Placerville church members train to carry concealed guns

Dec 15, 2015 11:32 AM by CBS News

God-fearing and gun-toting, a group of ministers and church security personnel training in California's Sierra foothills were invited to the gun range in Placerville by gun safety instructor Geof Peabody.

Peabody offers the class free to members of any church, reports CBS News correspondent John Blackstone. He said he has trained more than 500 people in the last eight years. His graduates qualify to carry concealed weapons, and many do so in church.

"Does it seem to go against the sanctity of the church in any way to bring a gun into church?" Blackstone asked.

"Not at all, not at all," said Bruce Shoff, who serves on a security team at his church. "The Bible tells us to be our brother's's just another tool."

Micah Anderson leads the youth ministry at his church.

"The drive behind it is so I can protect myself and my family," Anderson said. "The fact that I also work at the church and serve in that way, is just an added benefit."

Many of these trainees said they've become more focused with each new mass shooting. They know churches have been targeted, most recently this past June, when nine members of a Bible study group were killed in South Carolina.

"Crazy things happen day in and day out," Anderson said.

Police training changed for active shooters after the tragedy at Columbine High School in 1999. A national course was created to teach officers to react more rapidly. But Peter Blair, who oversees that program, said even a good guy with a gun can be a danger.

"You might end up shooting another concealed weapons holder that you don't recognize. The police may shoot you," Blair said. "You might accidentally shoot an innocent person when you're shooting at the attacker."

Even gun safety training can go wrong. While Peabody's classes have been accident-free, Pastor Tom Smith was wounded earlier in December while taking shooting lessons near his church in Modesto.

El Dorado County Sheriff John D'Agostini has been an enthusiastic supporter of Peabody's training for church members.

"As a law enforcement officer, do you feel safer, the more concealed carry permits are out there?" Blackstone asked D'Agostini.

"Absolutely," D'Agostini said. "These are law-abiding people. It's the evil criminals that are the threat."

In El Dorado County, concealed weapon permits are sharply on the rise, as spiritual leaders and worshippers are targeting security.


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