The National Rifle Association’s 2014 held April 25-27 in Indianapolis was a great success. There were record crowds and many of the exhibitors that last year holding back, were in full-force.
Last year, the convention came just after the Senate Democrats and the Republican leadership failed to pass what would have been the most restrictive federal gun laws since the 1968 Gun Control Act.
In his main address to the NRA membership, NRA President Jim Porter made the point that the real reason the 1968 Gun Control Act passed was that at the time the NRA was not in the game. It did not have a single lobbyist and there were no scorecards or political action committees.
In the next 10 years, Porter said a group of revolutionaries, including his own father, who himself was an NRA president, worked to change that and they eventually took over the 1977 NRA annual meeting in Cincinnati.
Porter said that many members wanted the NRA to stay out of politics and to be a national hunt club. But, the revolutionaries carried the day and began the steady march to restore gun rights in America.
The 1970s were pivotal to the conservative movement in America. Decades of domination by liberals and the Democratic Party, culminated in the running out of town GOP President Richard M. Nixon, the rise of Communist influence around the globe, rampant inflation—especially of gasoline and food prices and a heavy malaise upon the country.
From the ashes of Watergate and the horrific 1974 midterms and the 1976 election of President James E. Carter, the Republican Party was reborn as a conservative party as pro-lifers, traditional religious groups and advocates for gun rights took over a party abandoned by the careerists, who saw no future in the GOP.
It is impossible to over appreciate the contribution the NRA has made to a better, safer country. Although, the NRA was not focused on tax reform or any of the other items on the conservative agenda, the fact remains that the NRA and the other gun rights groups brought conservative voters into the system, where they were able to help the combined lift.
In 1980, President Ronald W. Reagan won the White House, a feat inconceivable in 1974 or 1976.
Is the NRA just a ‘national political club?’
By Neil W. McCabe
Given all that, an objective look back at the NRA also sees factions at work inside the organization to make it a “national political club.” Sometimes, the NRA goes out of its way to endorse liberals and Democrats, who meet some minimum requirement on gun rights, but are working night-and-day against the general conservative program.
The NRA has also been reluctant to engage in Capitol Hill battles, where the chance of victory is not good. While other gun rights groups lose on principle, the NRA seeks to cut a deal—playing the grownup in the room.
One year ago, the Toomey-Manchin bill, written by Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D.-N.Y.) was defeated—barely—and many so-called friends of the NRA, such as Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D.-Vt.) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.), forced to choose sides, chose to fight against gun rights.
In light of the forces arrayed against gun rights, Porter was wise to bring up the lessons of 1968 and the victory of activists in 1977. In 2014, and then in 2016, the hope is that the NRA will be there for its share of the lift as conservatives engage the enemies of our freedoms in close combat.