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How the N.R.A. Went from Gun Club to Gun Lobby
Find out how the National Rifle Association transformed from a marksmanship club into one of the most powerful lobbying organizations in the U.S.
Released on 10/24/2017
Despite the NRA's current reputation
as a militant, libertarian pro-gun organization,
the group wasn't always against
government legislation restricting gun control.
Here's how the organization evolved from a marksmanship
group into the pro-gun lobby it is today.
The NRA was founded in New York in 1871
by a group of former National Guard officers.
Inspired by Britain's National Rifle Association,
the group was founded to help American
soldiers improve their marksmanship.
For most of the twentieth century,
the NRA supported laws in favor of gun control.
The group helped President Franklin Roosevelt
draft the first gun control laws,
the 1934 National Firearms Act and the 1938 Gun Control Act.
I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting
of guns, NRA president Karl T. Frederick said
in testimony before Congress, I think it should be
sharply restricted and only under licenses.
It wasn't until the Gun Control Act of 1968 was passed
that the group shifted its focus from recreational
hunting to gun rights activism.
The GCA created a system to create restrictions
on specific categories and classes of firearms.
The NRA believes that the government's efforts
to enact gun control laws infringe on the second amendment.
The passage of the GCA started a grassroots movement
among NRA gun rights activists.
By the 1990s, the marksmanship group
had transformed itself into a politicized gun lobby.
An NRA fundraising letter sent out by LaPierre
in 1995 claimed that the 1994 assault weapons ban
...gives jackbooted government thugs more power
to take away our constitutional rights.
In the most pivotal moment in the NRA's history,
the Hollywood legend Charlton Heston,
who served as the group's president from 1998 to 2003
delivered a speech at the group's May 2000 convention.
Holding a replica of a Colonial musket over his head,
he said, divisive forces would have
to take his gun from his cold, dead hands!
Since Heston's electrifying speech, the NRA has supported
Republican candidates who campaign for pro-gun legislation.
In sharp contrast to the group's original mission,
the ILA's executive director, Chris Cox,
said he opposed the ban on high capacity magazines.
We don't believe that bans have
ever worked on anything, he said.
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