AUSTINTOWN, Ohio - It’s a role reversal as 24 teachers become students and took part in the first tactical gun training program in the country for teachers.
For three days this week, the group received free training from Buckeye Firearms in Ohio.
They said the program armed them with a sense of purpose and a sense of knowledge.
The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. reminded many of their own classrooms or family at home.
“My students are like my kids. So, it was just a really hard thing to deal with and it should never happen again,” said Deanna Lemaster, an elementary school teacher from central Ohio.
Angela Dutcher fought back tears when asked why she was taking part.
“I not only want to be able to protect my children that are in my classroom, but I want someone protecting my kids because we can't always be there and someone needs to be there and help them,” the substitute teacher said.
Buckeye Firearms said it received more than 1,400 applications for just 24 positions, and the group represented school staff from across the country.
Everyone who participated is a concealed carry permit holder, but this training took them to a new level.
Reenactments that include an intruder inside the school helped them think fast on their feet.
“I want to be that teacher who knows what to do, who's educated on what to do properly and that when it's all over with the students are safe and their parents still have children,” said Lemaster.
Organizers admit this training is controversial and many districts and parents worry about teachers carrying concealed guns in school.
Jim Irvine, of Buckeye Firearms, said just as airline security changed after 9/11, so must school security.
“The only way you can keep those kids safe is to have somebody inside the building who can stop this sick individual whose goal it is to kill them all,” he said.
Lemaster said, “Would I have taken a bullet for them? Absolutely. Would I rather have something to protect them and return them to their parents alive? You bet.”
Buckeye Firearms spent $30,000 on the program, but Irvine said you can’t put a price on kids’ lives.
The foundation plans to hold fundraisers so more teachers can be trained.
Right now, Pennsylvania law restricts firearms on school property but a lawmaker from Erie plans to file a bill that would allow teachers and other school staff to carry a firearm if they pass a check system.