Steve Rosenfeld, at Alternet, has posted a revealing history of the National Rifle Association.

For nearly a century after, its founding in 1871, the National Rifle Association was America’s foremost pro-gun control organization. It was not until 1977 when the NRA that Americans know today emerged, after paranoid libertarians who equated owning a gun with the epitome of freedom and fomented widespread distrust against government—if not armed insurrection—emerged after staging a hostile leadership coup.
More below the fold.

The article traces the NRA from its founding "by two Yankee Civil War veterans, including an ex-New York Times reporter, who felt that war dragged on because more urban northerners could not shoot as well as rural southerners" through the internal strife that led to its current radical views on guns and gun ownership.

The article is filled with surprising nuggets of information, such as this one about the NRA in the wake of the assassination of President Kennedy.

In November 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald shot and killed President John F. Kennedy with an Italian military surplus rifle that Owsald bought from a mail-order ad in the NRA’s American Rifleman magazine. In congressional hearings that soon followed, NRA Executive Vice-President Frankin Orth supported a ban in mail-order sales, saying, “We do think that any sane American, who calls himself an American, can object to placing into this bill the instrument which killed the president of the United States.”
The most fascinating part of this history, though, lies in the internal politics of the organization that resulted in the successful distortion and transformation of the meaning of the Second Amendment.
Using the NRA’s parliamentary rules, the rebels interrupted the agenda from the floor and revised how the Board of Directors was chosen, recommited the NRA to fighting gun control and restored the lobbying ILA. Harlon Carter became the NRA’s new executive director. He cancelled a planned move of its national headquarters from Washington to Colorado Springs. And he changed the organization’s motto on its DC headquarters, selectively editing the Second Amendment to reflect a non-compromising militancy, “The Right Of The People To Keep And Bear Arms Shall Not Be Infringed.” ...

The NRA’s fabricated but escalating view of the Second Amendment was ridiculed by former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger—a conservative appointed by President Richard Nixon—in a PBS Newshour interview in 1991, where he called it “one of the greatest pieces of fraud—I repeat the word ‘fraud’—on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

The entire article is fascinating. You can also find more on these issues in this recent diary by Navy Vet Terp, The Second Amendment Has Nothing to Do with Gun Ownership.
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