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American Rambler with Colin Woodward

Mar 28, 2021

In part two of Colin's talk with journalist Frank Smyth, Frank talks about his 2020 book, The NRA: The Unauthorized History. The history of the National Rifle Association begins in New York City in 1871 as a group made up of Union veterans and those interested in target shooting. Founded on the model of the British National Rifle Association, the American NRA was a pro-government, pro-military organization seeking to train men for the next major war.

As Frank's book shows, the NRA started to take a hard turn to the Right in the late 1970s at what has been called the "Cincinnati Revolt." Today, there is no doubt that the NRA has remade the country in its image. Despite its early history, the present-day NRA is wholly devoted to a liberal (but not Liberal) interpretation of the 2nd Amendment and protecting personal gun rights. Given the NRA's influence and five million member power base, it has been difficult for centrist and left-wing politicians and citizens to enact meaningful and sensible gun reform and regulation. 

But is that changing? The NRA has been suffering from internal leadership squabbles and financial problems that are threatening its very existence. Grassroots groups, furthermore, such as the Parkland students, have gained success rallying support for common sense gun reform in the wake of countless mass shootings. 

In Frank's well-written and fast-paced book, he gives an illuminating overview of the organization, which has not had the best track record when it comes to transparency and telling the truth about its origins.