In February, Americans celebrate Presidents Day to pay tribute to the leaders of our great nation—their lives and achievements. It is also a special day for members of the NRA as we recall the sacrifices our first president, George Washington, and other Founding Fathers made to create this United States of America and endow us with our cherished Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
Presidents Day was originally established in 1885 to recognize George Washington, our first commander in chief. It is interesting to note that among his highly prized possessions during his lifetime was an English pistol. The firearm (a .71 caliber flintlock) was given to then 23-year-old Washington in 1755 while he served under English General Edward Braddock. We know about the importance that Washington placed on this pistol from a letter his aide sent July 2, 1777.
“Sir, His Excellency Gen. Washington desires you to look among his effects for a pistol which was mislaid or possibly lost. You will know it by being a large brass barrel and the lock of which is also of brass with the name of Gabbitas, the Spanish armorer, thereon. It has also a heavy brass butt. His Excellency is much exercised over the loss of this pistol, it being given him by Gen. Braddock, and having since been with him through several campaigns, and he therefore values it very highly.” Today this pistol is part of “The Price of Freedom: Americans at War” collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
Following in the footsteps of our first president, George Washington, to safeguard our freedom have been other notable American presidents, as well as the National Rifle Association, founded in 1871. The NRA, since its inception, has been on the forefront of protecting our Second Amendment freedom while counting among its patriotic members eight U.S. presidents: Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Donald J. Trump.
To underscore their commitment to the goals and objectives of the NRA, many of these presidents have been lifetime members, such as Teddy Roosevelt. In 1907, Roosevelt wrote to NRA President James Andrew Drain: “I am so heartily interested in the success of the National Rifle Association of America and the work done in cooperation with the National Board for the encouragement of rifle practice, that I take pleasure in sending you herewith my check for $25 for life membership therein.” His successor, President Taft, another lifetime member, was also greatly interested in the work of the NRA and its efforts to enhance the skills of American riflemen. In more recent history we find that located in California among the personal and presidential papers of President Nixon is his July 1957 lifetime membership in the NRA. A few years later, President Kennedy formally accepted an NRA membership while represented by Chester Clifton, military aide to the president, during a formal presentation on April 28, 1961.
In 1983, President Reagan spoke to members during an NRA annual banquet.
“Being a part of this group, you know that good organizations don’t just happen. They take root in a body of shared beliefs. They grow strong from leadership with vision, initiative, and determination to reach great goals.” During that rousing address, Reagan shared that he had “always felt a special bond” with NRA members.
“Your philosophy put its trust in people. So, you insist on individuals being held responsible for their actions. The NRA believes that America’s laws were made to be obeyed and that our constitutional liberties are just as important today as 200 years ago.”
It is noteworthy that when President Reagan spoke 37 years ago, he discussed the issue of gun control—which we are facing with heightened anti-gun political maneuverings as never before seen. Remarking briefly on the 1982 assassination attempt on him, Reagan declared, “It’s a nasty truth, but those who seek to inflict harm are not fazed by gun control laws. I happen to know this from personal experience.” He noted that “the Constitution does not say that government shall decree the right to keep and bear arms. The Constitution says ‘. . . the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’”
As we look forward in the coming months and next presidential election in November, we members would do well to look at another NRA lifetime member, President Donald Trump. He knows us and the critical issues we face. And he continues to stand with us at the NRA—just as he has on issues, in his crucial appointments of judges and joining us side-by-side during our 2018 and 2019 Annual Meetings and Exhibits. We need to do all we can to re-elect President Trump so he will continue to protect our Constitution, the Second Amendment and the firearms freedom of law-abiding Americans. Stand and fight with us. We have a country to save.