The National Rifle Association: How And Why It Wor Essay, Research Paper
The National Rifle Association: How and Why It Works. Darryl Thomas Political Science 1101 Mike Martinez November 23, 1998 The National Rifle Association is an organization of enormous power and influence in the halls of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.. This nonprofit group is capable of flooding congressional offices with millions of pieces of mail in opposition to any legislation that is felt to infringe on the rights of its members to bear arms. Is it any wonder that there has been no real gun control laws passed in the last century with this kind of opposition? In order to understand the success this organization has had, one must first look at where it has come from and where it is going. The NRA was first incorporated in 1871 by members of the New York National Guard who felt that the marksmanship of the military was in need of some desperate repair and to promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis ( Bakal 130). To achieve this goal, they lobbied the New York State legislature to provide funding in order to purchase a practice range and operate it. Even in its infancy, it showed a prodigious ability to carve out a political niche that would enable it to grow into the future. As the years went by, the membership continued to grow at a steady pace until the end of World War II when it zoomed to a quarter of a million members. Membership stayed around this mark until a campaign in the sixties to boost enrollment succeeded in pushing it to over half a million members. Today, the NRA boasts of a membership of 2.8 million people from all walks of life. To accommodate this wide variety of interest, the organization adapted the philosophy: To promote social welfare and public safety, law and order, and the national defense; to educate and train citizens of good repute in the safe and efficient handling of small arms and in the technique of design, production, and group instruction; to increase the knowledge of small arms and promote efficiency in the use of such arms on the part of members of law enforcement agencies, of the Armed Forces, and of citizens who would be subject to service in the event of war; and generally to encourage the lawful ownership and use of small arms by citizens of good repute. (Bakal 131-32)By covering so many different categories with such a blanket statement, the NRA hopes to justify its position on gun control legislation, a far cry from the original purpose of improving the shooting capabilities of America s soldiers. How does an organization of this magnitude wield its political muscle? The National Rifle Association is governed by a 76-member board of directors elected by the lifetime members. This board directs the day to day operations through 36 standing and special committees. With an annual budget of approximately 80 million dollars, it is easy to understand how the NRA achieves its goal of defeating any major gun control legislation brought before Congress. In 1998, the board of directors elected Charlton Heston as the new president with the hope that his star appeal could bring credibility and public approval to the organization. There has been a recession in membership due to the radical views of some of the more extreme members of the board who oppose any firearm restrictions what so ever. With the actor who played Moses in The Ten Commandments at the helm, a more mainstream image is being projected. Other ways the NRA influence public opinions are with the publication of it s own magazine, The American Rifleman. This slick piece of propaganda extols the virtues of people who take the law into their own hands in the column, The Armed Citizen. If one visits the official web site, the group has different areas that cover everything from Supreme Court cases that defend 2nd amendment rights to hunter safety courses. One section even has famous quotes from the Founding Fathers that support their position on the right to keep firearms in the hands of private citizens. The web site tells people exactly what the NRA wants them to hear. It only mentions the positive side of their efforts to protect the right to bear arms. It fails to mention the countless number of lives that are destroyed every year due to firearms. Add all these elements together and you have one of the most successful political organizations in Washington, D.C. .
The successes that this immense organization has enjoyed over the course of its 127 year history is staggering. As a whole, they have effectively blocked or watered down every major piece of legislation that might help curb the rampant gun warfare in our streets today. They expound that they are protecting us from some supposed government conspiracy by protecting our right to bear arms while all they are doing is looking out for their own interest. Somebody once said that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the or the one. If the NRA is really trying to promote public safety as they state in their official policy, then they should take into consideration the needs of the 270 million citizens in this country and realize they outweigh the needs of the 2.8 million members they represent. It is easy to see how the National Rifle Association has become so productive in representing the views of its members. With a huge annual budget, a propaganda style magazine and web page, and Moses as the leader, one must wonder how they could ever lose a battle over any gun control legislation. The time has come for them, however, to wake up and realize that the original purpose of the 2nd Amendment was to protect a fledgling nation from the oppression the Founding Fathers feared would result if only the military had firearms. The time has come to realize that we as a nation have grown way beyond the need to carry a sidearm wherever we go. I am not saying that guns should be banned for there are millions who enjoy the camaraderie associated with the shooting sports. All I am saying is lets use a little common sense when we as a nation try to pass legislation that considers the needs of the many and not just the needs of the few.
Bakal, Carl. The Right To Bear Arms. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co, 1966. National Rifle Association of America. What Is the NRA and How Does It Work.(1996): n.pag. Online. Internet. November 14,1998. Available: http://www.nra.org/