TUPELO – Thanks to a $100,000 grant, Lee County sheriff’s deputies no longer have to furnish their own firearms.
Deputies spent Wednesday and Thursday getting qualified with their new department-issued .40-caliber sidearms, the same weapons used by the Tupelo Police Department and Mississippi Highway Patrol.
Sheriff Jim Johnson said that until now, any deputies, detectives and other county personnel required to carry a firearm had to supply it themselves.
Even though the county bought the ammunition, the mix-and-match arsenal was potentially problematic.
“We had some officers with 9 millimeters, some with .357 and other with .45 and all types of weapons,” said Johnson. “All of our officers were certified with those weapons, but it just made more sense from an enforcement standpoint to use all the same weapons.
“This way we can share ammo and everyone can be familiar with each other’s weapons. If something happens and we have to share bullets or swap guns, then we would be at a disadvantage if everything was different.”
Because other area agencies use the .40-caliber handgun, Johnson said it was helpful for the sheriff’s department to make the switch.
“We’d never want this to happen, but if we got into a shootout and Tupelo had to come in and help us or we had to help them, then it would be good to know that we all used the same ammo.”
The two-day training consisted of getting qualified with the AR-15 rifle, shotgun and the .40-caliber.
Investigator Bobby Bean, one of the instructors for the qualification, said most of the time was spent on safety issues.
“We spend 70 percent of the time training the officers on how to safely use their weapons,” said Bean. “You can learn to shoot in 10 minutes, but shooting safely is the important thing.”
To be qualified to carry a firearm for the sheriff’s department, deputies had to take 20 shots at an immobile target and to connect on at least 18 of those shots.
Bean said about 50 deputies will be qualified to carry their new firearms by the end of the training this week.
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal