Wednesday, November 18, 2015
The Original Reason the NRA Was Founded
Today and for the last fifty years or so, the National Rifle Association has been a powerful political group best known for its staunch defense of Americans’ rights to bear arms. When it was granted a charter by New York State on this day—Nov. 17—in 1871, it had a very particular reason for coming into being.
As TIME’s Richard Lacayo explained in a 1990 feature about the group, “The N.R.A. was founded in 1871 by a group of former Union Army officers dismayed that so many Northern soldiers, often poorly trained, had been scarcely capable of using their weapons.”
The original call for the organization of such a group came from an article by Col. William C. Church in an August 1871 issue of the Army and Navy Journal. In it, he cited the success of Britain’s National Rifle Association and its—confusingly named, at least to modern readers—Wimbledon riflery tournament range: though he had originally believed that the National Guard ought to organize such a club, he would turn to private enterprise for speed’s sake.
“An association should be organized in this city [New York] to promote and encourage rifle-shooting on a scientific basis. The National Guard is to-day too slow in getting about this reform,” Church wrote. “Private enterprise must take up the matter and push it into life…
The subject has already been presented to several enterprising officers and ex-officers of the National Guard, and they have been found enthusiastic in the matter. It only requires hearty co-operation and an actual start to make the enterprise successful.”