After celebrating Independence Day this year, I feel it is only appropriate to celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court's recognition that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to keep and bear arms.

Our country's founders understood the importance of this right, and secured it in the Bill of Rights immediately after the right to free speech and religion.

The founders had suffered under tyrannical government. They drafted the Second Amendment to ensure that citizens were never disarmed.

I am proud that Texas has so many tireless advocates of the Second Amendment, a bulwark of our personal liberty.

On June 26, in a historic decision, the Supreme Court found that the District of Columbia's complete ban on handgun possession and the requirement that all guns in the home be disassembled or locked made it impossible for citizens to defend their homes and families. In a 5-4 decision, the majority found the D.C. law unconstitutional.

Richard Heller, who challenged D.C.'s laws, was a security guard at a federal judicial building. He was allowed to carry a gun to protect federal court employees, but was prohibited from taking his gun home to protect his own family and property. Now Heller can keep a firearm at his residence for self defense, and no longer has to fear being unarmed in his home.

This decision is a landmark. Texans have always known the Second Amendment's guarantee that "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed" protects the right of American citizens to own guns. But this is the first time the high court has strongly affirmed this fundamental right.

I joined a "friend of the Court brief," along with U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Vice President Dick Cheney, 53 other members of the U.S. Senate and 250 members of the U.S. House of Representatives - all supporting Heller. We argued that Congress has long interpreted the Second Amendment as protecting an individual right to own a gun. As elected officials, many of us felt that it was important to stand up for the constitutional rights of our constituents.

Like most Texans, I deeply cherish my Second Amendment rights. I am a proud gun owner, avid hunter and sport-shooter. I currently serve as Vice Chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, a bipartisan group of Congressmen who enjoy the outdoors, and hunt and fish on a regular basis. There are more than 14.5 million hunters in America and more than 10,000 target shooting tournaments staged annually.

While some politicians believe that guns are the enemy, our founding fathers recognized that gun ownership is essential to personal liberty. To remain truly free, Americans must be able to defend themselves and not rely on the government for protection.

The Second Amendment additionally ensures that the government does not overstep its bounds by disarming Americans.

Patrick Henry, one of our founding fathers, proclaimed that "the great object is that every man be armed" and that "everyone who is able may have a gun."

With our frontier heritage, guns have always been a central part of Texas history and tradition.

The right to responsible gun ownership should never be taken for granted, lest we cede a core part of who we are as Americans and what keeps us safe and free.

John Cornyn is the U.S. Senator for the state of Texas. Readers may contact him via telephone at (202) 224-2934.