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Want to celebrate America’s independence like a Founding Father? Consider getting to a range. It’s what they would have wanted. The celebration of America’s independence, self-determination and revolutionary spirit is rooted in a heritage of responsible firearm ownership.

John Adams, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and later the second President of the United States wrote to his wife Abigail that July 2 would be a day generations of Americans would celebrate with “Pomp and Parade…Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.” His prediction was off by two days. That was a day the Second Continental Congress voted for the Declaration and the day he and 55 others signed it. July 4 would become the day Congress formally adopted it.

Still, Adams was recognizing that America’s celebration of its birth was also a recognition of the role of firearms in shaping the nation’s identity. America was a nation literally hewn from a wild frontier and birthed under the sound of gunfire.

American Arms Production

The first firearms produced in America started “literally as a cottage industry” wrote Chris Kyle, former Navy SEAL and author of American Gun, the book he was writing when he was tragically killed. American guns, he explained, were adaptations of European designs to meet the demands of the American frontier. They were shorter, lighter and rifled, giving the “American Long Rifle,” or Kentucky Long Rifle its place in history. They were the original American guns, designed, manufactured and employed to meet the unique needs of hunting America’s landscapes.

Those rifles were also employed in America’s rebellion against the British crown. British Lt. Gen Thomas Gage sent a 700-man force from Boston to Lexington and Concord, Mass., to seize a cache of guns and gunpowder. On April 19, 1775, they were met by 77 Colonists bearing whatever guns they could bring. Likely, among them were American made firearms.

More than a year before America declared sovereignty, the heritage of America’s fierce independence backed by private gun ownership had taken root.

The notion of a nation’s citizenry was revolutionary for the time, but not for the Founders.

James Madison, America’s fourth president, wrote in Federalist 46 that private firearm ownership was an essential trait of the American character.

“Americans have the right and advantage of being armed – unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.”

General George Washington established the “Arsenal at Springfield” in 1777, later known as Springfield Armory in Massachusetts. In 1795 it went from storing guns to producing them with the 1795 Springfield Flintlock Infantry Musket, just a year after now-President Washington ordered the arsenal to become a full-fledged armory.

It would be the first of many storied American gun manufacturers, including Eliphalet Remington, Samuel Colt, Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson, Benjamin Henry, John Moses Browning, Hiram Maxim and in later years, Eugene Stoner, the designer of the modern sporting rifle.

Celebration of Arms

Even the first celebrations of the Declaration of Independence involved firearms. Five days after the Declaration’s signing, it was read aloud in New York City in front of General Washington and his troops. The reaction was stunning as it was fitting. Soldiers and citizens went to Bowling Green, a park in Manhattan, and promptly tore down a statue of King George III on horseback. To add insult to injury, they melted the statute for musket balls, 42,088 of them to be exact.

Guns, and often big guns, were used to mark America’s independence. July 4, 1777 saw ships cannons fired 13 times in honor of the colonies, along with fireworks. George Washington celebrated in 1778 with a double ration of rum for the troops and an artillery salute. In 1810, the War Department established the “national salute,” of firing one gun for each of the states, which was 17 at the time.

The character of America’s firearm heritage is true to today. In 2021, more than 5.4 million Americans chose to purchase a firearm for the first time. These are law-abiding citizens seizing their God-given right to keep and bear arms, for self-preservation and self-reliance. It is entirely fitting, and an honor to our national firearm heritage, to make a little noise at a local range and celebrate America’s birth.

 

Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

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23 COMMENTS

  1. Won’t be firing the cannon 50 times, but might do 13. Depends on who shows up and how uncomfortable the humidity is tomorrow. We have decided to pull out the 12 pounder and pull the limber as well. The Belgians will be getting a bit of a workout. Of course, 4 tons of horse should be able to handle the load.
    I will have a couple of muskets out. As well as both of my flintlock long rifles.
    The boys are prepping their fireworks show. They don’t drink and the alcohol will be brought out only after the guns are put away. I’ll be cleaning the cannon after chores on the 5th.

      • neiowa
        I don’t own a digital camera. Nor do I own a scanner.
        A friend of mine is a paramedic with the local service. She said this evening when she called me half of her calls were for injuries from fireworks last night. She’s glad her shift is over until 7am wed. Unfortunately, my nephew is on duty both tonight and tomorrow night. He’s got the duty down at OWA for the fireworks show. He’s a little upset he’s working and can’t come to our party.
        For us, safety is paramount. The only complaint I have about using the cannon is I can’t legally use anything but solids. No explosive shells. Would love to be able to fire a couple airburst rounds. Expecting possible thunderstorms/showers overnight or early tomorrow. So the field should be damp before we light things up.
        I picked up a couple Tuna loins and will be doing blackened tuna steaks along with the usual grilled foods for us. So far I’m expecting about 25 to 30 people out here. Just got the electric into the new cabin last week. So AC is available.

        • My evil mind is working overtime. Can you replace the balls used in canister shot with pepperballs? Should give new meaning to the order “Double canister at 10 yards”.

    • Sounds awesome, wish you were my neighbor instead of the duds I got stuck with

  2. king jr. was right, we had gotten too arrogant.
    thanks to the senator from illinois for awakening many nappers.

  3. Won’t be doing any shooting tomorrow…Hopefully. Spending the day volunteering for local Independence Day events in town. Have a safe and joyful day. Thanks to all that served our nation and to the families who sacrificed right along with them.

  4. “Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires”
    I would have loved to have seen how that played out in Adam’s day.
    Happy Fourth of July Everyone!
    Please stay safe…

  5. I will get to the Rod and Gun Club soon…but not this week. Too many ‘less than safe’ folk there during holiday time….and unruly folk also…shooting .556 and even .308 on the plinking range, despite all the clearly worded sinage.

    So, I will take time from work and go in the mornings when all the grey- haired, experienced, and respectful shooters are shooting.

    I wore my new ‘Ultra Maga’ t- shirt to the Emmaus Farmers Market yesterday. Thumbs up from the farmers I visited. Lots of disapproving stares from shoppers. That market tends to attract an upper-middle class foodie, left- leaning crowd. Always fun.

  6. Well I’d like to be able to celebrate with all them bells and bonfires but seems that within the last two years I just cant afford much of nothing for some reason anymore.
    About all I can afford is saying The Our Biden and a pack of birthday candles when I worship at His shrine.
    He might have to do without the candles this month.
    Forgive me Father for I am broke.

    • Possum,

      You should collect all your posts and bring them to a publisher. Someone will be astounded at your originality and Will Rogers-like folksiness. You could definitely assemble a ‘best seller’. Then, you will go on book-signing tours. Then, Netflix will make a movie about you. Then, you will sue Netflix for defamation and someone else will make a movie about you. Politicians will want photo-ops with you (you can charge them whatever you like). You will be on Good Morning America and will dance on American Bandstand. Everyone will be talking about possum.

    • OK…check back later, possum…my reply to you is in the gulag…probably because I said something about a dancing possum.

  7. To all on the TTAG site. No matter your politics or beliefs. Please remember, while we are not perfect, we are still the best example of what a free people can do and be. Be honest, if the USA was as horrible as some claim, then why do so many want to risk life and limb to come here?
    Remember those who have gone before us to both fight for and defend the freedoms so many take for granted. Remember those who sacrificed their lives and fortunes to bring this country into being and those who have lost everything to protect those freedoms.
    Many complain about things past. But, as a wise man once said, If you look back instead of ahead, you are bound to trip and fall. Every one of us has had opportunities our parents and grandparents didn’t. Never give up your freedom and liberties. Because once they’re gone, it will likely take bloodshed to regain them.
    To all, Have a safe and happy independence day and hold dear that independence.

  8. Happy Independence Day to all. Freedom is not free, it has been paid from by our brave military, our fathers, our brothers and our sons. Remember what Benjamin Franklin said “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

  9. May God Bless the United States of America!
    Have a Safe and Happy Fourth!

  10. People may not know it? But this is the history of the “American military-industrial complex”. That the libertarians liberals and left complain about so much.
    It has provided the means that have kept the American citizen free for centuries.

    I could be wrong. But I believe that guns were the primary export for the USA. After the Civil War for almost a century. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

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