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The National Rifle Association (NRA)

The National Rifle Association (NRA) is in the midst of a disturbing transition from soft-core gun advocacy to hard-core radicalism. The organization's traditional programs such as hunting, marksmanship, and safety have taken a back seat in recent years as the NRA seeks to increase membership by broadening its appeal to the segment of society that perceives the federal government as a threat to its Second Amendment rights. Despite criticism that NRA rhetoric is contributing to the proliferation of paramilitary group violence in the United States, the gun lobby refuses to compromise its relentless opposition to gun control in any form.

The NRA, established in 1871, boasts an estimated 3.5 million members, its highest membership in history. The organization's early members were ex-military men, National Guardsmen and elected officials in New York City. The NRA gradually evolved into an organization that deifies the American rifleman tradition. As stated in its official history, "Freedom from Great Britain was not won by supermen using superweapons; it was won by ordinary citizens whose will to fight for liberty was backed by an intimate knowledge of firearms gained through the use of personal weapons" (Sugarmann, 1992, p. 14). The NRA solidified its anti-gun control views when Harlon Bronson Carter became chief executive officer in 1977. Carter relied heavily on direct mail solicitations that warned of a federal government conspiracy to outlaw all handguns, then register all rifles and shotguns, and finally confiscate all firearms. Under Carter's leadership, the NRA expanded its membership from 940,000 in 1977 to three million in 1986 (Sugarmann, 1992, p. 17).

Expensive mass mailings in recent years have enabled the NRA to expand its membership by more than a third (Gest, 1995, p. 38). Cognizant that fear sells, the NRA began, during the early 1980s, to prey on the insecurity of the average citizen in its direct mail and...

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The National Rifle Association (NRA). (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 14:03, March 19, 2019, from