As a Marine, I know all too well the bloody sacrifice of our brave men and women in the military in defense of our country, our security and our freedom. It takes a special sense of duty and courage to be willing to put one’s own life in harm’s way for the sake of others.
That is why our NRA honors the members of our armed forces as noble patriots. It’s why we mourn as flags are draped over the coffins of fallen heroes and why we proudly stand with hands over hearts to honor the flag and anthem of the nation they defend.
For those same reasons we never take the service and sacrifice of America’s law enforcement officers for granted. Like Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Guardsmen and Marines, law officers don their uniforms and go into harm’s way every single day. They patrol our streets and neighborhoods; protect our borders; watch over our communities and schools; and spend precious off-duty hours volunteering for programs that help our children and support local charities. They risk their lives every single day with a singular purpose—to serve and protect us. And too often, that service comes at the ultimate cost—the loss of their lives.
According to a preliminary report by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 144 federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officers died in the line of duty during 2018. This figure represents a 12 percent increase over the 129 officers who died in the line of duty in 2017. That’s simply horrifying.
These courageous public servants were slain in a variety of ways: while making arrests, conducting investigations, responding to domestic and public disturbances, conducting traffic stops, transporting violent prisoners, and even ambushed while on duty. When these officers strapped on a gun and donned a badge, they went to work to protect us, to keep evil from our doors, and to put their own lives on the line for ours.
The classical definition of a hero is a person who puts him or herself at risk for the benefit of others. These law officers meet that definition.
That is why the NRA, throughout its history, has been proud of our partnership with America’s law enforcement community, a partnership that dates all the way back to the founding of our organization in 1871. In fact, there are five expressed major purposes of the NRA. One of our principal objectives is to train members of law enforcement agencies. Another is to promote public safety, law and order, and the national defense.
In other words, since our founding, two of our specific purposes are to support the men and women of America’s law enforcement community.
To help meet that objective, some 60,000 law enforcement instructors have been trained and certified by the NRA. At our headquarters in Fairfax, Va., we offer officers tuition-free training on our indoor range. We also provide support and seminars on the Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act, with legal and training updates, in addition to a free law enforcement newsletter that is distributed to 35,000 agencies and officers around the country. The NRA also provides law enforcement instructor liability insurance, as well as retired and off-duty liability insurance.
To serve the families of slain officers, the NRA provides a “Line of Duty Death Benefit” to every public law enforcement officer, who is also a member of the NRA, killed in the line of duty. Since that benefit was established two decades ago, the NRA has awarded more than $3 million to the survivors of member officers tragically lost in service.
To further promote law and order and support our law enforcement officers, the NRA has fought for decades, and will continue to fight for meaningful criminal justice reform. Officers are threatened every day by the politicians who repeatedly undercut them by failing to enforce existing federal laws against violent felons with guns, drug dealers and gangs with guns, and by failing to remove violent repeat predators from America’s streets.
Every American citizen, especially our law enforcement officers, can count on the NRA to stand up and fight for a return to the basic principles of right and wrong, and law and order, to make all of our neighborhoods—as well as those who serve them—safe.
Despite the all-too-frequent criticism and attacks by the so-called “mainstream” news media, the NRA will always be proud of, always honor, and always defend our law enforcement officers and their families. That’s why we recognize a “Law Enforcement Officer of the Year” at our Annual Meetings & Exhibits—as we will next month in Indianapolis.
They walk the thin blue line on the front lines of protecting us and our ability to live safe and free.
They are our American heroes.