National Rifle Association
The National Rifle Association of America, or NRA, is a U.S. non-profit interest group that since the 1990's has lobbied to prevent any and all forms of gun regulation in the U.S.. It is known for "buying" politicians by providing them with so much financial support that they cannot avoid pursuing the group's interests, for running smear campaigns against politicians whose policies are not approved by the organization, and for being one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the U.S. But as of 2024, amid frequent mass shootings in the U.S. and scandals among NRA leadership, the organization lost more than a million members, out of six million at its peak in 2018, and its revenue has dropped by more than 40 percent since 2016. The NRA advertises itself as a public service organization training hundreds of thousands of gun owners each year.
The NRA was founded in 1871 by Col. William C. Church and Gen. George Wingate, both Union veterans of the American Civil War. The NRA's stated purpose for being formed was to “preserve and defend” the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
By the end of the nineteenth century, the NRA was offering training for gun owners at its rifle ranges. At this point in time, the organization was not concerned with public policy; it did very little lobbying, and was more concerned with developing gun safety classes. The group’s first rifle range, located on Long Island, was paid for by the New York stage legislature. In 1903, Congress set up the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice, now known as the Civilian Marksmanship Program. The NRA helped to run this board, and Congress eventually gave surplus guns to NRA-sponsored rifle clubs, allowing the organization to expand westward. The group constructed a new facility near Lake Erie, 45 miles east of Toledo, Ohio.
In 1934 the NRA formed its Legislative Affairs Division concerned with preserving the right of people to own guns. While the NRA was not involved in lobbying at this time, it did mail out legislative facts and summaries to members, who could take subsequent action. The NRA offered its ranges to the government during World War II. The association developed training materials for industrial security and helped gather more than 7,000 firearms for Britain’s defense against a possible invasion from Germany.
The tenor of the organization changed after World World II, as the NRA began to accommodate the recreational sportsman, even putting together an Olympic rifle team.
The NRA came out in support of the Gun Control Act of 1968, which forbade selling guns by mail. In 1980 the group endorsed a presidential candidate, Ronald Reagan, for the first time.
This NRA's current shooting range, Camp Perry, is now the home of the annual National Matches, an NRA marksmanship competition with thousands of people competing each year.
Despite the very high number of gun deaths from mass shootings in the U.S., the NRA vehemently (and successfully) lobbied against the renewal of the country's 1990s ban on assault-style rifles.
- The Decline of the N.R.A. by German Lopez in the New York Times, Feb. 12, 2024