Friday, August 10, 2012

'From my cold dead hands!'

It looks like I'm back for one more encore. I've been asked to serve a third term as your president.

I don't think anyone's done that before. But George Washington hung around until the Revolutionary War was won. Roosevelt hung around until World War II was won. Reagan hung around until the Cold War was won. If you want, I'll hang around until we win this one, too.

Do you feel that incredible energy in the air here today? I'll tell you what it is. It's the feeling you get when you're making a difference in the future of your country.

That was my goal -- to make a difference -- when I became your president two years ago. So I set some lofty goals. I said I'd do my part if you'd do yours. Now, just two years later, we've accomplished them all.

All except one.

First, I asked you to rebuild our NRA membership, and you have. Not by just a few thousand members, but by one million members.

Second, I asked you to rebuild our NRA war chest, and you have. I don't mean just in dollars, but in sense. The good sense of the NRA leadership you see here today. Your leaders are qualified, competent, unified, and believe me, fearless.

Third, I wanted to bring the NRA back to the table of mainstream political debate, and we have. You saw Wayne on that tape. I'd say we're not just at the table.

We're eating their lunch.

But more than anything else, I asked you to believe in each other again. To believe that gun ownership is as wholesome as it is constitutional. To believe that an NRA sticker on your windshield is a sign of pride. To believe that a kid who wants to plink at tin cans is not a kid gone wrong. To believe that the great flame of freedom our founding fathers ignited has not grown cold.

I declare that mission accomplished! I look around this great hall and I see the fire is in your eyes, the pride is in your hearts, and the commitment is here in your presence today. The NRA is baaaaaack...

All of which spells very serious trouble for a man named Gore.

Didja see that Gore rally in D.C. last weekend? One of the marchers said, "The hands that rock the cradle rule this nation." And I thought, No madam, the hands that rock the cradle rule our families and governments and corporations. The hands that wrote the Constitution rule this nation.

All the anti-gun celebs came out to march. Tipper Gore was there, Rosie O'Donnell was there (I like to call her Tokyo Rosie). A fine actress, Susan Sarandon, was there and shouted with great diplomacy and stateswomanship, "We Moms are really pissed off!"

I must ask, pissed off about what? If it's crime, why aren't you pissed off at the failure of this Administration to prosecute gun-toting criminals?

If it's accidents, why aren't you pissed off at swimming pool owners, or stairway owners, or pickup owners?

Why aren't you pissed off that gun accident prevention programs aren't in every elementary classroom in America?

As a matter of fact, why aren't you pissed off at parents who're oblivious that their kids are building bombs in their bedrooms?

Why aren't you pissed off that Mr. Gore wants registration and licensing instead of parenting and prosecution?

Which leads me to that one mission left undone: Winning in November. That's why I'm staying on for a third tour of duty.

Today I challenge you to find your third term, and serve it. Find your extra mile, and walk it.

Only you know what you can do between now and that decisive November day to turn the tide of these elections in favor of freedom. I ask you to find it and fulfill it.

Go the extra distance, find that extra member, write the extra check, knock on one more door, work one more hour, make one more call, convince one more friend, turn the other cheek if you must, but find your third term and serve it.

That's your part to play. What more important role can there be...than to bequeath our freedom to the next generation as pure and intact as it was given to us. As Mr. Lincoln commanded: "With firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us finish the work we are in...and then we shall save our country."

Each of us in his own way, plus all of us in our collective millions, must give that extra measure that freedom demands of us.

Let me tell you what I mean. Until a few hours ago I was finishing my 80th film in Vancouver, Canada. I was there because I love my craft and I love to feed my family.

So you'll forgive me if I'm a little tired. I flew all night, across a continent and three time zones, to be here with you. I'm here because I love my country and I love this freedom.

But it was just the most recent flight in thousands of flights, the most recent mile on thousands of roads I've travelled in my ten years of active service to this great Association. It's been a helluva ride.

I remember a decade ago at my first annual meeting in St. Louis. After my banquet remarks to a packed house, they presented me with a very special gift. It was a splendid hand-crafted musket.

I admit I was overcome by the power of its simple symbolism. I looked at that musket and I thought of all of the lives given for that freedom. I thought of all of the lives saved with that freedom. It dawned on me that the doorway to all freedoms is framed by muskets.

So I lifted that musket over my head for all to see. And as flashbulbs popped around the room, my heart and a few tears swelled up, and I uttered five unscripted words. When I did, that room exploded in sustained applause and hoots and shouts that seemed to last forever.

In that moment, I bonded with this great Association. And in thousands of moments since, I've been asked to repeat those five words in airports and hotels and rallies and speeches across this land.

In your own way, you have already heard them. That's why you're here.

Every time our country stands in the path of danger, an instinct seems to summon her finest first -- those who truly understand her. When freedom shivers in the cold shadow of true peril, it's always the patriots who first hear the call. When loss of liberty is looming, as it is now, the siren sounds first in the hearts of freedom's vanguard. The smoke in the air of our Concord Bridges and Pearl Harbors is always smelled first by the farmers, who come from their simple homes to find the fire, and fight.

Because they know that sacred stuff resides in that wooden stock and blued steel, something that gives the most common man the most uncommon of freedoms. When ordinary hands can possess such an extraordinary instrument, that symbolizes the full measure of human dignity and liberty.

That's why those five words issue an irresistible call to us all, and we muster.

So as we set out this year to defeat the divisive forces that would take freedom away, I want to say those words again for everyone within the sound of my voice to hear and to heed, and especially for you, Mr. Gore:

From my cold dead hands!

(National Rifle Association President Charlton Heston, in opening remarks delivered at the NRA Annual Meeting on May 20, 2000)