The NRA of My Youth

I was a youthful member of the National Rifle Association (NRA) in rural Nebraska in the 1930s. My firearms of choice were a 22 revolver, a single shot 22 rifle, and a single shot 410 gauge shotgun. They were not regarded as weapons during those years of depression and drought in rural Nebraska but rather tools of necessity.

My family didn’t have much money then and we lived pretty much off the land. So, in 1938 I even carried the shotgun as I rode my pony five miles to a one-room school each day. During the day, the loaded shotgun was stashed back of the coat rack in the school room. It was frequently useful on the ride home in the evening to bag a rabbit or prairie hen to have for supper.

Unlike today’s organization, the NRA of my youth was not politically active and its chosen role was to train people in the responsible ownership and use of firearms. The training included marksmanship, firearm safety, and the responsibilities of ownership and handling of firearms in accordance with federal and state laws.

I do not recall that the Constitution’s second amendment was ever challenged or discussed by instructors except to cite that it’s purpose was to protect State militia members from having their firearms confiscated by the federal government. They did suggest that by 1904, when the state militias became a part of a new National Guard, the amendment was no longer applicable. This was due to the fact that the Guard issues necessary firearms to it’s members and those members were no longer required to provide their own. Even earlier as we became an independent nation and the Constitution was developed, the amendment only related to the single shot, hand loaded muskets, rifles and pistols which were the firearms available during the revolution and subsequent years.

The NRA was established in 1871 with special emphasis on marksmanship training and the organization did not become directly involved in politics until 1975 when the organization formed the Institute for Legislative Action and became more and more active on the political scene.

The NRA in the days of my youth was a very active public service organization unlike the militant and confrontational political organization of modern times. It could once again, with a change in management and philosophy, be an important life saving and truly patriotic organization.

A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,
the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
Amendment II, Constitution of the United States