Gun Rights: Guide To The NRA

Upset by the lack of army marksmanship, Colonel William C. Church and General George Wingate created The National Rifle Association in 1871. Its goal was to promote rifle shooting and practice. Today, the NRA is both a membership organization and a congressional lobby group promoting America’s right to bear arms as written in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This has not been without issue. Gun control and what constitutes a U.S. citizen’s right to bear arms has been under fire since the early 20th century.

The Second Amendment

The text of the Second Amendment:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The Second Amendment’s right to bear arms can be interpreted two ways. The first interpretation regards the United States right as a “collective” to protect it should civil or foreign enemies attack. The most popular understanding is that each American has an “individual” right to protect life, limb, family and property. Gun control continues to be a national issue as many deaths arise from their use.

The Founding of the NRA

When Col. Church and Gen. Wingate founded the NRA, life was very different. The United States just ended its civil war; John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln with a bullet to the head. Having a firearm was a staple to survival. It allowed hunters and farmers to put meat on the table and to protect the interests of their homes and their families. This is not the case in the 21st century. We go to the grocery to get our food. The minimum age to own a weapon is 25 years old and it must be registered. If you carry a gun on your person, you must carry a concealed weapons permit.

Second Amendment and NRA Controversy

Since owning a weapon is not inherent to an American citizen’s survival as it was two centuries ago, many call the right to bear arms not necessary. Deaths from guns resulting from crime have called to action bans on handguns. The NRA maintains that gun education would save lives and that guns do not kill people, people kill people when they pull the trigger. The NRA maintains that it’s an individual’s right to protect himself should such people threaten his life, family or property. The main controversy is whether the Second Amendment mandates that view or if it the amendment is speaking of the country as a whole—it’s armed forces protecting it from its enemies.

  • The National Rife Association: The NRA explores issues regarding our second amendment right to bear arms, rates government candidates regarding their stance on firearms, keeps members abreast of hunting rights and season information, firearm issues and legislation and maintains a national museum.
  • The Second Amendment: The text and supplementary material regarding commentaries and legal cases.
  • NRA Youth Programs: The headquarters of the National Rifle Association conducts shooting camps, marksmanship and educational resources for youth who wish to learn more about firearms heritage and sportsmanship.
  • The Brady Law: Press Secretary Jim Brady found himself a target during President Reagan’s assassination attempt by John Hinckley and nearly died.
  • FBI Records on the NRA: 1968 memos regarding the investigation whether the NRA should be allowed to register as a lobbyist to the House of Representatives.
  • Bill of Rights: The 1789 text of the Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment, is part of the National Archives.
  • The Politics of Gun Control: An Internet U.S. survey course from George Mason University exploring the history and politics of gun control.
  • Individual Right to Bear Arms?: The conflicts and Supreme Court decisions regarding whether the second amendment means a national right to bear arms or an individual right to bear arms.
  • Second Amendment Sources: Very readable resources include major Supreme Court decisions and other firearm acts.
  • The NRA and the Second Amendment: The NRA stance regarding its position on the second amendment in essay form.
  • The Politics of Gun Litigation: The NRA, the Brady Law and gun control legislation are the focus of this lengthy article. (pdf)
  • The Violence Policy Center: The NRA in the eyes of the VPC explores how “soldiers became lobbyists” and the issues that raised.
  • Gun Laws by State: Lists firearm regulations by state as well as presenting various aspects of the NRA “at a glance.”
  • Civil Rights Book: The Justice Department’s guide to your rights under the U.S. Constitution. (pdf)
  • The U.S. Constitution: The Senate’s guide to the preamble, the articles and amendments of the Constitution.