On Capitol Hill, the battle to protect the Second Amendment can be a lonely one. In the 1980s, anti-gun groups tried to make it even lonelier by launching a major effort to split rank-and-file law enforcement officers away from the NRA by manufacturing bogus issues such as "plastic guns" and "cop-killer bullets"—both ultimately resolved with NRA-drafted legislation.
NRA and the nation`s largest police group, the Fraternal Order of Police, have worked together on numerous issues, and thanks to the leadership of FOP National President Chuck Canterbury our working relationship is now stronger than ever.
Chuck is a 25-year veteran of law enforcement, including serving as the firearm instructor for his department in Horry County, S.C. He chartered the Local Coastal Carolina FOP lodge in 1984 and rose through the FOP ranks to become national president in 2003. Canterbury`s son is following in his footsteps by serving with the Horry County Police Department. They also share a passion for waterfowl hunting in the Myrtle Beach area, where they both live.
I was pleased to catch up with Chuck when he visited Washington recently.
Cox: "Chuck, it`s great to visit with you. The NRA has been honored to work directly with you and the FOP on issues like the Tiahrt Amendment, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, microstamping and countless others. Our members very much appreciate your support."
Canterbury: "Chris, it`s not only a pleasure; it`s a duty for us at FOP to support policies that protect our nation`s law enforcement officers—but also protect the rights of law-abiding citizens."
Cox: "On the Tiahrt Amendment, you showed particular courage. Michael Bloomberg organized his anti-gun mayors to pressure their police chiefs into supporting the release of sensitive firearms trace data. Many big city police chiefs gave in to that. But you spoke up forcefully, explaining that releasing the data would jeopardize investigations and endanger undercover officers. Bloomberg called the FOP a `fringe group` for telling the truth about that."
Canterbury: "If standing up for officer safety makes the FOP a fringe group, then so be it. The real fringe group is the reckless politicians who interfere with law enforcement. I can`t just stand by while politicians grandstand over our issues without understanding the real-world implications."
Cox: "You`ve also spent a lot of time reminding members of Congress that FOP members are gun owners who support the Second Amendment. In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, you said `I take a back seat to no one in my reverence for the Second Amendment.`"
Canterbury: "That`s correct. I meant it then and I mean it now. Our members and your members share many of the same beliefs about guns and crime. Many department chiefs are political, and they go with the anti-gun line, especially in the big cities. But our members in the rank and file know the reality on the streets."
Cox: "That`s exactly what NRA members in law enforcement are always telling me. And that`s why our legislative agendas often come together."
Canterbury: "Yes. And we also appreciate that the NRA cares about law enforcement concerns. When the media began reporting on massive layoffs of police officers in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the NRA weighed in, reminding the mayor that fewer cops mean more criminals on the streets. The NRA also supported FOP on passing the Law Enforcement Officers` Safety Act, and your support was critical to its passage."
Cox: "I know our members appreciate what your members do to keep our communities safe. And I`m proud of the relationship we have on legislative issues."
Canterbury: "It`s a great relationship, and I hope to maintain it for a long time. This Congress is already debating issues that would have an impact on both our memberships, and I look forward to seeing you on Capitol Hill so we can continue working together."