms on school campuses.
“It’s not a political thing, and I’m not trying to take a stand. I was simply doing something for my friends, and it’s kind of taken on a life of its own.
“The teachers who have signed up for this are 100 percent for it,” he said. “Some have been offended by it, and I understand both sides.”
The four-hour course will emphasize firearms safety including how to carry a weapon, load and unload it, lock it and properly to store it.
The participants also learn how to use the weapons by firing them into a protective backdrop outside the Post.
"All our instructors are 100 percent licensed and certified," Bogdanos said. "It's 100 percent legit."
Due to the high demand — at one point he was receiving hundreds of emails and voicemails a day, he said — Bogdanos will host another course for 100 more educators next week, and he is considering offering a similar class in Hillsborough County.
Bogdanos said he is surprised but not overwhelmed by the response. He just wants to provide education and information for teachers who wish to learn how to protect themselves.
“Education is empowering,” he said.
For more information on the course and Bogdanos’ company, visit the website at internationalep.com.