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President’s Column | Facing Real Danger, Police Officers Are American Heroes

President’s Column | Facing Real Danger, Police Officers Are American Heroes

On July 3, 2018, Tulsa, Okla., police Sergeant Mike Parsons put on his uniform and ballistic vest, donned his badge, strapped on his gun, and went out to serve and protect his community. He had no idea his day would end with a gunfight and a bullet in his thigh.

In response to a radio call for “backup,” Sgt. Parsons arrived on-scene at a gas station, where two of his fellow officers were questioning a suspect who refused to exit a vehicle with improper license tags. It could have been a fairly normal traffic stop, but the suspect became increasingly agitated and refused to exit the vehicle.

Sgt. Parsons calmly informed the suspect that he had a PepperBall gun and would use it if necessary. The subject again refused to exit the vehicle and became even more agitated.

Having no choice, and fearing for the safety of people at the gas station, Sgt. Parsons fired several PepperBall projectiles into the vehicle. The suspect suddenly produced a hidden .32-caliber handgun and fired off four shots. One of the rounds struck Sgt. Parsons in the right thigh, dropping him to ground in the “kill zone.” Though wounded, Sgt. Parsons continued to command his officers.

While officers deployed ballistic shields, surrounded the vehicle, and gained control of the suspect, others dragged Sgt. Parsons to safety out of the line of fire. Among them was his wife, a fellow Tulsa police officer.

The bullet struck Sgt. Parsons in the area of his femoral artery, a potentially fatal injury. But the round was deflected by a military challenge coin Sgt. Parsons had in his pocket, a gift from a fellow officer.

To learn more about this dramatic event and the heroism of Sgt. Parsons and his fellow officers, go to NRATV.com and check out my “American Heroes” series.

This extraordinary and inspiring story should remind us all of the very real dangers faced by our police officers every single day. And it’s why, at our Annual Meetings & Exhibits in Indianapolis, Sgt. Mike Parsons will be honored as the NRA Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. All NRA members congratulate and thank Sgt. Parsons for his courage and service.

For most of my life it has been my privilege to keep company with heroes.

It takes a very special sense of duty and courage to put one’s own life in harm’s way for the sake of others.

For 148 years, NRA members have recognized and honored the service of America’s law enforcement officers. They walk our streets, patrol our neighborhoods, protect our borders, watch over our communities and schools, and devote their spare time volunteering for our children and local charities.

As I write this, the Officers Down Memorial Page lists 23 “Line of Duty” deaths so far in 2019. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 144 federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial officers died in the line of duty in 2018. That’s a 12 percent increase over the 129 line of duty deaths in 2017.

Since the NRA was founded in 1871, two of our Association’s five “purposes and objectives” pertain directly to America’s law enforcement community:

“To promote public safety, law and order, and the national defense;” and

“To train members of law enforcement agencies … in marksmanship and in the safe handling and efficient use of small arms.”

In meeting those objectives, over 60,000 law-enforcement firearm instructors have been trained and certified by the NRA. We offer tuition-free seminars, legal and training updates, and a free law-enforcement newsletter to 35,000 agencies and officers.

The NRA has always supported the law-enforcement community by offering specific benefits to active duty and retired law-enforcement officers, and their families. For over two decades, the NRA has worked with trusted partners to provide unique products and services that meet the needs of law enforcement.

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day. Congress designated the surrounding seven days as National Police Week.

Since then, tens of thousands of law officers from around the world have gathered in our nation’s capital on Police Week for ceremonies and special events honoring the service and sacrifice of fallen brothers and sisters, and their families.

The next time you see a uniformed police officer, a trooper or a deputy sheriff, just say, “Thank you,” and let him or her know you appreciate all they do for us.

They are American heroes.

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