We all know the old adage that those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. Sayings like this only stick around long enough to permeate a culture when they point to greater truths, as this one does. In this case, if we don’t know our, and by “our,” I mean your, NRA’s history, then we could find ourselves in the same place we did in 1968.
The Gun Control Act of 1968 was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. This law made every violation, even an accidental one, a federal felony—meaning any mistake could cost someone their Second Amendment rights for life. The law also allowed the government to harass gun stores out of business. There were a lot of other problems with that law.
People also forget that, back in 1968, few Americans had the right to carry concealed even though this is one right the Second Amendment explicitly protects. Most jurisdictions either had “may-issue” regulations—meaning a local handgun-licensing authority could decide for any reason whatsoever to deny someone their constitutionally protected rights—or complete prohibitions on this freedom.
It is critical that we all know this true story, because knowing our history isn’t just about avoiding mistakes others made before us.
To put this in perspective, realize that in 1965 almost half (49%) of Americans, according to a long-running Gallup poll, thought only law enforcement and the military should be allowed to own handguns. In 2018, that same poll found that 71% of Americans think American citizens should have the freedom to own handguns.
Your NRA began to turn the tide of public opinion and against the expansion of gun-control laws in 1975 when we formed our Institute for Legislative Action (ILA). It took a decade of work for NRA-ILA to amend the Gun Control Act of 1968 with the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act of 1986, a law signed by President Ronald Reagan.
From there, we went state by state to repeal and amend gun-control laws and to pass pro-freedom protections for gun owners. We also fought for our freedom in courtrooms across America. We backed this up by funding real academic research into the truth about this right. We then took this true story to the American public and let them know gun rights are a basic American freedom issue.
We should never forget that in two razor-thin, 5-4 decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that our Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to bear arms (Heller, 2008) and then ruled that this individual right also restricts state and local governments (McDonald, 2010). If we lose sight of how close those fundamental decisions were, we’ll then be in danger of forgetting how easily these victories can be taken away by a future court.
So much has been achieved since NRA-ILA was founded that it is all too easy to forget the many battles we fought in legislatures and courtrooms for our freedom. It is easy to forget how far we’ve come together. This is why this month’s issue of the NRA’s Official Journal America’s 1st Freedom is entirely dedicated to remembering our victories won for freedom since NRA-ILA was founded, as we must remember so we can continue to replicate our successes into the future. For those who receive our other fine magazines, you can see every part of this important story on Americas1stFreedom.org.
It is critical that we all know this true story, because knowing our history isn’t just about avoiding mistakes others made before us. Knowing our history is also about understanding and thereby safeguarding the good things we’ve done as we move forward.
Right now, the future is coming fast as a storm over the plains. If the candidates running for the Democratic nomination for president are to be believed, and it would be reckless not to take their threats seriously, then the 2020 election will be pivotal. They’ve talked about gun bans, about overturning the Heller decision and so expunging our individual right to bear arms and even about gun confiscations.
These politicians, and the media elites who support them, would like nothing better than to see this association bled to death so they can next feast on your freedom.
After understanding the history of this important association, and therefore, of our freedom, we must then take into account that the very basis of our freedom is in the balance in the 2020 election. With all of this in mind, we must steadfastly push forward together to save our future.