Debbie Wolfe will report from each session of the 2017 Gulfport Citizen’s Police Academy. This is part 10 of 11.
Pop. Pop. Pop-pop. Pop-pop-pop! These were the sounds of seven shots in four separate exercises heard on Thursday, March 23 as participants in the Gulfport Police Department Citizens’ Police Academy each went through handgun training at the county’s open-air gun range.
Many of us had experience with firing weapons, a couple did not, but oh did we all learn what it’s like to shoot at the body of a life-sized paper law enforcement target that looks like the outline of a human being.
“Go for the heart,” said Officer Gene Novak as he coached me on where to aim the Glock I was holding.
His calm yet deliberate voice took me to my next level of experience after decades of using guns shooting mostly at targets that look like concentric circles or clay disks flying through the air.
Sylvia Gustaffson, who had never fired a gun in her life, also welcomed Novak’s style – though after the first shot, she was ready to quit.
“At first, when I was scared , I didn’t want to do it again,” she said. “By the time I shot three , I did awesome. You better not mess with me!”
Participants were also treated to a demonstration of what law enforcement officers have to do as part of their weapons qualification course. One officer also fired a special gift made to the department years ago: a World War II German MP40 machine gun, which is only used for illustration during training sessions.
“We practice at least once a month,” said Gulfport Police Commander Joshua Stone, the lead firearms instructor for the agency.
The visit to the gun range was the last field trip of the 11-week series of seminars. Graduation is March 30.
“This has been such an experience,” said Ann Hayes. “I think it should be required of every citizen. I really mean that.”