Citizens play with Police guns

The Charlottesville Police Department’s Citizens’ Police Academy doesn’t exactly train people for duty—but it does allow them, for one night, to get their hands on some real, police-issue weapons. On Wednesday, October 11, about a dozen participants got to show those paper silhouette targets who was boss at the indoor firing range at Rivanna Rifle and Pistol Club.
Citizens entered the firing range one-by-one and, after five shots sounded, would emerge smiling, showing off their punctured targets. The weapon, an HK .45 caliber, double-action pistol, is one that all police carry in their holsters. For a novice shooter, it’s a pretty big gun—the sights are tiny and it takes a steady hand to aim properly. The recoil is enough to make you think you’ve missed the target completely. In training, according to Charlottesville Police Lieutenant Gary Pleasants, police have three seconds to draw this same pistol and get two shots off accurately at seven and 15 yards on moving targets during their qualification courses.
    Citizens in the academy say the day at the range was one of the most exciting in the 10-week course. Other topics include gangs and forensics.
Herb Porter, Jr., president of the Fifeville Neighborhood Association, enrolled because “as a member of the Charlottesville community, it’s important to get a sense of how the system works.”
    Pleasants, who is firearms instructor for the department, instructed the group on other police weapons. All cop cars are outfitted with Remington five-gauge shotguns. Police also use HKG-36 .223 caliber semi-automatic assault rifles—they’re a class 3 weapon, which means they’re registered just like a fully automatic machine gun. Holding a full ammunition magazine for the assault rifle, Pleasants jokes, “If I get through these, there’s something seriously wrong.”
    Afterward, Pleasants gave a lesson about the “use-of-force continuum.” To use deadly force, an officer must be preventing himself or someone else from being killed or seriously injured. Or, he can shoot someone who has committed a violent felony if he has probable cause to believe the perp will commit another violent felony. “Prime example—a school shooting,” says Pleasants. “People have been shot, [police] see the gunman running down the hallway, they’re yelling at him to stop. …[Shooting him] is justified.”

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