, abordas@citizen-times.com

A group of residents, teachers and parents in Henderson County are preparing themselves for the possibility of the concealed gun laws changing in North Carolina. As talks of teachers being trained to arm themselves circulate national dialogue, a local group of concerned community members in Western North Carolina are being proactive.

Debra Jackson and Jane Bilello, two leaders of the Henderson group who support arming teachers, plan to host free conceal carry classes for teachers and coaches who want to learn how to arm themselves in case an attack occurs on their watch.

Jackson said she has been watching things go from bad to worse for students and teachers since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. After she learned that 150 schools across the nation have teachers who carry concealed weapons, she said she wanted to start training interested people locally.

“There is a need and we just trying to help meet that need,” Jackson said. “There are teachers who want to take conceal carry classes and someone along the line needs to take a stand to do something.”

More: Giving schoolteachers guns problematic but not out of question in WNC

Currently, teachers or any school administrators, other than assigned school resource officers, are not allowed to carry concealed guns on campus in the state of NC.

So far, both Jackson and Bilello have heard nothing but positive feedback and that doctors and nurses are also reaching out to them.

Bilello has been a teacher for over 30 years. She has been teaching in Henderson for three years and said she doesn’t feel safe.

After the shooting in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 dead, she said she decided she could no longer stay quiet and had to get involved, for the safety of herself and students.

“As a school, we get an A-plus for how we organize during a lockdown,” Bilello said. “But if someone comes in our door and shoots us, what are we supposed to do? Throw books at them?”

She met with Jackson and they decided to take it upon themselves to act.

More: Boyle column: On guns, have we really had enough of the slaughter?

Jackson is a Federal Firearms Licensed dealer, a National Rifle Association basic pistol shooting certified instructor, an NRA ‘Refuse To Be A Victim’ certified instructor, a North Carolina concealed carry firearms instructor, a United States Concealed Carry Association certified instructor, a USCCA training counselor, and an NRA range safety officer.

Guns are an active part of her life, personally and professionally, as an owner of Fruitful Seasons Pistol Packing in Henderson.

“As a teacher I can tell you I walk into these schools I don’t feel safe,” Bilello said.

In addition to the free workshops, Jackson and Bilello are hosting an information meeting to discuss any school safety concerns with the public. Sheriff Charles McDonald will speak and school board administrators have been asked to attend.

The meeting will be held at Fruitful Seasons Pistol Packing on Saturday, April 7 at 1 p.m.