Timeline of the NRA
1871: The NRA is created to improve the marksmanship of soldiers. The first president, Civil War general Ambrose Burnside, had seen too many Union soldiers who couldn’t shoot straight.
1934: Spurred by the bloody “Tommy gun” era of gangsters, Congress passes the first federal gun-control bill called the National Firearms Act, which regulates machine guns.
1968: After the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Robert Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Congress passes the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act and the Gun Control Act of 1968, which prohibits gun sales to felons, drug users and the mentally ill, bans the import of some handguns, and requires more detailed record-keeping by licensed gun dealers.
1975: The NRA creates its own lobbying operation called the Institute for Legislative Action.
1977: Hard-liners, led by Harlon Carter and Neal Knox, take over the NRA at an annual meeting in what becomes known as the Revolt at Cincinnati; the group shifts its focus to protecting the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms.
1986: Prompted by complaints from the NRA that the federal government has been abusing its power to enforce gun laws, Congress passes the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986, which places restrictions on federal inspections of gun dealers.
1993: The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 mandates the creation of a national system for checking the backgrounds of gun buyers.
1994: The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 produces a 10-year federal ban on assault weapons.
July 1995: NRA membership swells to more than 3.5 million.
1997: The NRA fails in its attempt to get the entire Brady law tossed out.
April 20, 1999: Two teenagers shoot and kill 13 people at Columbine High School in Colorado. NRA President Charlton Heston said the organization would scale back its upcoming convention to one day in sympathy for the victims. “We must stand in somber but unshakable unity, even in this time of anguish,” Heston wrote.
October 2000: In the face of calls for more gun-control legislation, NRA membership grows to a record 4.1 million.
2003: In a victory for the NRA, Congress prohibits law enforcement agencies from publicly releasing firearms tracing data.
2004: In another NRA victory, Congress lets the assault-weapons ban expire.
2005: The NRA scores another victory when President George W. Bush signs the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, granting the gun industry immunity from lawsuits.
April 16, 2007: A gunman kills 32 people and wounds 17 on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., in the deadliest shooting incident in U.S. history. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families,” NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam says in a statement after the shooting.
2008: The Supreme Court, in District of Columbia v. Heller, holds that Americans have an individual right under the Second Amendment to possess firearms in federal territory “for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.” The ruling strikes down a local law banning handguns in the District. Two years later, another court decision will expand the right to the states.
Jan. 8, 2011: Then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others are shot near Tucson, Ariz. Six people are killed. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this senseless tragedy, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, and their families during this difficult time,” the NRA says.
July 20, 2012: A gunman kills 12 people and injures 58 at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and the Aurora, Colorado, community,” the NRA says.
Dec. 14, 2012: A gunman uses a semiautomatic Bushmaster assault-style rifle to kill 20 Sandy Hook Elementary School students, six staff members and his own mother in Newtown, Conn. “We were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown,” the NRA says.
Dec. 21, 2012: After President Obama’s vow to impose new limits on guns and ammunition in the wake of the Newtown shooting, the NRA calls for stationing armed guards at every school in America.
Jan. 10, 2013: After meeting with Vice President Biden and others to discuss efforts to curb gun violence, the NRA issues a statement: “We were disappointed with how little this meeting had to do with keeping our children safe and how much it had to do with an agenda to attack the Second Amendment.”