NRA's past is irrelevant to its present

(AP Photo/Mike Stewart File)

The National Rifle Association is an old organization. Started just after the Civil War, it was intended to promote shooting among the American people.

It still does that, though you wouldn’t know that based on how the media portrays the organization these days.

Instead, they treat it like the boogieman, the source of all evil in the universe.

What’s more, they think the fact that the NRA supported gun control in the past has any relevance to it now.

Thoughts and prayers. With each tragedy, it seems we have become numb as a nation to these horror stories. Ironically, on the day of this tragedy, before we heard the news of this shooting, I was discussing the politics of gun control with my adult nephew. His politics are quite the opposite of mine, but he is always cordial and willing to engage in any discourse quite civilly.

He used the National Rifle Association (NRA) narrative that the guns are not the problem, the people using the guns are the problem, and that gun control laws are not the solution. He was very nonchalant about the difference between types of rifles and types of bullets that are used in these killings. All assault-style weapons should be perfectly legal. Good people with guns are needed to fight bad people with guns.

I left the conversation at that and decided instead to focus on the bikinis that were on the boat next to us. Civil discourse spiced with instant distraction. And, of course, another cold beer. I was not going to change his deeply ingrained opinions on that lake.

The NRA, the fiercest and most feared group of lobbyists in the halls of Congress, has not historically always been anti-gun control. The NRA’s complete opposition to gun control is only a few decades old. The leadership of the NRA in decades past was more open-minded about gun control than someone familiar with the modern NRA might ever imagine. Not only did the NRA support gun control for much of the 20th century, its leadership in fact lobbied and co-authored gun control legislation.

In the 1920s, the NRA proposed regulations later adopted by nine states, requiring a permit to carry a concealed weapon, a one-day waiting period between the purchase and receipt of a gun, and that records of gun sales be made available to police. The NRA assisted President Franklin Roosevelt in drafting the 1934 National Firearms Act and the 1938 Gun Control Act, the first federal gun control laws. Gun sellers and owners were required to register with the federal government and felons were banned from owning weapons.

In 1939, Karl T. Frederick, the president of the NRA, testified before Congress, stating, “I have never believed in the general practice of carrying weapons. I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.”

Comments from someone in an organization more than 80 years ago aren’t exactly the smoking gun the author thinks, the aptly named John Dick.

However, that history is what it is, and yes, the NRA once supported gun control.

Yet many of these people also like to bring up how the NRA was essentially taken over by gun rights activists in more recent decades; as if the group has been hijacked.

As a membership-driven organization, those kinds of things happen. What’s more, they happened because the organization best positioned to protect our right to keep and bear arms was instead selling out their members.

So, members essentially revolted. They took over the group and shifted direction.

After all, as things were heading, we were looking at the NRA simply ceasing to exist because there wouldn’t be much in the way of gun ownership in the first place.

That history isn’t indicative of how the NRA should act now. It’s an example of why the NRA is now doing a lot of work to combat gun control. They had to or else face irrelevance as an organization.

Now, that’s not to say the NRA doesn’t have its troubles. It does.

But none of those is that it’s no longer backing gun control like non-members wish it would.