With gun control being a hot topic, in addition to the Obama administration recently unveiling 23 executive orders to address gun violence, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has been front and center in the debate against such measures.
But the NRA has a long and storied history that goes beyond just opposing additional gun control legislation and being the chief proponent of the Second Amendment in the United States. Here, we will go over 10 facts about the NRA that many don't know, in order to gain some insight into the background of the organization.
1. The NRA was originally not a civil rights organization.
The NRA was founded in 1871 after the Civil War by Army and Navy Journal editor William Conant Church (pictured above) and General George Wood Wingate of the Union Army, who were both dismayed at the horrible accuracy of Union soldiers during the Civil War. The original purpose of the organization was for rifle marksmanship training. However despite this, the NRA is the oldest civil rights organization in the United States.
2. The NRA has a history of being for gun control.
In 1934, the NRA supported the National Firearms Act, which served to regulate and tax firearms that were considered used by gangsters at the time. They also supported the Gun Control Act of 1968, which expanded on the system to license firearm dealers and prohibit criminals and those with mental impairments from owning firearms.
3. The NRA has a history of supporting the Civil Rights Movement.
While African Americans were being terrorized by the Ku Klux Klan, where the Klan were sometimes aided by local law enforcement, the NRA setup charters to help train local African American communities to be able protect themselves. The most prominent case being in 1960 in Monroe, N.C. where the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People head Robert Williams also chartered an NRA Rifle Club that successully defended an assault on one of their leader's homes by the KKK without casualties.
4. The NRA is active in wildlife conservation.
The NRA supports wildlife conservation through efforts to open lands up to managed hunting. For example, under the Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937, proceeds obtained through a tax on hunting firearms and ammo were used specifically to research and rebuild a vast array of wildlife species and habitats. Today, the NRA continues to seek expansion on these measures. It's worth noting that the proceeds from taxes and licensing go to support the governmental agencies charged with environmental research and conservation management, as "little funding comes from taxes paid by the general public."
5. The NRA offers extensive firearms training programs.
The organization offers training programs for civilians as well as law enforcement. The training programs offered are even recognized by law enforcement as acceptable to fulfill the training requirement for concealed carry licenses (CCW). Today, the NRA has trained over 10,000 police and security firearm instructors and 55,000 certified instructors who in turn train roughly 750,000 people a year.
6. The Eddie Eagle GunSafe program is used to promote gun safety to minors.
To date, the organization's Eddie Eagle GunSafe program has reached over 25 million kids. The main message of the program is to teach kids that should they find a firearm that they should "stop, don't touch, leave the area, and tell an adult." Despite the program's message, gun control advocates (such as the Violence Policy Center) liken the program to the late cigarette mascot "Joe Camel."
7. A majority of Americans have a favorable image of the NRA.
According to a recent Gallup poll, 54% of Americans hold a favorable view of the NRA, while 38% have an unfavorable view. Putting this in perspective, a more recent Gallup poll shows President Obama holds a 51% approval rating, while 43% disapprove.
8. The NRA has 3 seperate organizations.
The NRA has three separate bodies. The NRA of America is mainly concerned with promoting training, education, and safety. The NRA-ILA is the lobbying arm of the organization. And the NRA Foundation is the the charitable arm of the organization.
9. Funding for the NRA might surprise you
According to FactCheck.org, nearly half of the funding for the NRA comes from membership dues alone. Voluntary donations to the NRA, however, still account for a majority portion of the remaining funding. This includes voluntary donations made during gun purchases at the point of sale as well as programs like the "round-up" campaign, operated by the NRA-ILA and retailers, where consumers can round a purchase up to the nearest dollar for donation to support lobbying efforts. With that said, gun manufacturers do donate to the NRA as well. For example, Sturm, Ruger, and Co., ran the "Million Gun Challenge" in 2011, which directly ties gun sales to donations with the target being one million dollars.
10. Current stance on gun Control
The NRA's current stance on gun control is to enforce existing laws more aggressively. In 2008, in response to the Virgina Tech shooting, the NRA helped to pass the "NICS Improvement Act," which would provide increased funding and grants to states to report vital information to the National Instant Background Check System (NICS), such as mental health. The NICS is used for background checks of potential gun buyers. Unfortunately, the system has been woefully underfunded (receiving only 5.3% of the authorized funding) and reporting has been lackluster. In addition, the NRA has pointed out that those who lie on their background checks when purchasing firearms are for the most part not prosecuted. In response to this, Vice President Biden claimed that they "don't have the time" to prosecute such violations, which, by the way, carries a minimum 5 year federal sentence, if convicted under the Gun Control Act of 1968.