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President’s Column | Once You Lose Your Freedoms, You Don’t Get Them Back

President’s Column | Once You Lose Your Freedoms, You Don’t Get Them Back

I’d like to share with you my eyewitness account of gun control in action. Every day the rights of law-abiding gun owners and legitimate firearm businesses are attacked by those who seek to erode our treasured Second Amendment. A few people are always rabble-rousers who want to take away freedoms, but they don’t reflect the popular will of the majority. I know this from personal experience.

I was in Australia not long after the tragedy in 1996 that led to that nation’s repressive gun-control laws. In looking back, we must be careful to isolate and weigh the facts. The perpetrator responsible for the terrible crime was a dangerous individual whose problems were well-known before the incident. He should never have been in the position to commit his crimes. Soon after the tragedy, the Australian government moved to take away entire categories of guns from its citizens. The authorities confiscated an estimated 700,000 guns, including banned pump-action and semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, even nonworking examples beyond repair—all private property, all destroyed by the government. This was a huge over-reaction that ultimately had no practical effect other than to strip away rights from Australian gun owners because of a horrific act committed by a single mentally deranged person.

For nearly two months, my husband and I traveled extensively throughout Australia. Coming from a political family in Georgia, a family of long-time hunters and shooting-sports enthusiasts, I naturally was very interested in talking to Australians about what was taking place. At one sheep ranch spanning more than 10,000 acres—considered “small” there—the owner talked to us about burying his long guns. He was very upset. In a remote village, I saw about 30 people marching for gun rights. I joined right in and marched among them, gathering information the whole time I walked. These people were very disturbed. Most of their livelihoods depended on them being able to have shotguns and rifles to control dingoes (wild dogs).

When you take away the ability of people to protect themselves and their homes, you lose your freedom.

I visited Parliament even though it was not in session. There I talked to many members of Parliament, who were adamant about gun control. I discovered that as I traveled farther away from cities, people were very pro-gun. They didn’t think it was right. My travels also took me to Sydney, the Gold Coast, Port Arthur and the Great Barrier Reef. I had a close-up look at gun confiscation.

This is a lesson for us. What happened in Australia, confiscating guns from law-abiding citizens, made no difference to their crime rate. If someone is bent on violent crime, only direct intervention will stop them. Bad guys in Australia still use guns and knives. Banning, confiscating and restricting the rights of law-abiding people never works. It has been demonstrated throughout history that when you disarm people the result is a country of subjects, not citizens.

I also visited New Zealand during that period. It is a beautiful country just like Australia. New Zealand is now experiencing a similar situation in the wake of a catastrophic mass murder followed by a predictable media frenzy, which has led to the same troubling aftermath that I witnessed in its neighbor many years ago. This year New Zealand passed anti-gun legislation banning most semi-automatic firearms and instituting a “buyback” program after a terrorist attack in Christchurch. When you take away the ability of people to protect themselves and their homes, you lose your freedom and will have problems. I urge people in Australia and New Zealand to take back their freedoms. But the truth is, once you lose freedom, it’s very difficult to ever get it back.

For me, the most important parts of being American are religious freedom and the right to keep and bear arms. At our founding and throughout our history the men and women who made our country what it is today put their lives on the line for these freedoms. That is a reason why we in America have a Second Amendment, and we are blessed among nations that it is protected by law as part of our Constitution. Our freedoms are worth dedicating your life to preserve, just as so many of our beloved veterans have done. 

In America, we are now witnessing elected officials bringing forth a great plan to dismantle our Second Amendment freedoms, piece by piece. But you and I, the NRA, are too strong to allow it.

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