Behind the doors of a small gun shop in Naples, on an otherwise quiet Wednesday night, Craig Wendel prepares a round of simunition for each of his students as part of the test for a concealed weapon permit. The practice rounds made of plastic are unassuming but pack a power pop. Students take their turn firing a round at a small black and blue target.
“It’s like a cap gun,” Wendel explains as he monitors each student’s knowledge and understanding of the weapon.
The room is filled with eight students ranging in age from 80 to 20, males and females. It’s a diverse group but one thing ties all of them together — their desire to carry a concealed weapon. Wendel goes around the room asking each of his students what their experience and backgrounds are with guns. Some say they’ve grown up hunting all their lives while others were drug there by their boyfriends.
Wendel opened his first school nearly 20 years ago with a friend who had just gotten out of the Marine Corps. Southwest Florida at the time had no schools for security and law enforcement training so Wendel was determined to fill that void. He had the first privately owned training school in Southwest Florida called Professional Security Institute or PSI. He has trained and given seminars for law enforcement, security guards, DEA, CIA, U.S. Marshals and anyone else that needed technical training.
Wendel holds the private courses every Wednesday night at Century Arms of Naples on Airport-Pulling Road, for groups ranging from a few people up to 10 students at a time.
When you ask Wendel why he does it, he replies, “I’m passionate about it, I’ve got the Second Amendment tattooed on my arm. I’ve got guys that have been here 30 years and they always learn something. They always say, ‘I never knew that.’ There’s always something that you don’t know.”
Wendel’s not the shy type; he’s full of jokes and in what would have been an otherwise uneventful class of laws and procedures, has his students engaged. You can tell that he has a profound understanding not only of weapons training, but also the laws that come with carrying a gun. He has a strong position on guns and the respect that goes along with owning one.
“When anything happens in this state or country and someone gets injured by a firearm, everyone’s up in arms. ‘Let’s get rid of guns, more gun control, and more gun laws.’ What we need is more education and more training,” he said. “Let’s train people to carry them right, to not have an accident, to know what to do with them.”
As Wendel’s students begin the law portion of the class you can tell that there’s a bit of confusion on all the students’ faces. It’s not that Wendel doesn’t explain it well, it’s just that Florida has somewhat confusing laws. For example, one can carry a weapon on private property or at your place of business, or in you vehicle but once you leave that area a permit is required.
“People are always surprised with how easy it is to get or buy a gun in Florida,” Wendel said. “I’m definitely against that. I’m for more training.”
It’s for this exact reason that Wendel does the classes.
“The people that take my classes are the people that want to be safe and legal,” he said. “We don’t need any more gun laws. Let’s enforce the ones we have and let’s hold people responsible for their actions. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
It’s not required in many cases to have the permit but he says his students get a piece of mind knowing that they went through the class.
As the night ends, the students file out with their permits in hand. Now comes the hard part — finding a gun that says “me.”
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Connect with Manuel Martinez at www.naplesnews.com/staff/manuel-martinez/.