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The National Rifle Association is the most vocal and most recognized component of the "Gun Lobby." Today, it is best known outside of the shooting community as the most powerful advocate of a broad (and almost limitless) individual "right" to firearms ownership. But the NRA is 123 years old and has gone thru three major eras in its history -- it wasn't always the obstructionist force it is today.

History of the NRA

The Early Years

    The first century of the NRA's history (from it's incorporation in 1871 to the "Cincinnati Revolt" of 1977) was directed towards promoting shooting sports -- first marksmanship and then (following WW II) hunting. The organization maintained close ties with those governments which could support it and, in fact, relied on feeding at the public trough for its survival -- in both direct financial support and legislated favoritism that drove off all competition.

The New NRA

    The NRA claims to be far more than just a lobbying organization. It portrays itself as maintaining a serious interest in the shooting sports and in gun safety. In fact, it is still the national overseeing body for target competitions and does provide training in safe gun handling and promotes the Eddie The Eagle program for children. But the primary thrust of the NRA is no longer in the shooting sports or in safety. It is in carrying Harlan Carter's legacy of no gun laws.

The Ultimate Lobbying Machine

    When Harlon Carter took over the reins of the NRA in the "Cincinnati Revolt" of 1977 and announced that "Beginning in this place and at this hour, this period in NRA history is finished," he was serious. No longer would the NRA's primary goal be to serve the sportsman. Now it was to intimidate those who had the temerity to challenge it.

Bashing the Cops

    In the early years, the NRA and law enforcement were the best of friends. A shared interest in firearms, coupled with the NRA's training programs in marksmanship and safety forged strong bonds between the two groups. But the "New NRA" destroyed those bonds when Harlan Carter's absolutist opposition to gun laws ran into the police officers' campaign for bans on cop-killer bullets, plastic guns and assault weapons. The NRA's response was an all-out attack on the police leadership -- from the chiefs to the head of the rank-and-file's Fraternal Order of Police.

A Favorite Son Goes Bad -- Sen. DeConcini and the Assault Weapons Ban

The Mouse That Roared -- HCI and the Brady Bill

NRA website: http://www.nra.org

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©Copyright, 2000, Mike Rosenberg