Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
National Rifle Association
The National Rifle Association, or NRA, is an organization for gun owners' advocacy in the United States. It sponsors firearm safety training courses, as well as shooting skills and sports. The organization is sometimes considered to be the most powerful single organization in the United States and was established in New York in 1871 as the 'American Rifle Association'. It often refers to itself as the oldest civil rights organization in the U.S., defining gun ownership as a civil right protected by the Bill of Rights.
The NRA is considered by many to be one of the most influential political lobbies in the USA because of its ability to consistently deliver large numbers of votes in elections, as well as its activities in lobbying against gun control and campaign contributions.
In the 1994 election the NRA is often credited with defeating Congressman Jack Brooks and Speaker of the House Tom Foley (the first Speaker to lose a re-election since 1860). Bill Clinton wrote in his autobiography, My Life:
- "The NRA had a great night. They beat both Speaker Tom Foley and Jack Brooks, two of the ablest members of Congress, who had warned me this would happen. Foley was the first Speaker to be defeated in more than a century. Jack Brooks had supported the NRA for years and had led the fight against the assault weapons ban in the House, but as chairman of the Judiciary Committee he had voted for the overall crime bill even after the ban was put into it. The NRA was an unforgiving master: one strike and you're out. The gun lobby claimed to have defeated nineteen of the twenty-four members on its hit list. They did at least that much damage and could rightly claim to have made Gingrich the House Speaker (629-630)."
Many gun-control laws have been passed throughout the country, always being fought tooth-and-nail by the NRA and their supporters. These laws range from the near-total ban on gun ownership in Washington, DC, to the outlawing of entire classes of firearms in many states as well as at the federal level, to the licensing of firearms owners in some jurisdictions.
The NRA opposes new gun-control legislation in favor of stricter enforcement of existing laws prohibiting convicted felons and violent criminals from possessing firearms, increased sentences for gun-related crime, and "right-to-carry" laws expediting the process in many states of receiving a concealed handgun license.
The NRA is officially nonpartisan, and has endorsed both Democrats and Republicans; however, more Republicans tend to agree with its views than Democrats, and this is reflected in the number of endorsements. The NRA's policy is that it will endorse any incumbent who supports their positions, even if the challenger supports them as well.
As of September 2003, the NRA was focusing its efforts at the federal level on: firstly, encouraging Congress to enact a bill protecting manufacturers of products from certain types of lawsuits. S.659/S.1806, the "Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act" is also supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors . It is opposed by many gun-control groups. The bill was defeated on March 2, 2004, after Senate amendments were attached to it to extend the assault weapons ban and close the so-called "gun-show loophole." The NRA changed its stance and opposed the bill when these two amendments were added. However, since the ban and the loophole closing were amendments, they must be voted upon again in the Senate to be passed into law.
Recently, the NRA worked to prevent the gun control lobby from re-authorizing the 1994 federal assault weapons ban, which banned many types of semi-automatic rifles and certain types of removable magazines (which hold the unfired cartridges). The gun control lobby wanted to make the "assault weapons ban" permanent, and perhaps expand it. In a victory for the NRA, the law expired on midnight of September 13th, 2004, making the banned weapons legal again.
Current leadership and policies
The NRA organization is governed by a large (typically 75 member) board of directors. The directors choose the president, the leading spokesman for the organization, from among their members. Although traditionally this position changed annually, for several years it was consecutively held by Charlton Heston, who was a compelling promoter of the NRA agenda. Heston became afflicted with Alzheimer's disease, and stepped down in April of 2003. Kayne Robinson is now president.
The organization also has an Executive Vice President, who is not a director but functions as Chief Executive Officer, appointed at the pleasure of the directors. Wayne LaPierre has held this position since 1991. 
2000 Presidential Election
Some people credit the NRA's heavy campaigning in Arkansas and Tennessee in the weeks before the 2000 Presidential Election with taking votes from Al Gore and making him lose both states. Had Gore won either state, he would have won the presidency. Bill Clinton won both states in 1992 and 1996, and Clinton has even remarked in interviews since 2000 that the only reason Arkansas voted for George W. Bush was because of the NRA's extremely heavy campaigning in the state, and the fact that they warned people that Gore would "take their guns".
The NRA was founded on November 17, 1871 by two Union Army officers, Col. William C. Church and Gen. George Wingate , with the stated goal of "providing firearms training and encouraging interest in the shooting sports" among the general population. The first NRA president was Ambrose E. Burnside, a commander of the Army of the Potomac. Former President Ulysses S. Grant was elected president of the National Rifle Association in 1883.
The NRA has functioned in a variety of roles over its existence. Besides its political function described above, it has been at various times and in various degrees a organizer of shooting competitions, a general promoter of marksmanship and firearms safety, an advocate for gun owners, collectors and sportsman, and an umbrella body for the many local and regional clubs involved in the various firearms related hobbies.
NRA firearms safety programs
The NRA sponsors a range of safety programs to educate and encourage the safe use of firearms.
Hunting safety courses from the NRA are offered all across the USA for both children and adults. In recent years gun safety classes oriented more towards self-defense, particularly for women, have become popular.
Their "Eddie Eagle" video intended for school-age children encourages the viewer to "Stop! Don't touch! Leave the area! Tell an adult!" if the child ever sees a firearm lying around. The NRA has claimed that studies prove the "Eddie Eagle" program reduces the likelihood of firearms accidents in the home and the program is used in many elementary schools nationwide. Opponents of firearm ownership generally reject these claims and condemn the video as an attempt to indoctrinate children into a "gun culture".
Historically the NRA has governed and advanced the shooting sports in the United States. In recent years however, their role in the shooting sports has become somewhat less direct.
In 1992, the NRA ceased to be the National Governing Body for shooting (USA Shooting is now the NGB), and in 2000, the NRA chose not to be a member of the National Three-Position Air Rifle Council. The NRA is not directly involved in the practical pistol competitions conducted by the International Practical Shooting Confederation and International Defensive Pistol Association, or in cowboy action shooting; both of these types of events have grown dramatically in recent years.
However, the National Rifle and Pistol Matches at Camp Perry are sponsored by the NRA and are considered by most the "World Series of competitive shooting".
The NRA functions as a general promoter of the shooting sports. The NRA house magazine, "American Rifleman" covers major shooting competitions and related topics, and the NRA offers a publication dedicated to competitive shooting, "Shooting Sports USA". Most competitive shooters are NRA members.
The current NRA competitions division publishes its own rulebooks, maintains a registry of marksmanship classifications, and sanctions matches.
Grass Roots Shooting Support
Through the NRA Foundation and Friends of NRA, the NRA also raises funds and distributes grants to local clubs. In addition to competitive marksmanship, and gun safety, local programs supported by the NRA include instructor/coach training, gun collector programs, hunting programs, and programs for law enforcement officers.
In its lobbying for gun rights, the NRA asserts that the Second Amendment guarantees the right for individuals to own and use guns. The NRA typically opposes measures which it asserts would conflict with the Second Amendment "right to keep and bear arms" and or the right to privacy enjoyed by law-abiding gun owners. The NRA has opposed gun control on other grounds as well--they opposed the Brady Bill in the courts on Tenth Amendment grounds, not Second Amendment.
Due to its stature as the most prominent pro-gun group in the U.S., the NRA has received a good deal of criticism from gun control groups such as the Brady Campaign and Americans for Gun Safety. A variety of newspaper editorial boards, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today, frequently disagree with the NRA's policies, such as in September of 2004, when they called for the extension of the assault weapons ban; in general, support for the NRA is higher in rural areas than urban areas. These groups tend to point to instances of gun violence, claiming that they could have been prevented through legislation that the NRA opposes. They also attempt to paint the NRA as an extremist group, and attack it for encouraging a "culture of death". The NRA denies these claims, claiming that its work is more effective at preventing crime and violence than the efforts of its opponents; for example, it regularly notes everyday "armed citizens" preventing crime through gun ownership.
The NRA publishes the following magazines
- "American Rifleman" (ISSN 0003083X)
- "American Hunter"
- "America's 1st Freedom"
- "Woman's Outlook"
- "Shooting Sports USA"
The NRA also publishes numerous books.
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