This editorial first appeared in American Rifleman, July 1960. By Louis F. Lucas, Executive Director, National Rifle Association
Independence Day commemorates the greatest single event in American history. The message of the Liberty Bell ringing at Philadelphia on July 4, 1776, has been listened to with rapt attention by men all over the world because it proclaimed the freedom of man.
The real issue of the American Revolutionary War was not the political independence of a few colonies from their mother country. The fight was not between the British people and the American people. It was between the idea that man exists for the benefit of the State and the idea that the State exists for the benefit of man. The real issue was the political independence of the individual.
Into the story of American democracy there is woven a strong pattern of beliefs and ideas. They are the basic themes of our most treasured documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. These documents were written by men who believed in human dignity and freedom of the individual; men who were willing to risk the loss of friends, the breaking up of families, and the slander of political enemies; men who were willing to sacrifice personal fortunes and to give their lives, if necessary, for this idea. Some of their names have been inscribed in our history books. Others gave as much, unknown and unsung, but the personal contribution of each man made possible the ultimate results. So it is today. Each of us, in our own way, has the opportunity and the responsibility to maintain the freedom of man.
Reputable citizens who own and use firearms have special responsibilities to see that this right is not lost.Human beings are subject to the influence of great tides of thought which run, unseen, deeply below the surface of society. These powerful streams of opinion and attitudes can move masses of people along with them without many of the individuals being aware of the direction in which they are drifting. America has been moving along on one of these great tides whose perils are not visible of the majority. There is a definite trend to subordinate individual rights in any situation which may appear at the moment to be in the public interest. It is high time to check this onrush to disaster by revitalizing the fundamental doctrines on which this nation was founded.
Freedom of the individual is the foundation stone of American liberty. The basic liberties guaranteed to the people in the Constitution of the United States are a priceless heritage. They much be cherished and protected from those who would impair them, either deliberately or because of a lack of understanding. We must guard them against abridgement or they will be destroyed.
Today, more than ever before, our day-to-day lives are affected by what takes place in local legislatures, in the halls of Congress, and in the international conferences. Whom we send there to represent us and what takes place there should be the concern of every citizen. Each of us must keep abreast of current trends in government and be ready to express our views on such matters to our elected representatives, our associates, and our personal friends. The right to keep and bear arms is a vital element of the American way of life. Reputable citizens who own and use firearms have special responsibilities to see that this right is not lost. We must take a personal interest in proposed anti-firearm legislation and other matters relating to guns and shooting.
One lesson that the history of man’s struggle for liberty seems to prove is that the individual who desires the very real blessings of political, intellectual, and religious liberty must be eternally vigilant in guarding his individual rights. If he does not assume this responsibility and leaves it to others, he will find sooner or later that all of his freedoms have disappeared. Individual liberty is everybody’s business. Each of us must be willing to think, talk, and act as a free man. We must be willing to pay the price of individual rights.