A Brief History
On November 17, 1871, The National Rifle Association (NRA) was first chartered in the state of New York by William Church, the editor of the Army and Navy Journal and General George Wood Wingate. The first president of the NRA was Union General Ambrose Burnside who had also worked as a gunsmith in Rhode Island. (Hey! this author has been to Rhode Island, have you?)
It is believed that during the Civil War, the Union Army fired about 1,000 rifle shots for every Confederate soldier hit. Burnside was well aware of the sorry state of marksmanship among his troops. As a result, the organization has sought to train a pool of Americans in the art of marksmanship through various programs, matches, education and the promotion of shooting sports. Education in terms of firearm safety, especially in regard to kids, is another goal of the NRA.
History and Headlines Fact: Even during his lifetime, Burnside was known for his ornate whiskers. In fact, sideburns are named after him.
The NRA has also made it its mission to defend the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, specifically the right to keep and bear arms. Much has been made of the wording of the Second Amendment, with the words “well ordered militia” taken by critics as meaning no right for individual Americans to keep and bear arms. The writers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, however, were for common people keeping and bearing military-type arms. In those days, European countries did not allow their citizens to carry swords or own muskets, while in the new United States the intent was to have an armed public which could theoretically be able to defend itself against both external enemies and from government tyranny.
History and Headlines Note: In those days, hunting weapons were rifled and used close-fitting patched balls and were more accurate than unrifled military muskets. They took longer to load though and had to be cleaned after only a few shots. Military muskets, on the other hand, were of much greater caliber and used looser-fitting patched balls that could be loaded 2 or 3 times more quickly and could be fired many times before the musket clogged up with powder residue. The distinction back then was as clear to those people as the difference between a bolt-action hunting rifle and a semi-automatic AK-47 or AR-15 clone is today.
Whether you agree with their goals and methods or not, you must recognize that with 5 million members and a yearly revenue of over a quarter of a billion dollars a year, that the NRA is a major player in American politics. Many presidents and prominent politicians as well as Hollywood celebrities and other famous people have been members. The actor Charlton Heston, for example, had also headed the organization.
Question for students (and subscribers): Please feel free to share your thoughts about the NRA or the Second Amendment. Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Loesch, Dana. Hands Off My Gun: Defeating the Plot to Disarm America. Center Street, 2014.