The federal government’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives — better known simply as the “ATF” — has been without a Senate-confirmed permanent director since 2015, but that may be about to change as President Donald Trump has signaled his intention to soon make a formal nomination for that position.
In a news release last week, the White House named Charles Canterbury, Jr. as Trump’s likely nominee to be the director of the ATF. That nomination should put to rest at least some of the concerns many gun owners hold with regard to that particular agency, as Canterbury is quite open about his strong support for the Second Amendment and the gun rights cherished by American citizens.
The release noted, “Mr. Canterbury currently serves as President of the National Fraternal Order of Police, a position he has held since 2003. He earned the rank of Major in the Horry County Police Department in Conway, South Carolina, after 26 years in the Patrol Division, Criminal Division, and Training Division.”
“He has served on the Executive Board of the National Fraternal Order of Police for more than two decades. His distinguished career earned him an induction into the South Carolina Law Enforcement Hall of Fame,” the statement added.
Canterbury’s name actually came up as a potential nominee to lead the ATF in November 2018, when Politico reported upon some of the controversy and criticism that arose following Canterbury and the FOP’s endorsement of Trump’s criminal justice reform efforts, efforts the FOP had previously stood against.
That article pointed out that Canterbury had a “very good relationship” with the president, and noted that he had taken part in several of the White House listening sessions and round table discussions about immigration and other law enforcement-related issues.
It also included anonymous and partisan speculation that Canterbury had been angling for some time for any of several possible jobs in the administration.
Regardless, the executive director of the National Sheriffs’ Association, Jonathan Thompson, told Politico of Canterbury and the ATF top spot: “Chuck is one of the most honorable people I’ve ever worked with and if he is selected, I can’t think of a finer person to take the position.”
As for Canterbury’s stance on gun ownership and the Second Amendment, The Daily Caller reported that there are plenty of prior statements from the FOP president that make it abundantly clear where he stands on the issue of firearms in civilian hands.
In 2009, while testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee during the confirmation hearings for then-Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, Canterbury said he saw no contradiction between supporting the Second Amendment and supporting the liberal jurist.
“I want no mistake to be made,” Canterbury said, according to The Daily Caller. “I take a back seat to no one in my reverence for the Second Amendment.”
“In fact, if I thought that Judge Sotomayor’s presence on the court posed a threat to my Second Amendment right, I would not be supporting her here today,” he added.
Just two years later, in 2011, Canterbury sat down for an interview with Chris Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association — Institute for Legislative Action, and reiterated his strong support for civilian gun ownership and the Second Amendment.
Remarking upon the close cooperation between the NRA and the FOP, Canterbury said, “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.”
Canterbury also addressed his opposition to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun mayor’s organization and strict gun control proposals — some of which Canterbury argued would prove dangerous to police officers.
That opposition led Bloomberg to dismissively refer to the FOP as a radical “fringe group” that should be ignored.
Canterbury’s answer to that was perfect.
“If standing up for officer safety makes the FOP a fringe group, then so be it,” he said.
“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.”
It is those “real-world implications” of strict gun control laws and an undermined Second Amendment — specifically the impact such measures have on the streets — that a career law enforcement official would know better than any politician.
That, plus his recognition of the importance of protecting the gun rights of law-abiding citizens means he is quite likely the best choice as any to lead — and hopefully, reform for the better — an agency that many gun owners have long viewed with suspicion.
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