The NRA was founded in New York state in 1871 by Army and Navy Journal editor William Conant Church and General George Wood Wingate. Its first president was U.S. Civil War General Ambrose Burnside, who had worked as a Rhode Island gunsmith. Not unlike the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association, founded in 1868, the mandate of the NRA was to train young men in the use of rifles and marksmanship.
In 1901, the U.S. Congress created the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice, that included representatives from the NRA, National Guard, and United States armed services. Annual rifle and pistol competitions was authorized, and included a national match open to military and civilian shooters. Two years later, in 1903, the U.S. Congress authorized the Civilian Marksmanship Program that involved the NRA and continued to fulfill the mandate to train young men who might later be called to serve in the U.S. military.
It was not until 1934 that the NRA became active in legislative matters during the debate and passage of the National Firearms Act. The NRA supported passage of the National Firearms Act, as it did the Gun Control Act of 1968. (The NRA Once Supported Gun Control) This legislation created a system to license gun dealers and imposed taxes on the private ownership of machine guns. Yes, even with the 2nd Amendment in the U.S. Bill of Rights, the U.S. has plenty of firearms laws on its statute books, both at the federal and state levels.
It was in 1975 that the Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) was founded. The mandate of NRA-ILA is to preserve “the right of all law-abiding individuals to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” (NRA-ILA) Since the mid-1970s, the NRA has stood firm in its opposition to gun prohibitionists and governments (federal and state) who have tried to curtail Second Amendment rights. One of the NRA’s accomplishments in this right was when President Ronald Reagan signed the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act into law in 1986. One notable component of the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act was the provision that no government agency in the U.S. is permitted to impose a gun registry. The law states:
No such rule or regulation prescribed [by the Attorney General] after the date of the enactment of the Firearms Owners Protection Act may require that records required to be maintained under this chapter or any portion of the contents of such records, be recorded at or transferred to a facility owned, managed, or controlled by the United States or any State or any political subdivision thereof, nor that any system of registration of firearms, firearms owners, or firearms transactions or disposition be established. Nothing in this section expands or restricts the Secretary’s authority to inquire into the disposition of any firearm in the course of a criminal investigation. (as cited in Wikipedia)
While the NRA is active in legislative matters, particularly since 1975, its primary mission is to educate the gun owning public in the safe and responsible use of guns for use in hunting and shooting sports. There is the NRA Hunter Services Division and the Youth Hunter Education Challenge. There is also the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program for children which teaches children to take the following steps if they stumble on a gun laying unattended:
STOP! Don’t Touch. Leave the Area. Tell an Adult.
The NRA publishes a number of magazines including American Hunter, American Rifleman, Shooting Sports USA and Shooting Illustrated. The NRA published quite a number of books on hunting and shooting including Home Firearm Safety, The Hunter’s Guide, The Basics of Rifle Shooting and Basics of Pistol Shooting. In its history, the NRA has more than fulfilled its mandate to educate the gun owning public and helped to make hunting and shooting sports among the safest past-times U.S. citizens enjoy.