Opening ceremonies for the 2019 NRA National Police Shooting Championships (NPSC) kicked off this morning at the Law Enforcement Training Academy in Pearl, MS, as more than 300 competitors and spectators gathered for a hardy Mississippi welcome from Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, Treasurer Lynn Fitch, and Speaker Philip Gunn.
"How many states would bring this type of leadership out not only to see the NRA Shooting Competition but also law enforcement," Gov. Bryant asked the crowd. "I won't take too long I just want to tell you how much we appreciate you being here. Coming from three different nations and just about every state in the United States to here in Rankin County, Mississippi, to practice what you do best - protect and defend.
(Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant welcomes competitors to the 2019 National Police Shooting Championships)
"We had you for a long time in Jackson and it went away and now you're back to a beautiful day and people who love you. Let's put some led downrange."
The "long time in Jackson" Gov. Bryant was referring to was NPSC's previous home in Jackson City, MS. If you're wondering why the NRA left I'll give you two words - Hurricane Katrina.
The devastating effects of the hurricane were felt far and wide - even as far as the NRA. With the range in Jackson City all but decimated, the NRA was forced to find a new home in Albuquerque. Today marks a return to those Mississippi roots.
"It took less than two seconds for the three of us (the Governor, the Lt. Governor, and the Speaker of the House) to sit down and say hey, we're going to invest money in our law enforcement training academy so we can bring you to Mississippi," said Lt. Gov. Reeves. "Because not only do we understand that this is a great opportunity for you, but it's a great opportunity for our state. Having this facility here is a great opportunity for law enforcement officers all throughout the state of Mississippi for many many years to come."
Sitting on 243 acres, the Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers’ Training Academy is the largest law enforcement complex of its kind in the state of Mississippi. Offering basic and advanced training classes for state, county, and municipal law enforcement agencies, the academy provides Mississippi law enforcement officers with the skills necessary to professionally perform their duties.
(Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves at the 2019 NRA National Police Shooting Championships)
For more than a decade NPSC was held at the Shooting Park Range in Albuquerque, NM. As the contract reached expiration, NRA's Law Enforcement Division searched for a location that could accommodate the competitions many needs.
"You have to be close to an airport, have hotels ready to take an influx of law enforcement personnel, and have a shooting range that allows 60 to 100 competitors shoot at a time," explained NRA Law Enforcement Director Glen Hoyer. "This facility fit the bill."
With cars, trucks, and campers crammed into the dirt and gravel parking lot just beyond the outdoor range, the welcome was interrupted time and again with laughter and applause. But the competitors were anxious to take the field, and the speakers took notice.
"There's no better way to enhance your experience this morning than by hearing from one more politician," Speaker Gunn joked.
Expressing the state legislature's commitment to public safety and improving law enforcement, the speaker explained why Mississippi choose to host this year's championship.
"You see the carpet being rolled out for you here today because we are proud to have you. We believe in what you do, we support what you do, we're out here at 7:30 on a Monday morning to tell you that and to welcome you to the state of Mississippi."
And what a welcome it was.
(Mississippi State Treasurer Lynn Fitch at the 2019 NRA National Police Shooting Championships)