The Complex History of the National Rifle Association (NRA)

I decided I ought to bone up on the history of the National Rifle Association (NRA), so I hit the stacks at my campus library and found a couple of books. I am particularly keen to find the reality that exists somewhere between opponents’ claims that the NRA is a marksmanship organization gone bad and the NRA’s own (recent?) claim to be “America’s longest-standing civil rights organization.”


I know the history of the NRA has to be more complex than the popular portrayal that it began as a benign organization to promote marksmanship after the Civil War, was an early supporter of gun control, was taken over and radicalized in 1977, and is now an unstoppable force in American politics.

I’ve only just begun this reading, but I was interested to find in a book generally critical of the NRA a quote from 1911 in which NRA president James Drain criticized gun control:

A warning should be sounded to legislators against passing laws which on the face of them seems to make it impossible for a criminal to get a pistol, if the same laws would make it very difficult for an honest man and a good citizen to obtain them. Such laws have the effect of arming the bad man and disarming the good one to the injury of the community.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

From page 29 of the book:

Under Fire


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