CONOVER, N.C. -- A Conover church is standing by its decision to offer a concealed weapons permit class. Classes begin in March, and so far the response has been overwhelming. The announcement was made on the church bulletin several weeks ago, and to date, 58 men and 52 women have signed up for the class which is limited to 40.
“This is not a publicity stunt,” says Senior Pastor Dr. Ruffin Snow. “Our church’s purpose is not to arm people except with the gospel.”
He says the recent wave of gun violence has sparked a desire to protect one’s family.
“What we stand for is the Christian home, and I think this is keeping with the word of God.”
Tri-City is not the first church in the state to offer such classes, although it is unusual.
Pastor Ruffin says his church has never turned away from controversial issues, and won’t now. Although the class is being offered in the midst of a heated debate on gun control, Ruffin says the idea was formed when his wife asked him to carry a gun for protection. He completed a firearms training class recently and church members like Sherry Gentry expressed a desire to do the same.
"The need to know how to operate a gun and need it for protection, now that this society is so different where we use to feel secure at home, it’s not so like that anymore,” says Gentry.
Gentry comes from a family of avid hunters. There are rifles in the house, but once she completes her class, she plans to purchase a handgun for herself.
Ruffin has his critics, but makes no apologies for the church's conservative stand on gun control. The bulletin even states this is their way of supporting the US Constitution and the right to bear arms. He says this is just another way to reach out to the community all while reaffirming the church’s position on gun control.
“What we are about is sharing Jesus Christ and with a nation that is changing so rapidly,” says Ruffin.
Last month a group of religious leaders rallied in Washington D.C. to voice their support for stricter gun control. Ruffin says not all religious groups support this.
"It's not a matter of whether I love my neighbor, but that doesn't mean we are not to protect our families, so I don't see any contradiction whatsoever.”
The two-day class will be taught by a sergeant with the State Highway Patrol at a private firing range. The church plans to offer a second class very soon.