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Straight shooting cop makes Olympic bid

PSA lieutenant will try to make

American Olympic pistol team for the third straight time

(Published March 13, 2000)

By OSCAR ABEYTA

Staff Writer

Most cops donít ever want to have to fire their guns. A fired gun usually means danger, injury and sometimes death. They train with them, they try to educate people about them, but most cops donít ever want to shoot their guns.

Lt. Elizabeth Callahan may be the exception.

She loves firing her gun. And sheís good at it, too. Sheís undoubtedly the best marksman in the Metropolitan Police Department. Sheís so good at it that she will be trying out for her third straight Olympics next month.

The gun she fires, though, is not her service weapon. Callahan competes in the air pistol and .22 caliber "sport" pistol competitions.

In the air pistol competitions, competitors have to hit a target about the same size as a pencil eraser from 10 meters away. The "sport" pistol competition has two parts: a precision shooting segment and a rapid fire segment, shooting at a target about the size of a half dollar from 25 meters away.

A 25-year veteran of the police department, Callahan has been shooting competitively since 1980. She got good enough to make a trip to the 1992 Olympic games in Barcelona, where she placed 37th overall in the air pistol competition. She also made the American team in the "sport" pistol event and went to the 1996 games in Atlanta, where she finished in 24th place.

Donít kick yourself if youíve never heard of the MPDís two-time Olympian. Itís doubtful anyone in the District could pick her out of a lineup because the shooting events are almost never televised in this country. On the rare occasion the networks that carry the Olympics do broadcast any shooting events, Callahan said itís usually the rifle or shotgun events, not any of the handgun events.

Callahan said the handgun events are much more popular in Europe, where recreational and competition marksmanship is much more prevalent.

"They have shooting clubs in Europe like we have tennis clubs here," she said. "They really take it seriously."

Callahan finds it ironic that in countries like Russia and China, where handgun laws are much stricter and private ownership is nearly unheard of, the sport is much more popular than in the United States -- where almost anyone can legally own a handgun (except in the District where all handguns are illegal). She attributes part of that to the high levels of handgun violence in this country and the stigma that violence has put on the sport.

"In police work you always see the negative side of things," she said. "You rarely see the positive side of a gun being fired."

But Callahan has taken that positive aspect and traveled around the world with it. She has competed in World Cup and World Championship events in Italy, Germany, Korea, Japan, Brazil, Russia and Cuba, to name a few. Sheíll even be making a pre-Olympic trip to Sydney to participate in the World Cup tournament there beginning March 21.

Callahan said all her vacations are planned around the various competitions throughout the year. And somewhere between the travelling and the police work as lieutenant for Patrol Service Area 510 ó she also just took the captainís test to try to qualify for a promotion ó she still manages to practice three to four hours a day.

"Itís a serious hobby," she stated -- or rather, understated.

Copyright 2000, The Common Denominator