The Second Amendment is a whole new ballgame in the aftermath of recent Supreme Court decisions. The NRA is taking a leading role in many lawsuits now underway by bringing in top-tier lawyers from the Reagan administration, as the biggest battles over gun rights now move into the courtroom.
For almost 200 years, the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms was sacred in American law. In addition to hunting, the right of law-abiding citizens to buy, keep and carry guns was essential for defending yourself and your family. Additionally, though, the reason that gun rights was included in the Bill of Rights was as a last resort both against foreign invaders and also as an insurance policy against the possibility of a tyrannical regime ever overthrowing the Constitution in this country.
Then with the rise of the Far Left in the 1960s, gun control became a major issue. After the assassinations of JFK, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, LBJ and the Democratic Congress passed the Gun Control Act of 1968.
This is what led to the modern National Rifle Association of America. The NRA was founded by Union generals in 1871, but for its first century the NRA was focused on cooperating with the U.S. military to teach marksmanship and hunter safety courses, as well as supporting competitive shooting sports. After the 1968 Gun Control Act, the NRA moved into the realm of lobbying and political activism.
The 1990s saw the NRA become the most powerful political organization in America. In 1991 the board of directors elected Wayne LaPierre, formerly the NRA’s top lobbyist, as executive vice president with overall control of the organization’s political efforts. After the Clinton Gun Ban and the Brady Bill became law in 1994, Wayne led the NRA’s efforts in the historic 1994 midterm elections where Republicans took both houses of Congress. Then when the legendary Charlton Heston became NRA president in 1998, Heston and LaPierre worked together to help defeat Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election, and buck historical trends by electing additional pro-gun congressmen in the 2002 midterms. Both were tremendous successes.
During all this, the NRA’s public-policy muscle was in its lobbying, not legal efforts. Gun rights were not a major issue in court, so there was no need to build serious legal talent to fight for them.
Some on the NRA board started looking forward to prepare the way for the federal judiciary to weigh in on gun rights. When Harvard-trained lawyer Sandy Froman was elected to the NRA board in 1992, she worked with others to organize the first gun-rights legal symposium to start to organize these efforts.