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The city will end its affiliation with the NRA’s National Police Shooting Championships it has hosted since 2007 after this year because the contest “is a bad fit for Albuquerque,” Mayor Tim Keller announced late Friday.
Under a contract with the National Rifle Association, the Albuquerque Police Department had agreed to help host the shooting championship, and the city provided some financial support. This year’s competition takes place Sept. 24-26.
In a statement released late Friday, Keller said the city will stop hosting the contest in coming years because of cost and resource burdens to the city.
“We may have been obligated as a city to host the event this year, but the NRA will have to find a different venue moving forward,” Keller said. “We simply can’t afford to spend police resources on the NRA that are needed to fight crime, especially gun violence, in our city.”
Shaun Willoughby, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, expressed the union’s disappointment in the Keller decision.
“These are law enforcement officers from all over the country that take great pride participating in these competitions,” Willoughby said. “We’re all law-abiding citizens taking advantage of our Second Amendment rights to bear arms and use them proficiently.”
The mayor said the city “can find better community oriented ways for law enforcement to train and hone their skills such as bringing back the law enforcement games. We’ll be looking at other events for our officers that are a better fit with our goal to be a safe, innovative and inclusive city.”
An emailed request for comment from the National Rifle Association was not returned Friday. An attempt to reach the mayor for further comment also was unsuccessful.
Keller said in the statement that the contract requires the city to provide at least 60 APD employees as well as other resources to host the event, including some items that must be supplied year-round.
The competition is open to public and private law enforcement professionals and select law enforcement members of the U.S. armed forces.
Willoughby said, “I can completely relate to the sacrifice of losing 30 police officers and 30 (police service aides) for this event, considering that we are significantly understaffed. … We’ve done this for the past five years where the Albuquerque Police Department has experienced the most understaffing crisis that we’ve ever faced in the history of our department.”
Besides the national contest, the competition also includes the New Mexico Challenge on Sept. 22, an event open to officers who work for New Mexico law enforcement agencies.
The event draws hundreds of law enforcement officers from across the country to the city each year, staying and eating in local hotels and restaurants, but the event has also been a target for protests.
In 2014, family members of men shot and killed by Albuquerque police called on the city to cancel the competition, saying the event was insensitive to the relatives of those who had been killed.