A tragic incident in which an Arkansas real estate broker was kidnapped and brutally murdered has raised the awareness of housing agents across the country for the need to carry firearms for protection when showing homes and property to unknown individuals while alone.
In September, Aaron Lewis, 33, was arrested and charged in the kidnapping and slaying of Beverly Carter, 49, a Pulaski County, AR, real estate agent. Lewis, who is facing capital murder charges, reportedly told investigators he targeted Carter because she "worked alone and was a rich broker."
The Bay City Times (MI) reported this week that the Arkansas incident has prompted real estate agents nationwide, including in Michigan, to look seriously at obtaining a concealed carry permit and receive firearms training.
Shelley Gottschling, an agent with Top Producers Inc., is working with Bay City firearms retailer Duncan's Outdoor Shop to offer a group concealed pistol license (CPL) class for interested brokers in the area. The newspaper reports that nearly a dozen Bay County agents have already signed up for the class.
"What I'm most concerned about in our area are all of the vacant, repossessed homes," Gottschling said. "When an agent walks in, there could be someone in the home who's not supposed to be there. It's not uncommon for previous homeowners to hold a grudge against the bank, or for someone to just start living there."
Veterans United Real Estate reports that the real estate, rental and leasing industry averaged 77 work-related deaths per year from 2008 to 2011. Of the 60 deaths reported in 2011, nearly half were homicides.
In the aftermath of the Arkansas tragedy, Governors Gun Club in Powder Springs, GA, is offering a half-price "Real Estate Concealed Carry Course" Tuesday, Nov. 4. The 3-hour course is designed to educate the beginning student on the safe handling and use of a handgun. Topics covered will include basic firearms safety, firearm manipulation, general maintenance and fundamentals of marksmanship, and concealed carry options. The class will involve supervised live fire on the indoor range.
"I don't think a lot of people in the public realize what we're facing every day when we go out to work," Gottschling said. "Obviously, right now it's prevalent in the media, but you can never be sure what's behind the door when you go to open it."