In the wake of the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California church members are training to carry concealed guns.
Gun safety instructor Geof Peabody has invited ministers and security staff to a gun range in Placerville to learn how to handle weapons.
CBS News reports Peabody offers his class free to members of any church and has trained more than 500 people in the past eight years.
Those who graduate from his class qualify to carry concealed weapons – and many of them are taking them into their churches.
California church members are training to carry concealed guns in the wake of the recent mass shooting in San Bernardino
It is not exactly clear why Peabody offers the free classes to ministers but his website links to a Bible study website headed 'The Biblical View of Self-Defense' which quotes Bible passages about 'protecting life' and 'shedding the blood' of people who have injured or killed others.
At the top of Peabody's website is: 'Fear God and Fear Naught - Luke 22: 36-38'
Interest in the classes soared after the Charleston massacre, when nine people were killed during a Bible study session at a church in the South Carolina town in June.
Peabody said the faithful had felt a growing need to be prepared in case of an attack.
The Bible tells us to be our brother’s protector. It’s just another tool,’ said Bruce Shoff, who works on a church’s security team.
Micah Anderson, who head the youth ministry at his church, added: ‘The drive behind it is so I can protect myself and my family.
‘The fact that I also work at the church and serve in that way is just an added benefit.’
Gun safety instructor Geof Peabody (pictured) has invited ministers and security staff to a gun range in Placerville to learn how to handle weapons
On December 2, husband and wife Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik opened fire during a holiday party for county government employees and killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California. It is being investigated as an act of terrorism.
Other recent mass shooting – including at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado and a community college in Oregon – have reignited passions on both sides of the gun control debate.
Mississippi Republican Rep. Andy Gipson, who plans to file a bill next year allowing congregations to designate people who could carry guns, said: ‘Most of our churches are just wide open.’
Peabody (pictured left) offers his class free to members of any church and has trained more than 500 people in the past eight years
Bruce Shoff, who works on a church’s security team, said: ‘The Bible tells us to be our brother’s protector'
The pro-gun legislation reflects a growing public sentiment that ‘gun-free zones are magnets for bad guys,’ said David Kopel, a gun policy expert at the Independence Institute, a libertarian think tank in Colorado.
He said that concept was not popular after the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.
However, the frequency of mass shootings since then has made the idea of having a trained, law-abiding gun owner present more appealing.
But Peter Blair, who oversaw a program to change police training to react faster to active shooter situations after the Columbine massacre, said arming ‘good guys’ is risky.
‘You might end up shooting another concealed weapons holder that you don’t recognize,’ he told CBS.
‘The police may shoot you. You might end accidentally shoot an innocent person when you’re shooting at the attacker.’
Although Peabody’s classes have not seen any unfortunate incidents, gun safety classes can lead to accidents.
Pastor Ton Smith was injured earlier this month after being accidentally shot by his instructor during a lesson near his church in Modesto, California.