Roman King | United States
When one thinks of firearm advocacy organizations in the United States, there are few organizations that ring the bell quite as loud as the National Rifle Association. Ever since its founding in 1871, the National Rifle Association, or the NRA as it’s colloquially known, has the reputation of being a fighting force for gun rights. According to their membership website, the NRA boasts a membership force of over five million strong and is one of the strongest political activist groups against gun control in the nation. According to the NRA website, the NRA actively seeks out lawmakers and lobbies for them to vote against gun control measures like universal background checks, bump stock bans, and suppressor bans. However, the NRA has not been as staunch on the defense of the Second Amendment as they would like you to believe. They have actively helped author gun control legislation, and have actively lobbied for gun control when it helped their political narrative.
The NRA’s Steps Toward Gun Control
The First Step
Perhaps the earliest example of the NRA failing to fulfill their objective of defending the Second Amendment was their defense of the 1934 National Firearms Act, which regulated “gangster weapons” — machine guns, shotguns with short barrels, and suppressors. While a surprising stance to take, considering their modern eversion to such regulations, the stance was consistent with the beliefs of then-NRA President Karl Fredrick, who testified at a congressional hearing that “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 believe it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.” Consistent with this statement, the NRA then continued on this path of supporting gun control legislation, supporting the Federal Firearms Act of 1938, which restricted gun manufacturing, and restricted the classes of people that could legally purchase firearms, such as convicted felons.
Walking Down the Path of Gun Control
The NRA would become even more cavalier with their support of gun control in the 1960s. Although the current NRA supports the open carry of weapons without government regulation, there was another particular group that built that stance first: The Black Panthers. There was one particular incident where Black Panther members entered the California statehouse armed to the teeth with Magnum revolvers, shotguns, and pistols, announcing that it was time for the black man to arm himself. These turn of events became the grounds for the Mulford Act, a piece of California legislation that prohibited the open carrying of weapons. Signed by conservative governor Ronald Reagan, the NRA supported this legislation, and with more NRA support, California became the state with the single most gun control legislation on the books. This was 100% intentional and deliberate — a lot of the California legislation targeted urban communities heavily, which was where the Black Panthers operated.
Disarming the Opposition
One could make the argument that the NRA was perfectly fine restricting the gun rights of Americans, just as long as the people being disenfranchised were political opponents. This was a trend in the 1960s; gun control measures targeting urban communities were passed all across the nation in multiple different states. The way the Black Panthers viewed the Second Amendment was an innovation, taking the message of self-defense from just inside the home to self-defense against a corrupt government that didn’t really care much about them. The NRA, despite their mission statement, saw this as a threat and helped pass gun control nationwide in response. Their attack on the Second Amendment culminated with the passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968, which severely restricted the purchase and distribution of firearms in the United States. It can be said that the NRA felt threatened by the Black Panthers, which was why they were so willing to fight alongside the government for stricter gun regulations.
The NRA’s previous endeavors make their current trope of protecting the disenfranchised gun owner just the slightest bit disgusting and hypocritical. The NRA was willing to discuss gun control when it directly benefited them, but now that they have nothing to gain from it, they’ve felt comfortable backing draconian and regressive legislation like banning the CDC from even researching gun violence at all. Their boldness and willingness to subvert attempts to find solutions to gun violence becomes downright infuriating when you learn that they, mere decades ago, they were perfectly willing to jab at their political opponents and disarm a disenfranchised minority, the same sort of group the NRA claims to protect today. So before you throw your support behind the NRA, just make sure you know where they’ve stood before and understand just how flimsy their defense of gun rights really is.
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