Pennsylvania pastor Gary Smith is a teacher in two respects: not only does he guide people in their Christian Faith, he also instructs a handgun class, training people to shoot would-be attackers.
A gun-toting pastor might be seen by some as an oxymoron. But, Smith sees no conflict in his two differing roles, he told USA Today.
“On this side of heaven, we live in a wrecked world,” the 59-year-old said. “Christians or not Christians, if legally we can carry or not carry, I don’t see anything wrong with a pastor or others carrying.”
Smith teaches the National Rifle Association basic pistol course at Point Blank Defense, which he opened two months ago in York. He’s already had about 100 students, who pay between $50 and $65 each for and three-and-a-half hour course. For an additional $100, Smith will accompany students to train at a gun range while shooting live rounds.
On a recent Saturday, all four of Smith’s new students said they were in fear that they or their loved ones could become victims of a violent crime. One student, 45-year-old Miriam Hammond, said she and her family live “out in the country,” where it could take law enforcement longer to respond to a dangerous situation.
Smith’s students want to learn the proper techniques and best practices of operating a firearm in order to prevent accidents. The pastor said he grew up hunting and learned about gun safety from his father, who was a Marine Corps veteran.
Smith said he believes that people who own a firearm should be required to take a course.
“Look, you can’t get your driver’s license or hunting license unless you take a safety course,” he said. “This is a firearm. This is a serious matter.”
Smith’s church began 11 years ago, with just a small group of people meeting at his home. Agape Fellowship, according to the church website, is currently large enough to gather at another church’s facility. They are hopeful to find their own space soon.
“We are trusting God to lead us to His right location” the website reads.
A recent string of high profile crimes in the area has caused a surge in the number of residents who have become ‘fearful’ and want to protect themselves.