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Waco real estate agents packing heat: Handgun class helps prepare for danger

By Tommy Witherspoon



CHL Class In Waco

Tara DeLeon (front), executive assistant at the Waco Association of Realtors, takes aim at a target during a concealed handgun class.

Nearly every real estate agent has a story.

They agree to meet strangers to show them vacant houses in rural areas.

The agents use words like creepy, awkward, odd, uncomfortable and downright scared to describe the feelings potential homebuyers give them at times.

Just last week, Donna Sharp, a real estate agent at Premiere Realty, was in one of those situations.

“There is just that sense that you get,” she said. “I went to show a house in a remote area of China Spring and I was thinking then, ‘I wish I had a gun with me.’ It’s just the risk of meeting someone out there that you don’t know.”

Because of that sense of insecurity and at the urging of her son, a North Texas game warden, Sharp joined a group of 26 agents from the Waco Association of Realtors recently to take a 10-hour course to qualify for concealed handgun licenses.

The group decided to take the class together this month to observe Realtor Safety Month, as declared by the National Association of Realtors, said Tara DeLeon, executive assistant at the Waco Association of Realtors.

All in the group passed the course, and many said they will be packing heat while pointing out the finer points of homes for sale.

“I definitely will be carrying one,” Sharp said. “I would suggest anyone in a service profession like this to take this course. Things happen, and you never know when it could happen to you.”

The National Association of Realtors has pages on its website devoted to real estate agent safety. One article from Realtor magazine has a story called “Feeling threatened? How to use your smartphone as a weapon.”

Parnell McNamara, who taught the CHL class to the Waco agents last week, probably would smile at such a headline.

In fact, one of the nuggets from McNamara’s course says “a gun in the hand is better than a cop on the phone.”

McNamara, the Republican nominee for McLennan County sheriff and a longtime deputy U.S. marshal, shared other thoughts with the group:

* When seconds count, police are only minutes away.

* When you have a gun, you are the first responder.

* A gun puts you on a level playing field with a thug with a gun.

* Do you want the decision whether you live or die to be yours or someone else’s?

McNamara said he has taught classes that feature members of the same profession, including a number of bank employees and one class with nine ministers. But the real estate association was the largest group he has taught from one profession, he said.

“Real estate agents are very vulnerable,” he said. “I think it is great that they want to learn how to protect themselves.”

Brooke Lewis, an employee of Home Abstract and Title Co., had never shot a pistol before last week. But the first five rounds from a 9 mm pistol fired from 3 feet away hit the center of the target like a reincarnated Annie Oakley.

A mother’s fear

“I have always been scared of guns, and I wanted to educate myself on them and know how to use one if I ever need to protect myself or my children,” she said. “I have been frightened several times. My fear is always the typical mom’s fear of being home alone and needing to protect my kids.”

Lewis said she stopped running in Cameron Park because she was afraid. But after taking the course, she was talking about getting some running shorts that have a pouch sewn in the back to carry a pistol.

Steve Meadows, a former Marine and military policeman, took the class with his wife, Patricia, an agent with Graceland Real Estate. Meadows owns Meadows Rentals and said he and his wife have talked about getting concealed handgun licenses for years.

“We feel a little extra protection is necessary when you are out showing property in rural areas,” he said. “There have been several times over the years that my wife has asked me to come with her. There are times when something just doesn’t feel right or some awkwardness has been there. Nothing has happened, but there were some instances where it was good that we were together.”

Jeff Bird, president of the Waco Association of Realtors, and DeLeon said there have not been any major incidents involving Waco agents in recent years. But when assaults and kidnappings of agents are reported in larger cities, word gets around in the real estate community.

“We have had people who have called multiple agents and it seemed like they were setting them up for something,” DeLeon said. “Luckily, agents talk, and the word got around and nothing happened. But I think it is important for our association and as realtors for us to be better prepared in case something comes up.”

One member of the group who asked that his name or company affiliation not be revealed for family privacy concerns told the group an emotional story about a family member who was shot and killed during a violent carjacking. His story had several agents in tears and others fighting to choke back their emotions.

He said he took the course, in large part, because of what happened to his relative.

Bland Cromwell, a commercial real estate broker with Coldwell Banker Jim Stewart Realtors, took the class to renew a license he has had for five years. He said he has had to pull his gun twice in threatening situations and escaped unharmed.

“Someone came up to my window once late at night at a fast-food restaurant,” he said. “I got out of my car with my gun in my hand. I made no threats. I just showed evidence of what I had, and it worked. It did what it was supposed to do, and I hope it never happens again.”