The Second Amendment was ratified centuries ago in 1791 and for much of this time, it was understood as part of the very fabric that makes up this very country; however, this freedom came under attack and, for a period, seemed as if it may cease to exist.
The Second Amendment, which has colloquially been coined as the one amendment that protects all of the others, was ignored in the courts, infringed upon by politicians and the press turned the other way. It seemed, almost incomprehensibly, that this freedom would fade entirely, but then something else happened.
Starting in the 1970s, this freedom was reclaimed bit by bit over the following decades, in no small part thanks to this nation’s oldest civil-rights organization. The National Rifle Association and its members were, and continue to be, at the tip of the spear in the decades-long restoration and defense of our Second Amendment freedom.
In 1975, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) was formed as the lobbying arm of the NRA 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. Over the ensuing 40-plus years, ILA’s ability to fight successfully for the rights of America’s law-abiding gun owners was directly reflected by the support of the NRA’s millions of members.
Whenever restrictive, unconstitutional gun-control legislation is proposed at any level, ILA is there to respond and mobilize NRA members to oppose the whims of anti-freedom legislators who seek to curtail freedom. Without this crucial body, it’s frightening to imagine what the Second Amendment would look like today—if it were to still exist at all.
Progress and Protections Advance
From 1981 to 1991, ILA helped to shepherd through many firearm-preemption laws throughout various state legislatures, bringing the total up to 41 at the time. Prior to the 1980s, only three states had some form of preemption and today, 45 states limit the authority of municipalities to regulate firearms and ammunition and these laws generally preclude local governments from enacting any additional regulations on firearms or ammunition beyond state law. Without these, gun owners would face a patchwork of local laws that would make exercise of their rights functionally impossible.
Thankfully, ILA has worked to restore this right and it was in 1986 that then-President Ronald Reagan singed the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act (FOPA), which was designed to reform the disastrous 1968 Gun Control Act. Before FOPA went into effect, it was actually a felony for every violation regardless of intent. Government could functionally harass a gun store out of business at that time.
This was just the beginning and, in 1988, Marion P. Hammer, who went on to be NRA president from 1995-1998, spearheaded the Eddie Eagle GunSafe program with a task force made up of educators, school administrators, curriculum specialists, urban housing safety officials, clinical psychologists, law-enforcement officials and NRA firearm safety experts. Since then, it has reached more than 32 million children in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico.
An Anti-Freedom Administration
In 1994, the number of states that had range-protection laws rose from eight to 48 thanks to lobbying from ILA and NRA members. Long have gun controllers tried to chill our ability to exercise our rights by banning shooting ranges, but these laws crucially strengthened the protections for ranges from being shut down by local governments for arbitrary reasons.
And though then-President Bill Clinton passed the “assault weapons” ban that same year, even he later admitted that he regretted taking on the NRA in his memoir. That ban sunset a decade later and though many politicians call for its reinstatement, they will also run straight into the wall that is the NRA and its millions of members.
Later in Clinton’s tenure in the Oval Office, an NRA-backed provision passed which forbade the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from funding gun-control propaganda disguised as research. Despite this, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have continued to spend millions on said “research.”
Just as Clinton was a detriment to your rights, so would have been his vice president, Al Gore, who ran for the presidency in 2000. In fact, America’s 1st Freedom featured Gore on its very first cover, illustrating how if Gore was elected, it would have been more of the same for our freedoms. The NRA, its members and America’s 1st Freedom were an essential part of making sure this did not come to fruition as Gore lost the election—including his home state—and George W. Bush became president.
A Pro-Freedom President in the New Millennium
With a pro-freedom president in the Oval Office, meaningful change began to be effectuated and after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, was formed. The TSA at first resisted the concept of arming pilots, but, thanks to lobbying from the NRA, Congress passed the “Arming Pilots Against Terrorism Act.” Under the act, a pilot who volunteers and completes training is deputized as a federal flight deck officer (FFDO).
It was also during Bush’s tenure that the aforementioned, and erroneously named, “assault weapons” ban expired and was not renewed thanks to NRA lobbying. In 2005, Bush signed into law the NRA-backed Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which prevents firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held liable for negligence when crimes have been committed with their products and saved the American firearms industry from certain bankruptcy and elimination by passing lawsuit protection.
During these years, freedom continued to flourish as the NRA helped enact the nation’s first Stand-Your Ground laws and in the years since, 27 states have such laws and seven more have it in practice, either through case law, precedent or via jury instructions. The Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act was also passed in the wake of governmental overreach after Hurricane Katrina with 33 states now recognizing these protections.
In 2005 the NRA and other gun advocates challenged San Francisco Proposition H, which banned the ownership and sales of firearms and overstepped local government authority and intruded into an area regulated by the state. The San Francisco County Superior Court agreed with the NRA and although the city appealed in 2008, the decision was upheld and San Francisco was forced to pay a $380,000 settlement to the NRA and other plaintiffs to cover the costs of litigation.
Battles in the High Court and Further Wins
The fight for freedom then made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court in the form of District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), a landmark case that made clear an individual’s right to a gun was unconnected to service in a militia. Two years later, the Court also ruled in McDonald v. Chicago that, like other substantive rights, the right to bear arms is incorporated via the Fourteenth Amendment to the Bill of Rights, and therefore applies to the states.
San Francisco also wasn’t done attempting to restrict the right to keep and bear arms in 2009 as the city attempted to ban firearms in public housing. However, the San Francisco Housing Authority (SFHA) would later reach a settlement with the NRA, which allowed residents to possess legal firearms within a SFHA apartment building.
One win after another, the NRA kept moving forward as it successfully lobbied to legalize the carrying of firearms for self-defense in national parks and fish and wildlife refuges and also worked to preserve the opportunity for American gun owners to purchase surplus firearms that were no longer of use to the U.S. military. Starting in 1979, different versions of this measure’s language have prevented these firearms from being needlessly destroyed. In 2009, Congress amended this language, at the urging of the NRA, to prevent the destruction of spent brass casings. This is especially important to gun owners and reloaders concerned about the rising price of ammunition.
In 2013, the NRA joined a federal lawsuit challenging New York’s overreaching gun-control law, the NY Safe Act, which then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo was argued to have “usurped the legislative and democratic process” in passing the law, which included restrictions on magazine capacity and expanded the state’s “assault weapons” ban.
The NRA has also advanced national right-to-carry reciprocity laws and drastically furthered the implementation of constitutional carry throughout the states. Decades ago, only one state had a form of constitutional carry, but now that number stands at 25 as half of the states have gotten out of law-abiding Americans’ way in their ability to exercise their freedom.
The Fight Against New Anti-Gun Tactics
Under Barack Obama, new tactics were employed. Most notable was the administration’s implementation of the Operation Choke Point. The policy intimidated banks into refusing or outright severing relationships with lawful industries, particularly those involving firearms and ammunition. Thanks to continued lobbying from ILA, this outrageous policy was later axed.
Despite the wishes of these anti-freedom types, like San Francisco unsurprisingly, which declared the NRA to be a “domestic terrorist organization,” this nation’s oldest civil-rights organization stood unwavering and pushed back by filing a lawsuit and alleging that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ declaration discriminates against people “based on the viewpoint of their political speech.”
That’s why the NRA lobbied for, and saw passed, a bill that grants advocacy groups legal standing to sue municipalities with local firearm regulations in violation of state preemption laws and also allows the court to force cities to pay their legal fees.
It was also Barack Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who said, “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that [is] it’s an opportunity to do things that you think you could not before.” This quote epitomizes gun controllers’ mindset. Such is why in 2016, Sen. Chris Murphy, after a terrorist attack in Orlando, Fla., filibustered the Senate and talked about gun control. During this publicity stunt, he demanded a vote on an amendment to implement so-called “universal” background checks. The NRA opposed this amendment and it failed overwhelmingly.
Later that year, the NRA raised over $350 million to fight for your freedom and endorsed Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential election after Hillary Clinton made it clear she, like her husband before her, wanted to take away much of this American freedom. More than $60 million was spent by the NRA to make sure Trump won and Clinton did not move into the White House.
Victories Under President Trump
Congress passed and President Trump signed into law NRA-backed legislation to repeal and Obama-era Social Security Administration rule that would have resulted in an estimated 75,000 law-abiding social security beneficiaries losing their Second Amendment rights each year.
Later in 2017, Trump also signed into law several pro-Second Amendment pieces of legislation. One restored Alaska’s authority to manage its own wildlife by overturning an Obama administration rule that would have given the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service control over hunting and fishing on National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska. Another was the NRA-backed National Defense Authorization Act. This law includes a provision that directs the Secretary of the Army to transfer surplus 1911 .45 ACP pistols to the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), easing the burden on the government’s heavily indebted balance sheet, in addition to allowing the CMP to keep revenues from the 1911 sales, ensuring CMP funding for the future. Another bill, The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, also passed the U.S. House of Representatives during this time.
In 2018, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “STOP School Violence Act of 2018,” while a companion bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate. This legislation provides funding for training students, teachers, school administrators and local law enforcement to identify early warning signs that a person is a threat to themselves or others. The bill also provides funds to implement school threat-assessment procedures and create a coordinated violence-prevention reporting system. This legislation was included in the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2018 and signed into law by President Trump on March 23, 2018.
President Trump also “unsigned” the United Nation’s Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) at the 2019 NRA Annual Meetings. NRA has long fought the implementation of international gun controls that would give bureaucrats in Europe authority over American gun owners. The ATT contains a dangerous provision that provides for “end-user monitoring,” which is just political-speak for an international gun registry. By withdrawing the United States from the ATT, President Trump prevented even partial implementation of the treaty’s requirements against law-abiding American gun owners.
A Return to the High Court and the Future
One of Trump’s most-significant achievements was the nomination and confirmation of multiple pro-freedom judges, particularly to the U.S. Supreme Court. The NRA supported all three of his picks to the high court—now-Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. He also filled the lower courts with more than 200 judges.
When anti-Second Amendment politicians attempt to restrict your freedoms, the NRA intervenes and no case in recent history is more evident than New York State Rifle & Pistol Association (NYSRPA) v. Bruen, which ruled that a person’s Second Amendment rights to not end and their front door. The NYSRPA is an NRA state affiliate and this NRA-supported case further affirmed your Second Amendment rights. The outcome of this decision stresses the importance of Trump’s Supreme Court picks.
The fight has been long in the restoration of the Second Amendment and it is far from over, especially as anti-freedom states, politicians and groups seek to find new ways to come for your rights. No matter what they try, the NRA is steadfastly committed to protecting, defending and restoring the Second Amendment.
While these are but a few highlights, the NRA has achieved a tremendous amount in just the last several decades:
- Since 1990: The NRA helped pass shall-issue carry laws and constitutional-carry laws across America, enabling Americans to lawfully carry firearms for personal protection in almost every state.
- 1990: Just 16 states recognized the right to carry a concealed firearm with or without a permit; today, 42 states have either unrestricted concealed carry or are shall-issue states. 1990: Just one state recognized the right to carry a concealed firearm without a permit; today, 25 states recognize that right.
- 1990: Twenty states had may-issue policies for a concealed-carry permit that gave law-enforcement discretion in the awarding of licenses; today, there are only eight may-issue states.
- The number of states that do not allow concealed carry fell from 14 in 1990 to zero in 2019.
- Through the NRA’s efforts, 34 states now have a no-retreat requirement before a person may exercise their right to lawful self-defense.
- Outright recognition is always the NRA’s goal, and 21 states now recognize permits issued by other states.