The NRA’s Evolution: From Regulators to Lobbyists


Many on social media have come to label Stephen Paddock’s rampage on the Las Vegas strip an act of domestic terrorism, while many others—mostly found in political circles—continue to offer up little more than thoughts and prayers for the victims of the country’s deadliest mass shooting in our recorded history. Despite thoughtful discourse being the least of the current administration’s concerns, what remains absolutely certain is that “now is not the time for gun control talks”—but deflecting and targeting a historically disenfranchised part of Chicago is fair game. 

However, the issue of guns and gun legislation has beleaguered the past several administrations, due in large part to the NRA—or rather the lack of their attention on the issue. Even with a history mired in controversy, a majority of the US supporting stricter gun laws, and a small number of members in relation to overall gun owners in the country, the NRA still boasts massive political power.

Both The New York Times and Los Angeles Times recently reported that some of the most successful recipients of NRA funding are current House and Senate members. Thom Tillis, for instance, has received over $4.4 million dollars from the NRA, while John McCain and Richard Burr received nearly $7.8 million and $7 million dollars from the association, respectively. 

 The association’s inception was not all political rhetoric though. In a brief look into the history of the NRATIME revealed that the association was actually created by former Union Army soldiers in the late-1870’s in an effort to equip poorly trained northerners with the necessary skills to use their weapons. Colonel William C. Church of the United States Volunteers established the NRA around the same time, alongside fellow former Union soldiers seeking to accomplish the same goal of equipping the poorly trained with greater knowledge of using weapons.   

The group set forth the goal of creating elite American marksmen, holding competitions and tournaments for the decades that followed. Initially, this affinity for sport grew into rifle clubs, additional tournaments, and Boy Scout trainings across the country, highlighting the association’s original purpose in sharpening the craft of shooting.

Skip ahead several decades to what gun enthusiasts and NRA supporters alike call the “Revolt in Cincinnati,” and what you’ll find is a near rewriting of the Second Amendment, as Politico described it in 2014. After the organization shifted gears in 1977 and relocated their headquarters to Colorado to further distance themselves from gun legislation, infuriated rebels showed up en masse to their next annual convention. The report also revealed that other, more outspoken proponents of the right to bear arms “bullied their way” into power, like the Second Amendment Foundation and Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. The rebels were outfitted in hunting caps and communicated through walkie-talkies, catching all of the NRA off guard as they essentially patrolled the floor of the convention. What was an attempt to practically do away with guns altogether, resulted in a full-blown backlash that exponentially increased the association’s reliance on firearms. Those in power conducted business then the way the association does now, as some of the most influential lobbyists on the issue of gun control.

Virginia Tech, Westroads Mall, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Las Vegas. Each mass shooting was met with similar disregard by the NRA, whose motives now rest solely on establishing the firmest footing in the debate over gun control. Whether through funding senators or lobbying for legislation that works counter to the concerns of the country, the association has prided itself on equipping firearms as opposed to regulating the usage of them.

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