More than 160 men and women attended a concealed carry class Feb. 15 in Boones Mill.
Last month, more than 330 attended the class offered at Boones Mill Baptist Church, and each person who attended the four-hour training courses were awarded certificates.
A certificate from a qualified training class is one of the requirements when applying for a concealed carry permit from the state.
Pastor Bob Greene said the church hosted its first concealed carry class in February 2019 with 87 in attendance. A second course was held later in the year with 30 more in attendance, bringing the total number of trainees to carry a concealed weapon to more than 600 in one year in Boones Mill alone.
Boones Mill Police Chief Dennis Deacon serves as the instructor for the classes. He is assisted by church member John Dowdy, owner of John’s Shooting Gallery in Boones Mill.
“The response is always great at the classes,” Dowdy said, adding those in attendance range from age 20 to more than 80 years old.
Greene said he believes the course in January was one of the largest classes in the state.
Dowdy said in addition to Virginia, other states such as Arizona and Georgia, are considering legislation regarding gun rights. He said he feels Virginia is in the national spotlight as a test bed for gun issues due to its proximity to Washington, D.C.
Greene said his church offers the classes because his congregation sees how the issue of gun safety is a concern to the community. The classes provide a way to train and educate citizens.
“People need to be trained to be safe with firearms,” Greene said. “Young drivers take driver education to know their responsibilities before getting a driver’s license. The same should be true with those wanting to carry a concealed weapon. Car wrecks kill many more people than guns do.”
There is also a spiritual dimension setting the stage before the classes begin. Before each class starts, Greene presents a spiritual message. He said a lot of people will never be in church so he wanted to make sure they heard the gospel.
He explained that funds raised from the classes help support the church’s youth missions projects. This summer the youth will be ministering in Alaska. Greene said Saturday’s class raised approximately $4,500. In addition to the class fee, money was raised by the youth from the day’s spaghetti dinner sales.
Additional education and funds were provided by representatives of the United States Concealed Carry Association headquartered in West Bend, Wisconsin. USCCA is a membership organization that provides education, training and legal and financial protection to responsible American gun owners.
Mike Bauer of USCCA said class members asked good questions and that being there reminded him why he got into the business in the first place in 2015 — to protect his family and help others protect theirs by educating them. Bauer helped the students see that if one used a gun in self-defense, there could be civil issues, as well as criminal ones.
“I see this every day, law-abiding citizens needing to prove their innocence,” Bauer said.
Like Greene, Bauer also expressed the importance of training gun owners and used an analogy about driving in the snow. Living in snowy Wisconsin, he knows how to handle driving a car in the snow. For a teenager from Virginia, however, driving in snow would require extra training.
Besides training, USCCA prides itself in giving back to communities. For every membership purchased last Saturday, USCCA gave $50 to the church’s youth mission fund.
Dowdy said more concealed carry classes at Boones Mill Baptist Church are being planned, although no dates have been set yet.
For more information about the Boones Mill classes, visit the Facebook page for Boones Mill Baptist Church or John’s Shooting Gallery.