In 1871, a former Union officer, Col. William C. Church, wrote a series of articles in a United States Army and Navy magazine. He was acting as a watchman sounding a clear call for training in marksmanship. Col. Church quoted another veteran officer who complained, “The general ignorance concerning marksmanship which I found among our soldiers during the Civil War appalled me.”
Col. Church went on to propose that an association be formed “to promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis….”
On November 17, 1871, the organization known today as the National Rifle Association of America was formed in order to answer that need. With notable exceptions, the Southern soldiers were much more adept at sharpshooting during the War Between the States and this had become a matter of great concern. The reason for the disparity in shooting skills seems to have been because the Northerners were urban dwellers and Southerners tended to be farmers and mountain people that lived in rural areas so the Southerners were more familiar with the handling of firearms and many more Southerners than Northerners supplemented their diets by hunting for wild game.
In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt signed into law the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice, thus beginning a legislative agenda that eventually led to creation of the Director of Civilian Marksmanship. The purpose of these legislative initiatives was, “That every facility should be offered citizens outside of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and organized militia [National Guard] to become proficient in rifle shooting, and that this purpose can best be accomplished by means of rifle clubs.”
Pres. Roosevelt, an avid shooter, thought that it was necessary for the nation’s defense to provide rifles and facilities for civilians to develop good shooting skills via competition and other programs. This philosophy continued up until fairly modern times. Then the concepts of mutual assured destruction and other modern military theories combined to convince leaders in the United States government and the Armed Forces that small arms have very little relevancy to modern warfare.
MAD, the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction, became the underlying premise in many areas of official United States policy. The international structure for limiting nuclear arms by means of treaties (SALT Treaty, etc.) with the Soviets was super-power parity in which the parties agreed that each side in the super-power struggle would forfeit the right of deploying Antiballistic Missiles (ABMs).
In other words, the US leadership under Nixon and Kissinger agreed not to use missiles to protect the US population from our enemy’s missiles in order to hold each other’s populations hostage to a nuclear strike; i.e., we abdicated defense of the civilian populations by forfeiting our defensive posture against nuclear attack while theoretically ensuring our ability to destroy the Soviet populace by a retaliatory strike. Most of us never understood this because of the complicated bureaucratese that grew up around the professional apparatus surrounding such a diabolical arrangement.
Does it make any difference to our national security whether or not civilians learn how to shoot before enlisting in the United States Armed Forces?[pagebreak]
Special-Interests: How many times have you heard it declared that the NRA is a special-interest group? In a sense, of course, all the organizations that make their voices heard as part of the political process are interest groups. The NAACP, for example, is no less credible nor is it more venal because it represents the interest of people who want to ensure their civil rights. This is the kind of transactional politics that modern “liberals” worship.
But when an honest-to-God individual right like the right to keep and bear arms wins out in a conflict with collective statism militating towards collective rights, the beauty of transactional “quid pro quo” politics apparently loses its appeal- at least for those that lobby in favor of bestowing the state with a monopoly over deadly force.
The NRA is different than associations like the NAACP or AARP, however, because the gun lobby is supposedly financed by manufacturers of firearms (or so the argument goes). The conclusion, implied or stated, is that because guns are weapons and weapons are used to kill, therefore the “gun lobby” is even more insidious than other venal “special-interest” groups such as an association of automobile manufacturers or the American Bar Association, for that matter.
Incidentally, the NRA was open to Blacks from its very inception. In 1871, no other association existed in the U.S. in which integration was the rule. Quite possibly this was because General Ambrose Burnside, one of the NRA’s founding members, was a leader of Black Union troops during the Civil War; even during the Korean War (1950-1953) most white officers were reluctant to lead Black troops because of the perception that this would adversely affect an officer’s prospects for promotion.
The NRA has always been in the forefront of organizing competitions in which civilian, military and law enforcement personnel compete along side each other regardless of race.
United States military history is replete with countless examples of the interplay between civilian and military innovations in training and equipment. One good example of such cross-pollination is in the stories of how the U.S. met the challenge of Viet Cong sniper activities during the 1960s.
For some time, our men in Vietnam were almost helpless before enemy snipers who struck with almost total impunity at any time and place. Until men like Carlos Hathcock appeared on the scene.
Even after being trained in the skills of reconnaissance, stalking and long range shooting, a big problem remained for Hathcock and other snipers that were about to start saving American soldiers’ lives in Vietnam. There was a lack of appropriate weapons available.
The United States had been unable to develop a true sniper rifle because of a number of factors, including the prevailing tactical and strategic doctrines relating to the idea that small arms were mainly just for laying down as much suppressant fire power as possible and that teaching soldiers to shoot accurately might actually limit the troops’ ability to stop waves of Communist infantry.
Ironically, during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln ordered that repeating rifles be acquired for the troops and his orders were circumvented because of a perception by the officer responsible for weapons contracts that replacing single shot rifles with lever action rifles would just cause troops to waste ammunition. Conversely, by the time of the Vietnam conflict, thousands of rounds of automatic rifle ammunition were fired that never hit anything!
In Vietnam the problem of enemy snipers dealing death from a distance was dealt with by individual soldiers acquiring Winchester 70 and Remington 700s in 30.06 and .308 calibers. Before long many of our shooters, almost all of whom learned shooting prior to joining the military (many in NRA programs,) were making shots that killed the enemy at 1500, 2000 and even 2500 yards!
Today, one of the preeminent military sniper weapons is basically a bolt action Remington 700 with a match grade barrel, competition trigger and customized stock, the M40-A1. Our guys in Vietnam were using deer rifles which were bought via catalogues from places like Sears.
Eventually the military started buying more of the sporting arms along with Sierra Match bullets, mostly in .30.06 and .308 calibers; one shot, one kill became the rule. Anyone out there that has some personal experience in these matters or a different perspective let me know.
It is indisputable, by any reckoning, that the NRA has fostered a culture that has contributed greatly to our Armed Forces and the effectiveness of the training given to law enforcement and other personnel all over the world.
Compare this to a country like China, for instance, where the government has dealt with its citizens by arbitrary brutality and violence. Mao Zedong was so effective in eliminating all private ownership of small arms that, according to Jung Chang in “Mao the Unknown Story”, there was a period after Chairman Mao came to power that wild animals were devastating livestock because the disarmed farmers and herders were unable to eliminate predators. Mao would complain if he heard even the sound of a gunshot. Mao would complain that gunshots broke his concentration.
Mao ordered house to house searches and guns and other contraband (like food) were confiscated in order to provide the Communist Chinese government with capital to purchase military equipment from the Soviets. The searches were so efficient that not only weapons but anything of value was plundered with harsh consequences for anyone hiding “contraband”.
People that are convinced that an armed civilian population presents insignificant force against professional armies should ask why every dictator is so bent on removing weaponry from the hands of those he would tyrannize. And the fact that tyrants hate private ownership of weapons raises the issue of why the media, academic and political elite always want to impose more “common sense” when it comes to gun ownership (until it comes to election time- then the candidates fawn all over the NRA). Many organizations exist that represent the interest of gun owners. There is no group that more effectively brings together the interests of gun owners, manufacturers and the national interest than the NRA.
The National Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio have been held for one hundred years as a competition that joins military, law enforcement and civilian competitors from all over the world. This event is conducted by a number of organizations, not the least of which is the NRA.
Such joint cooperation between the firearms industry, civilian competitors, military and police shooters through the NRA and similar organizations occurs every day at countless ranges all over the country.
Every shooting event in which I have participated brings me into contact with men (and women) from every walk of life with shooting skills similar to men such as Carlos Hathcock. Some are active or retired military, some are police officers while others compete in order to hone skills acquired in civilian life. It is easy to take for granted, but it does not take a great deal of thoughtful research to discover that many of the shooting ranges, competitions and systematic knowledge that exists about the critical skills and technology of shooting could never exist without the enduring legacy and recognition deposited in this “special interest” group and the communities the NRA fosters.
Do you think that American citizens could presently own firearms and keep them in our homes were it not for all the lobbying, educating, mass mailing, exhortation and other political activities carried on by the NRA? Yes, it’s a partisan, special interest group and the NRA is a one-issue special-interest group, at that.
That one issue that the NRA stands for is guarding the Second Amendment and motivating the rest of us to exercise our right to keep and bear arms in ways that are productive, honest and honorable. Many ordinary U.S. citizens believe that the U.S. Constitution is well worth funding. We choose to do so as intelligent, informed citizens, participating as informed members of an organization that is built from the grassroots up. Members are professionals, vast numbers of union members, many of whom are dyed-in-the-wool Democrats.
Gov. Mike Huckabee, also a presidential candidate, recently told talk show host and CNN personality Glen Beck that as a holder of a concealed weapon permit that if the government comes to his door and demands his weapons during a time of emergency, his answer will be no, you are messing with my Constitutional rights!
New Orleans: Weapon confiscation is exactly what happened to armed citizens in New Orleans. At the time they most needed their weapons to defend themselves from imminent danger, while some police officers were looting ATM machines and just not showing up for work and armed gangs were roaming the streets, the authorities were taking guns away from citizens that were already devastated by a natural disaster. The citizens of new Orleans and the surrounding area were threatened by social chaos and helpless but for the ability of families and neighborhoods to protect each other. The government bureaucrats that had all but abandoned the citizens.
The elected leaders and nameless officals in the bureaucracies were trying to disarm the people during the time when the people had the greatest need to provide for their own defense. Many people that did not break any laws, who stayed at home and protected their families, are still trying to get back their legal weapons from the authorities in New Orleans, notwithstanding court orders that order the weapons be returned.
The NRA is litigating to make sure this never happens again. And the NRA is lobbying for legislation to ensure that such a travesty of justice never occurs again. Does anybody know whether such legislation is being proposed in the State of Washington?
It took many months just to get the City of New Orleans to admit that guns were confiscated. Then the City dragged its feet and made excuses in order to circumvent an injunction requiring the return of the weapons. New Orleans told the court it had to do background checks first in order to make sure the owners were not persons barred from owning weapons and the computer networks were still down, etc.
There is no other industry where the end-users and the manufacturers share such a closely shared set of interests than the firearms industry. That is why the media wants to portray gun owners as ignorant, backwards and misguided.
In fact, the statistics indicate that many of the ordinary people you meet on the street not only keep weapons in their home but they also may be legally carrying a concealed pistol in states that issue concealed carry licenses (only a few states- e.g., Illinois and Wisconsin- do not provide for concealed carry). This should make you feel more secure rather than overly concerned. Those weapons save lives in public places and homes and businesses every day all over the U.S. The media just never tells you about it because you can’t be trusted to possess that kind of knowledge. The truth about these matters undermines the myth that personal firearms are usually harmful to your health and statistically unlikely to make you safer from crime.
The media and the rest of the American corporate elite are not sure what you will do with the knowledge that guns in the right hands often deter violence rather than cause it. The Founding Fathers had some ideas on this subject. More and more lawyers are finally getting over the outmoded belief that the Constitution contains undiscovered rights that have been “developing” in the primordial social ooze. Laurence Tribe, for example, a preeminent professor of Constitutional law often associated with Democratic social activism, is one of the “Progressive” legal experts that has concluded that the Founders meant what they said and that the Second Amendment has real meaning for modern society.