WASHINGTON, DC–Vowing to "vigilantly defend the Second Amendment and preserve our most basic civil liberties," the National Machete Association denounced congressional efforts to enact machete-control legislation Monday.

National Machete Association director Wayne Manning addresses the group's annual convention.

"The U.S. Constitution gives Americans the right to bear machetes, be it for recreational or self-defense purposes," said NMA executive director Wayne Manning, speaking at the organization's annual national convention. "For Big Brother in Washington to deny Americans this right is a rejection of the very principles upon which this great nation was founded."

Manning then hoisted a 22-inch machete over his head and exclaimed, "Out of my cold, dead hands."

According to NMA members, the government does not understand the important role machete ownership plays in their lives.

"I need my machete–and not just for play," said Delmore Taggart of Coffeyville, KS. "Sure, I enjoy taking it out to the barn and having a little fun with the animals. But it's also vitally useful. How else am I supposed to, say, slash my way through dense jungle vines? Or harvest a sugar-cane crop, if there were any around here?"

Bud Hastings, president of the Sweetwater, TX, NMA chapter, agreed.

"Them East Coast types just don't get it," said a shirtless Hastings, brandishing a silver 14-inch model he bought at a recent machete show. "They may not have much use for machetes in their big cities, but out here in the country, they're a necessity. If I were to somehow get my hands on a coconut, what do you suppose I'd slash it open with–a knife and fork?"

"The day I turned 10, my daddy took me out to the woods and showed me how to handle a machete," said Sparta, TN, NMA member Earl Slocum. "And the day my boy turns 10, I'm gonna do the same with him."

Machete enthusiasts examine new models at the Southwest Machete Expo in Tucson, AZ.

The push for machete-control legislation gained momentum in April when a Chicago man hacked his wife to pieces with a machete during a domestic dispute. Machete violence made national headlines again in September, when a 6-year-old Casper, WY, girl accidentally killed her infant sister while playing with her father's machete.

Slocum rejected the notion that machetes should be banned or restricted for safety reasons.

"That's a load of bunk," Slocum said. "When handled properly, machetes ain't dangerous. If other people are getting hurt by machetes or letting them near children without proper supervision, that ain't my fault. I shouldn't have my machete taken away from me, just because somebody else is careless with theirs."

The NMA strongly opposes all federal regulation of machete use, including seven-day waiting periods for machete purchases, background checks on potential buyers, and mandatory use of safety sheaths. Manning said he is committed to keeping the pressure on Congress to keep machetes free.

"If restrictions are passed, how is that hardworking Nebraska farmer going to harvest cocoa-bean pods? How will he divide his breadfruit in equal shares among members of his clan?" Manning asked. "If you take away his machete, how will he defend his family from savage criminals who may burst into his home at any moment, armed to the teeth with huge machetes with massive slashing power? Legal or illegal, criminals will always manage to get their hands on them. It's the honest, law-abiding machete owner who will suffer if they're banned."

Said Slocum: "There's nothing more American than a Chevy pick-up with a machete rack on the back. And I'll be damned if some pansy in Washington who's never held a blade in his life is going to tell me what I can and can't do with mine."