Former Air Force fighter pilot Scott O’Grady knows a thing or two about freedom. After being shot down over Bosnia in 1995, he evaded the enemy for a week before being rescued by U.S. Marines. (The movie “Behind Enemy Lines” is based on O’Grady’s experiences.)
No longer flying fighters, O’Grady has come to realize even more the value of American freedom. And he recognizes the vital importance of firearm ownership in maintaining that freedom.
When I was a boy, my father introduced me to shooting and hunting. I enjoyed outdoor adventures with a shotgun, pistol or rifle. I took NRA firearm safety and marksmanship courses. It was a lot of fun to shoot at junior small-bore .22 rifle competitions with two friends. At the encouragement of my friend’s father, an Army marksman, we all competed in service rifle competitions.
It was a lot of fun. Yet what made such an impression on me was the patriotism of every gun owner I met growing up. Many had amazing stories. I wanted to learn more about the history of firearms and the vital role they played, from giving birth to our nation, to the stories of the Wild West, to the many battles and wars that have been fought in our country’s existence. Firearms have always played a critical role in protecting an individual’s rights, freedom and life.
The Second Amendment protects the right of individual Americans to keep and bear arms. The primary purpose of the Second Amendment is to empower the individual citizen of our nation to defend himself and, if necessary, to rebel against a tyrannical oppressive government—e.g., the American Revolution. This right of a law-abiding citizen “shall not be infringed.”
In fact, the Second Amendment is the only protection Americans have for retaining our other constitutional rights. What many don’t seem to realize is that an armed, law-abiding citizenry bears no threat to anyone other than criminals and tyrants.
Today, some of our country’s leaders want to infringe upon this most sacred individual right. Their arguments are often based on a political philosophy that only the government should be armed, which would leave the citizenry defenseless and vulnerable to those in power. Politicians who oppose the Second Amendment as an individual right use criminal activity and violence as a soapbox to champion their anti-gun agenda. But the truth is, anti-gun laws are never adhered to by criminals, and only infringe upon lawful citizens. Even before the Declaration of Independence, firearms protected individuals, their families and property—just as they do today.
I had the privilege of serving my country as an officer in the Air Force. I served overseas in Korea, Germany and Italy. I enjoyed flying the F-16, but more importantly, I cherished the fellowship of the talented patriots I served with during my time in uniform. All of them served to protect and defend the Constitution, just as the many who had served before and have served since then.
I realize—just as I did before and during my military service—that our freedom as Americans has come at a great cost. The price of freedom has always been paid by service men and women carrying firearms onto the battlefield, even at the risk of their own lives.
Firearms and patriots gave birth to the greatest nation in history—the United States of America. And to this day, they continue to protect our liberty. I am proud to be an American. I am proud to be a veteran. I am proud to be an outdoorsman and hunter. I am the NRA.