My purpose of this particular entry is not to repeat that which others have far more eloquently and with greater detail elaborated on the political history of the NRA. From their apolitical beginnings, to their transformation to a political organization in the 1968-1978 era, the NRA has changed from an organization primarily focused on hunting safety and being a responsible sportsman, into what they are now.
Rather, I thought I would share information on those early transformative years of the NRA, and my personal exposure to it. More information below the orange squiggles.
I grew up in the country. I was surrounded by dairy farms, cornfields, and forests that were filled with woodland creatures of various sorts. My dad was an ardent hunter, who owned anywhere from 12 to 20 firearms of various sorts, primarily shotguns and rifles. He went deer hunting every year, and always bagged a deer. I grew up eating venison from the freezer all winter long. He grew up in the hills, and knew the best places to go for hunting. He was very safety conscious, and always kept his firearms locked up, with the ammunition under separate lock and key. He was also president of the local Rod and Gun club.
One of my most favorite gifts growing up was a BB gun. It was the kind that the more you pumped it, the greater the BB velocity. Even with the BB gun, my Dad taught me (and enforced) rigorous gun safety requirements. Never point it at a person, never carry it with your finger on the trigger, never store it loaded, etc. So I had a keen understanding of gun safety well before I picked up my first 'real' firearm.
Growing up, I used to plink at cans with a single shot .22 rifle, along with the occasional rat in the local crick. I was never an ardent hunter like my Dad, but certainly enjoyed going to the skeet range with him to blast away at the clay pigeons. As I got older I would go deer hunting with my Dad, where we would sometimes walk up to 20 miles through the woods in a day. Opening day of deer season, our high school typically had 50% attendance, including many teachers that went hunting.
I do have to say - I never cared much for opening day of deer season. The forest was more like a militia than a woodlands, with the sound of so many stray shots buzzing around. Sometimes, you could actually track a deer just by the shots being taken at him.
The reason I have shared all this, is to provide a framework and context of what I am going to say next.
In 1973, my two older sisters decided it would be a great idea to get my Dad a one-year membership to the NRA. This also included a subscription to their magazine 'The American Rifleman', along with an NRA baseball cap.
My Dad never developed the 'Dad shows fake appreciation' skill sometimes required by all Dads when given something that they don't much care for. When he opened this gift, I could instantly see the disdain on his face. He did remember to say thank you, but that was the extent of it. He never read the magazine, he never wore the baseball cap, and at the end of the year he let the membership expire.
Even back then, in 1973 - 40 years ago - the NRA was considered an extremist organization by my Dad, an ardent sportsman and hunter. And since then, it has only grown more extremist. I will always remember my Dad, and his reaction even back then, and his wisdom to recognize the NRA for what it was. Thank you Dad for all you have taught me, and may God rest your soul.