NRA History From the WaPo

Dave Hardy notes that this WaPo article is balanced, and factually largely correct. Dave has been in this fight since nearly the beginning, so he’s who I generally turn to for stories on things which happened before my time (which was most of it).

10 Responses to “NRA History From the WaPo”

  1. Harold says:

    Not too impressed on an absolute scale, e.g. this, about what was happening at the national height of gun control hysteria (mid-late ’70s):

    The NRA didn’t get swept up in the culture wars of the past century so much as it helped invent them — and kept inflaming them.

    What a charming way to describe a group of people who just want to be left alone.

    The first page was enough for me. Then again, I am old enough to remember this period, in fact, due to being on my high school JROTC small bore rifle team I had joined the year before the Cincinnati revolt.

  2. jerry says:

    Who knows where we would be, or where our freedoms would be if these men had not done this wonderful thing in cincy.

  3. Andy B. says:

    Maybe we all count history from when we first became aware of it, but the gun rights battle had started long before the mid-1970s, and even before the assassinations of the 1960s (e.g., JFK in 1963) that helped feed it. I remember writing gun rights articles in high school, c. 1961 – 1962, though at the time I was largely inspired by a pro-gun campaign being promoted by magazines like Guns & Ammo and Shooting Times. G&A had a “kit” that you could send for that included literature and little pasters that said “Support Your Right to Keep and Bear Arms.”

    At the time the NRA wasn’t exactly MIA, but seemed ambivalent. And, with their direct relationship with the government, as administrator of the Director of Civilian Marksmanship, their status became more ambiguous yet. (When the DCM sold $20 M-1 Carbines in 1963, you had to be an NRA member to buy one. I wasn’t yet 18, but I already had a liberated Carbine. I joined the NRA at the end of the year.) There is (and survives in some older minds) a story that GCA ’68 got passed because the NRA was promised it would be given the job of administering it, so let it progress too far before it could back down on positions it had taken. It sent out too many mixed messages. That’s a theory, anyway.

    What struck me about this article was its mention of “culture wars” and the year 1977. Any number of our culture war issues and organizations that front for other things were born in the 1976 – 1977 period. Someone could make a marvelous conspiracy theory that one of the reasons for the NRA’s occasional departures from purity over the last 35 years have resulted from the natures and true agendas of some (not all) of the people who effected the 1977 “revolt.”

    • Sebastian says:

      I was still shitting in diapers in the mid to late 1970s so I only know what I read and what people tell me. I think you were probably in this fight before Dave, actually.

      • Andy B. says:

        I forgot to add to the above:

        Maybe it’s just nostalgia — everything looks better and more exciting when you’re a kid — but the NRA’s American Rifleman was a gun publication on a much higher plane back in the ’50s and ’60s than what survives today. In any case, as far back as I can remember, in that period, they had a regular monthly feature “A Court Case of Consequence,” that provided very nuanced legal analyses of firearms related court decisions, past and current. So, it was not like the NRA was only about target shooting and hunting; it was keeping its members abreast of political issues.

        Maybe the following is just nostalgia, but something that impressed the hell out of me at the time: Back into the early ’70s there was a small monthly item, “It is with regret that we learn of the passing of the following NRA Life Members.” To my racall, there were never more than a dozen or twenty or so. About December 1963, following the Kennedy Assassination, there was JFK’s name listed, alphabetically and without fanfare, among the names of the other deceased Life Members.

        The point of that story actually being, that while they were political, they didn’t engage in the partisan propagandizing and idolatry that evolved after their first endorsement of a presidential candidate, Ronald Reagan in 1980.

        • Harold says:

          It’s not (just) nostalgia; I didn’t start reading the American Rifleman until … 1977 or so (junior memberships came with a subscription, right?), but a friend noticed a bundle of ’60s copies at a flea market or fair or whatever and bought them for me in 1983. The difference was stark, it was utterly appalling how far the magazine had fallen.

          Continuing the political theme, in the ’60 there was steady coverage of Senator Dodd’s anti-gun activities; as you might recall, he’s corrupt father (who actually got some punishment for that) of the corrupt Chris Dodd (who in these days of course skated).

          You might also recall the JPFO claims that his GCA of ’68 was based on the German gun control laws that were in place during the Nazi regime; Wikipedia devotes six paragraphs to his Nuremberg activities with form the beginning of their case (in that he tried a case based on German law that was in the same book and right next to their gun control law; their case goes a lot further, of course, but can only be verified if you can read German).

      • Zermoid says:

        I was shitting in diapers when JFK was killed, was in Jr High in 76, and graduated HS in 80. Didn’t seriously get into guns until a few years later when I bought my first “real” gun, a Savage 57 pump shotgun at JC Penney’s! Yes they sold guns back then.

    • Harold says:

      Well, didn’t the “Mother of All Culture Wars” (not counting black civil rights, which was winding down by the mid-late ’70s) start with the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision?

      The ones I remember around the 76-77 period you cite, more specifically starting in the Carter Administration, 1977-1980, were from his using the IRS to shut down private K-12 schools, under the sometimes valid excuse these were discriminatory/in a response to desegregation. It should go without saying that there’s few things in the world more dangerous than going after people’s kids; the best known example of fighting this was the founding of Moral Majority in 1979.

      • Andy B. says:

        . . .the founding of Moral Majority in 1979…


        I won’t repeat the Old Stories, but I had direct experience with more than one organization, including a state gun rights group, that was infiltrated and subverted by Stealth Christians who in fact had no interest, or even opposed, the organizations’ reasons for existence, but used them for attempts to advance their own agenda, using the resources and structure of the group.

        I think we all know there are one or two national organizations that fulfill that role today.

  4. Brad says:

    Yeah, gun lobby this, extremist that…

    even though the basic outline of the story was accurate the tone of the piece screamed anti-NRA.