Originally published November 2001 in American Rifleman.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, Americans awakened to the cruel reality of terrorism in our homeland. Now we must hunt the terrorists down, prosecute them and eradicate their threat from the planet.
We, the leaders of your NRA, look at our great organization as an extended family—a family united by our single dedication to the freedom that generations of Americans have fought and died to protect. On September 11, we lost many of our own. In the hijacked airliners, in the Pentagon, in the World Trade Center. And especially among the brave fire fighters and police officers who risked all to save their friends and neighbors trapped in the wreckage caused by the malicious acts of the enemies of America and of freedom. Our hearts and prayers are with all those who lost their loved ones on that fateful day. The nation must always remember them and pay tribute to their sacrifices.
Such times of national crises can trigger a reckless reflex to trade hard-won liberty for the illusion of security. As we wage war, we must always remember that we cannot purchase a safe society paid for with the currency of America’s Constitutional freedoms. We can’t make ourselves safer by making ourselves less free.
We can be thankful that, from the very outset, President George W. Bush—whom you played no small part in electing—showed the world that America’s leader is made of best-tempered metal. “Freedom itself was attacked this morning,” he said. “Freedom will be defended.”
In his speech before a joint session of Congress, President Bush told the nation, the world, those who carried out the attacks and any would-be terrorist of tomorrow exactly where he stands and where a united American people stand. “Tonight we are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom. Our grief has turned to anger and anger to resolution. Whether we bring our enemies to justice or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done,” said President Bush. The National Rifle Association stands 100 percent behind President Bush—and our men and women in uniform—in the nation’s declaration of war against the terrorist killers bent on destroying America and the beliefs we stand for. And every part of the law enforcement and military team hunting these killers will include NRA members who are serving our country—NRA members who pray for peace, but who know, as do you, that vigilance and sacrifice are the price we must pay for liberty.
With our faith in freedom lies our courage to defend it. Some may temporarily take our freedom for granted, but we must always return to the eternal realization that we cannot, because it was purchased with the blood of American patriots. These patriots, generation after generation of them, and now including brave fire fighters, police and emergency workers, knew one simple truth—freedom is based on courage.
As NRA members, we know that simple truth remains the core of America’s being. As the covenants of our Founding Fathers speak to us, so must they again rally our nation and galvanize us as one people.
That’s why NRA is poised to protect personal freedom as our nation recovers from the nightmare of September 11. Nobody can do what the NRA can do. There’s no other organization in which 4 million Americans stand in stewardship over the purity of freedom in all its forms.
Let us, the members of this great and historic American organization, choose this crossroads in history to take the lead and clear a safe path for the preservation, perpetuation and transfer of our personal freedoms to the next generation.
As our nation searches for answers to improve our security, there may be those who will attempt to use this time of national emergency to erode our freedom. To those political opportunists, we say no—we will not abide such actions. Not today, not ever.
Those who wrought such horrific destruction despise our freedom and will dance in the streets if we shred the precious document handed down to us by our Founding Fathers. Terrorists did take American lives that day. But they cannot take away the freedom of generations yet to be born—not unless you and I, in a fit of fear, surrender our liberties upon the false altar of security.
If we change the way we live in America—if freedom and our Constitution are sacrificed—we will have lost the war before it has even begun.