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Media spotlight focused on Milner man who issued guns to employees

By Walter Geiger Two long-ago murders and a resulting ‘issue with thugs’ led Lance Toland of Milner to issue a firearm known as ‘the hand cannon’ to each of the employees at his three insurance offices. When word got out last week, the media spotlight focused in. Toland is a pilot, rated in multiple fixed wing and rotary aircraft. His father was a swashbuckling Navy aviator. Years ago, he got into insuring aircraft and has done well at it. He now has offices in Griffin, Atlanta and Sea Island. He still maintains the family farm in north Lamar County. An employee of his Atlanta office decided to retire. She had a concealed carry permit and kept a firearm on her. When she decided to retire, Toland asked all his employees to apply for carry permits. When they got them, he gave each a Taurus Judge revolver. The Judge will fire either a .410 shotgun round or a .45 caliber bullet. ’We have different media types coming through our Atlanta office. One guy thought it would be a cool story. I declined at first. He badgered me and I finally talked to him and ‘˜boom’ it took off,’ Toland said Sunday. The story ran in the Atlanta Journal Constitution and on WSB TV in Atlanta. That led to radio interviews with Alan Colmes and Stuart Varney on Fox radio. The story erupted and Toland was to interview with German and Scandinavian TV stations Monday. Toland and Colmes went at it in their segment. Others have reacted similarly. ’They just don’t understand it when I tell them this is an offensive weapon, particularly when loaded with the right shotgun round. You don’t have to be a great shot to do some serious damage. It is not a weapon you fire when they are running away. It is a weapon to diffuse the situation and diffuse it quickly,’ Toland said. He recounted the September, 1998 murder of Kelli Hammond at her insurance office in Zebulon. ’If it happened there, it can happen anywhere. If something like that happened to the ladies in my offices, I just couldn’t live with myself,’ Toland said. Another murder also weighs heavily on his mind. His uncle, Luther Thomas Toland, was killed at a Griffin convenience store on July 9, 1979. Luther’s daughter, Fay Evans, lives in Barnesville and works for United Bank. ’Uncle Luther took me in when my daddy died. He kept me out of the orphanage. I lived with his family during the school week and with other family members on weekends and during the summers. He was a patriot. The day after Pearl Harbor, he lied about his age and joined the Army. He was one of many who did. He was 16. He stormed the beaches on three islands in the Pacific. Those places were blood baths but he made it,’ Toland said. Uncle Luther came home and worked in the textile mills 60 hours per week – a salt of the earth type. Then came that fateful trip to the convenience store. ’The store was one block from where he skipped school to enlist in the Army. It was the one time he didn’t carry his little .38 pistol with him. Three black guys jumped him. They knocked him to the floor. Then one of them shot him in the back of the head execution style. He was 60 years old. They got $25.’ Two of the three did 20 years and have been released. The triggerman, Terrell Thurmond, got life for murder and armed robbery. He spends his days at Dooley State Prison. Thurmond has been up for parole but Toland has fought it each time. He rallied everyone he could find including an Army general but credits a letter written by former judge and now state representative Johnnie Caldwell Jr. with keeping Thurmond, who is not yet 60, behind bars the last time his release was considered. ’I harbored that killing for years. Uncle Luther took me in. I never wanted for anything. He was the most giving person I ever knew,’ Toland said. The Toland family has been very generous to St. George’s Episcopal School in Milner. The gymnasium there is named for the family. ‘My love for Uncle Luther was a large part of that,’ Toland said. Two gruesome murders led to that ‘issue with thugs’. Toland and his employees are now well-armed and they are famous for it. The media scrutiny has been tough at times but fellow businessmen have reached out for more information on Toland’s program. ’A person who can get that carry permit is the kind of individual I want working for me. That $65 permit opens my door to them. I know they are not a convicted felon or a pedophile. I know they don’t have a serious criminal record and are not habitual violators. When you think about it, that is a pretty good screening process,’ Toland concluded.

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