There is not a more revealing and compelling picture of why we are free to celebrate the Fourth of July than a picture of a quill pen lying next to a musket rifle on a table along with a draft of the Declaration of Independence. The men who signed that document pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor in support of the Declaration.

What followed the Declaration of Independence reveals why the musket on the table is inseparable from the quill pen. When British soldiers marched on the settlements in the Colonies, word spread from house to house for the men and, yes, even boys, to bring their guns and join together in defending their families, their homes and their liberty. These spontaneous rag-tag militias were critical to the success of the Revolutionary War.

As part of our celebration of the Fourth of July, let us be thankful that we still retain the individual right to "keep and bear arms" in order to defend ourselves from those who would do us harm.

Donald A. Larson