By Harley Austin | United States
In recent years, the National Rifle Association has been the newest target of gun control advocates in America. Despite this, the group has maintained its status as one of the biggest lobbying powers in America. Both of these realities stem from the belief that the NRA wants to protect gun rights and the Second Amendment. But, looking past the headlines and rhetoric and into the NRA’s history reveals the exact opposite. The NRA simply does not fully support American gun rights.
The Founding of the NRA
One common misconception people have about the NRA is that its purpose has always been “defending gun rights.” However, in 1871 two Union Civil War veterans founded it with the purpose of improving marksmanship. Hence, it makes sense that they named it a rifle association. Gun training and information has remained a major part of what the NRA does, but its role in politics has shifted in the past century.
Early Gun Control
The NRA first involved itself in US politics in the early 20th century. One might assume that their earliest actions must have been to defend gun rights, right? Wrong. The NRA’s official website says, “In response to repeated attacks on the Second Amendment rights, NRA formed the Legislative Affairs Division in 1934,” but the website avoids what that group called for. The NRA truly has some dirty little secrets in its past.
In 1934, they assisted President Franklin D. Roosevelt in drafting the National Firearms Act. The NFA is the first major gun control law in US history. To put it simply, it taxed and regulated certain types of firearms, notably fully-automatics, and served as the foundation for all future US gun laws. And to add insult to injury, when the Supreme Court upheld the NFA in 1939, the NRA’s President, Karl T. Frederick, testified to Congress with this statement:
I have never believed in the general practice of carrying weapons. I seldom carry one. … I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses”
From Support to Compromise
The NRA would continue to fully support gun control laws until the 1960s. But even then, they only shifted to watered down compromise. During the drafting of the Gun Control Act of 1968, the NRA did not challenge it. Instead, the association only chose to block one part of the bill, which would have created a national registry. This would begin a new phase of politics, where the group would claim to be against gun control while compromising to gun control advocates. This strategy continues to fail to this day. So while the NRA has claimed to champion and protect gun rights, its compromises have done nothing but infringe on the rights of Americans.
The Firearm Owner’s Protection Act and the Hughes Amendment
This history, however, only scratches the surface of the NRA’s gun control support. The Firearm Owner’s Protection Act of 1986 is a major gun control law that replaced the GCA. It also added more regulations, including a fully automatic weapons ban, to America’s already crippled gun rights. Moreover, it places greater limits on other guns which remained legal. While this all occurred, the NRA sat back and compromised.
FOPA was supposed to partially loosen some of the GCA’s restrictions on gun sales, hence the heavily ironic name. However, in order to gain Democratic votes in Congress, the NRA compromised, supporting the Hughes Amendment, which included the ban on fully automatic weapons. What did this mean to the NRA? Absolutely nothing. This serves as strong proof that the group cares more about politics than defending gun rights. To this day, the NRA still supports FOPA on its website, but they cleverly fail to mention the Hughes Amendment.
Modern Support for Gun Control
Still today, the NRA is quick to compromise away the rights of its members. However, in recent years, its alleged purity has darkened further as it continues to sell out.
It’s no secret that the NRA has been a lapdog of the Republican Party for years, especially with the Trump administration. This blind loyalty, a group that also compromises over gun rights, has now led to the NRA supporting gun control yet again. After the Las Vegas shooting, the NRA, in perfect unison with President Trump, called for the regulation of bump stocks. They officially gave this statement:
The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.
This was then followed by “the NRA remains focused on our mission: strengthening Americans’ Second Amendment freedom to defend themselves…” The irony of this is appalling. The NRA has been supporting more gun control for years, then has the audacity to claim it defends the Second Amendment.
But it doesn’t end there either. Recently, after the backlash against Defense Distributed’s 3D-Printed gun files, the NRA has sided with Trump against gun rights again. On July 31st, the NRA gave this statement:
Federal law passed in 1988, crafted with the NRA’s support, makes it unlawful to manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer, or receive an undetectable firearm.”
This is a clear admittance that the group supports gun regulations and does not support gun rights. Despite this, members still pretend that the organization supports the Second Amendment.
Alternatives to the NRA
First of all, support should be shifted to non-compromising groups that actually care about gun rights, and that means every gun right. The biggest of these would be Gun Owners of America, which has been many gun owners’ go-to alternative. Second, it is necessary to educate those who are unaware of the NRA’s history and intentions. The best way to get people out of the political divide and conquer tactic of recent years is to educate them on how the NRA has allowed gun control.
Finally, never compromise with gun rights. No matter how tempting it might be to go along with the mainstream and their rhetoric of “common sense” gun control, always remember that no gun laws are just and no gun laws will be enough. Compromise is just the modern form of appeasement that ends the same way: with the one to compromise slowly losing all. Every gun law is an infringement and should be treated as such.
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