National Rifle Association

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The National Rifle Association or NRA is a conservative mass membership organization that suports a view of domestic politics and civil liberties contrary to the American constitutional tradition. The privilege of private violence over reasoned discourse lies at the heart of the NRA's ideology.

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Early Moderate Founding

The organization was founded in 1871 by Col. William C. Church and Gen. George Wingate in response to the generally poor marksmanship demonstrated by United States troops during and after the Civil War. In itself this puts the lie to claims about an American gun culture. While long guns had legitimate uses in rural areas in the West, the majority of 19th century Americans were law abiding, non-gun owners who saw longgun sports as diversions for the wealthy and handgun possession as one step from criminal violence. The National Rifle Association had as its first President former Civil War General Ambrose Burnside. For nearly a century after its founding, the NRA promoted marksmanship and shooting sports with virtually with little controversy and even benefited from direct government subsidies in the form of ammunition given by the United States Department of the Army.

Wingnut Radicalization

With the enactment of Gun Control laws in the wake of rising crime rates, political assassinations and race riots in the 1960s, the mission of the NRA began to shift toward Lobbying political leaders to oppose restrictions on what they interpreted as individual gun possession rights in the Second Amendment. During the 1970s a split emerged in the organization between those who viewed the NRA as a promotor of shooting and gun safety, and those who saw it primarily as a political organization devoted to advocating gun possession rights comparable to those of First Amendment rights to free speech, free press, free assembly and religious liberty.

At the 1977 NRA National Convention in Cincinnati, a group of NRA members representing the conservative political faction were able to oust the older, more moderate leadership and name Harlan Carter, an anti-gun control activist and former director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, as their new leader. A majority of the delegates changed the NRA by-laws to make defense of their interpretation of the Second Amendment of paramount importance.

(The above is retrieved from "Demopedia: National Rifle Association" with minor changes.)

In subsequent years, it gained prominence as a lobbying group whose aim is to prevent new Gun Control legislation and to repeal gun control legislation that already exists. In recent years, the NRA's efforts to pass CCW permit legislation have been successful in 36 states and it is seen as connected with Conservative and Republican lobbying groups.

The NRA voter mobilization may have contributed to the 1994 Republican election victories in Congress and to Al Gore losing states such as Tennessee and New Hampshire in 2000. Clearly the Republicans are not radical enough for some wingnut gun enthusiasts, who prefer links to what is left of the extremist state militia groups. Among the stranger beliefs embraced by many in the movement is the idea that widespread gun possession has guaranteed political liberty against the state. Theirs is a belief system only one step removed from vigilanteeism and political terrorism.

Today the NRA promotes longer sentences for violent felons, safety training for citizens, law enforcement proficiency and the ability of non-crminal citizens to defend themselves and their families through CCW legislation. Longer mandatory prison sentences have resulted in the United States having one of the highest rights of incarceration on the planet. The easy availablity of handguns in the United States means that its citizens suffer from the highest gun crime rates among advanced industrial societies.

As a result of the NRA's extremism, an alternative hunting group was formed in 2006: the American Hunters and Shooters Association. It is a pro-gun, pro-conservation and pro-safety group that wants to restore the historically close ties between hunters and local law enforcement.

Leadership


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