and for the enjoyment of all, Mr. Hestons full speech on that day:
and for the enjoyment of all, Mr. Hestons full speech on that day:
I have been admonished not to be here, not to speak to you here. It's not the first time. In 1963, I marched on Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King, long before Hollywood found civil rights fashionable. My associates advised me not to go. They said it would be unpopular and maybe dangerous.
Thirty-six years later, my associates advised me not to come to Denver. They said it would be unpopular and maybe dangerous. But I am here. Let me tell you why.
I see our country teetering on the edge of an abyss. At its bottom brews the simmering bile of deep, dark hatred. Hatred that's dividing our country politically, racially, economically, geographically, in every way.
Whether it's political vendettas, sports brawls, corporate takeovers, or high school gangs and cliques, the American competetive ethic has changed from "let's beat the other guy" to "let's destroy the other guy." Too many are too willing to stigmatize and demonize others for political advantage, money or ratings.
The villification is savage. This week, Rep. John Conyers slandered 3 million Americans when he called the NRA "merchants of death" on national television, as the First Lady nodded in agreement. A hideous editorial cartoon by Mike Peters ran nationally, depicting children's dead bodies sprawled out to spell N-R-A. The countless requests we've received for media appearances are in fact summons to public floggings, where those who hate firearms will predictably don the white hat and hand us the black.
This harvest of hatred is then sold as news, as entertainment, as government policy. Such hateful, divisive forces are leading us to one awful end: America's own form of Balkanization. A weakened country of rabid factions, each less free, and united only by hatred of one another.
In the past ten days, we've seen these brutal blows attempting to fracture America into two such camps. One camp would be the majority - people who believe our Founders guarenteed our security with the right to defend ourselves, our families and our country. The other camp would be a large minority - people who believe that we will buy security if we will just surrender these freedoms.
This debate would be accurately described as those who believe in the Second Amendment, versus those who don't. But instead it is spun as those who believe in murder, versus those who don't. A struggle between the reckless and the prudent, between the dim-witted and the enlightened, between the archaic and the progressive, between the inferior citizens and elitists who know what's good for society.
But we're not the rustic, reckless radicals they wish for. No, the NRA spans the broadest range of American demography imaginable. We defy stereotype, except for love of country. Look in your mirror, your shopping mall, your church or grocery store. That's us. Millions of ordinary people and extraordinarypeople - war heroes, sports idols, several U.S. presidents and yes, movie stars.
But the screeching hyperbole leveled at gun owners has made these two camps so wary of each other, so hostile and confrontational and disrespectful, that too many on both sides have forgotten that we are, first, Americans.
I am asking all of us, on both sides, to take one step back from the edge of that cliff. Then another step and another, however many it takes to get back to that place where we're all Americans again...different, imperfect, diverse, but one nation...indivisible. This cycle of tragedy-driven hatred must stop. Because so much more connects us than divides us. And because tragedy has been and will always be with us. Somewhere right now, evil people are scheming evil things. All of us will do every meaningful thing we can to prevent it. But each horrible act can't become an axe for opportunists to cleave the very Bill of Rights that binds us.
America must stop this predictable pattern of reaction. When an isolated, terrible event occurs, our phones ring, demanding that the NRA explain the inexplicable. Why us? Because their story needs a villan. They want us to play the heavy in their drama of packaged grief, to provide riveting programming to run between commercials for cars and cat food.
The dirty secret of this day and age is that political gain and media ratings all too often bloom upon fresh graves.
I remember a better day, when no one dared politicize or profiteer on trauma. We kept a respectful distance then, as NRA has tried to do now. Simply being silent is so often the right thing to do.
But today, carnage comes with a catchy title, splashy graphics, regular promos and a reactionary package of legislation. reporters perch like vultures on the balconies of hotels for a hundred miles around. Cameras jockey for shocking angles, as news anchors race to drench their microphones in the tears of victims.
Injury, shock, grief and despair shouldn't be "brought to you by sponsors." That's pornography. It trivializes the tragedy, it abuses vulnerable people, and maybe worst of all, it makes the unspeakable seem commplace. And we're often cast as the villain. That is not our role in American society, and we will not be forced to play it. Our mission is to remain a steady beacon of strength and support for the Second Amendment, even if it has no other friend on the planet. We cannot let tragedy lay waste to the most rare and hard-won human right in history.
A nation cannot gain safety by giving up freedom. This truth is older than our country. "Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little telporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin said that.
If you like your freedoms of speech and of religion, freedom from search and seizure, freedom of the press and of privacy, to assemble and to redress grievances, then you'd better give them that eternal bodygueard called the Second Amendment. The individual right to bear arms is freedpm's insurance policy, not just for your children but for infinite generations to come
That is its singular, sacred beauty, and why we preserve it so fiercely. No, it is not a right without rational restrictions. And it's not for everyone. Only the law-abiding majority of society deserves the Second Amendment. Abuse it once and lose it forever. That's the law. But remarkably, the NRA is far more eager to prosecute gun abusers than those who oppose gun ownership altogether..as if the tool could be more evil than the evildoer.
The NRA also spends more and works harder than anybody in America to promote safe, responsible use of firearms. From 38,000 certified instructors training millions of police officers, hunters, women and youth...to 500 law enforcement agencies promoting our Eddie Eagle gun safety program distributed to 11 million kids and counting.
But our essential reason for being is this. As long as there is a Second Amendment, evil can never conquor us. Tyranny, in any form, can never find footing within a society of law-abiding, armed, ethical people.
The majesty of the Second Amendment, that our Founders so divinely captured and crafted into your birthright, guarantees that no government despot, no renegade faction of armed forces, no roving gangs of criminals, no breakdown of law and order, no massive anarchy, no force of evil or crime or oppression from within or from without can ever rob you of the liberties that define your Americanism.
And when they ask, "So indeed you would bear arms against government tyranny?...The answer is, "No. That could never happen, precisely because we have the Second Amendment."
Let me be absolutely clear. The Founding Fathers guaranteed this freedom because they knew no tyranny can ever arise among a people endowed with the right to keep and bear arms. That's why you and your descendants need never fear fascism, state-run faith, refugee camps, brainwashing. ethnic cleansing, or especially, submission to the wanton will of criminals.
The Second Amendment. There can be no more precious inheritance. That's what the NRA preserves. Now, if you disagree, that's your right and I respect that. But we will not relinquish it or be silenced about it, or be told, "Do not come here. You are unwelcome in your own land."
Let's go from this place renewed in spirit and dedicated against hatred. We have work to do, hearts to heal, evil to defeat and a country to unite. We may have differences, yes. And we will again suffer tragedy almost beyond description. But when the sun sets on Denver tonight and evermore, let it always set on we, the people...secure in our land of the free and the home of the brave.
I, for one, plan to do my part. Thank you.