The National Rifle Association (NRA) was established in 1871 to “promote and encourage” shooting rifles with an emphasis on science. Since its origination, it has become the first-stop for those interested in hunting, shooting, and self-defense, in both the law enforcement and the civilian sectors. A wide range of training, educational, and safety courses are available to the millions of its members. The organization created the first hunter education program in 1949, and now, such education courses are taught in every state in the United States and across Canada.
Civilian programs through the NRA are extensive. They include basic education programs, such as those for the rifle, pistol, and shotgun, as well as programs that focus on self-defense and gun safety. For example, the Refuse to be a Victim program teaches personal safety techniques that people can apply to their everyday lives. There are recreational and competitive shooting contests and courses on marksmanship, gun knowledge, and hunting, as well. Beginners, intermediates, and experts can all find a course that fits their needs and level of expertise.
The organization focuses on programs for young hunters, as well. One example, the Youth Hunter Education Challenge, teaches the next level of hunting skills and safety training for those who have already completed the basic hunter safety classes. There are also youth shooting camps, scholarship programs, wildlife art contests, and grant programs. One of the most wide-reaching programs is the Eddie Eagle Gun Safety Program, which teaches students from pre-kindergarten to 6th grade what to do if they see a firearm and there is not an adult present.
The NRA has also has a Law Enforcement Activities Division that works to provide law enforcement officers with a certified training program that is designed to teach them how to survive a deadly situation. These programs are lead by former, well-trained, highly-respected police officers. Law enforcement officers can also partake in national competitions, such as the National Police Shooting Championships.
This organization has been politically active since its creation. While educating its members, it also works to diffuse myths relating to the firearm industry and the sports associated with firearms. Its lobbyists primarily work to preserve the right of law-abiding citizens to buy, possess, and use firearms for lawful purposes as stated by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In addition, it is dedicated to informing its members of the legislative alerts, news updates, and politics relating to firearms.
The NRA has several publications that cover a variety of topics, including the magazines American Rifleman, American Hunter, America’s 1st Freedom, Shooting Illustrated, NRA InSights, Shooting Sports USA, and a range of shorter reports and columns.
In many circles, bring up this group can spark a heated debate on gun control laws and gun violence in America. It is estimated that 28,000 people are killed by guns each year, and gun violence is higher in the United States than in many other countries where the gun laws are stricter.
The Violence Policy Center has published findings that Al Qaeda terrorists can obtain firearms quite easily in the United States, with many of the weapons being so powerful that they can precisely shoot a hole 9-inches (22.86-cm) in diameter into a wall made of concrete over 100 yards (91.44 m) away. Consequently, many people believe that the laws surrounding the ownership and purchase of firearms should be tighter, though this goes against NRA policy. Some people are shocked by the organization's lobbying attempts to end the ban on assault weapons that can fire bullets in rapid succession. Others question whether the gun manufacturers, protected by lobbyists, should be exempt for nearly all civil lawsuits. The debate will surely continue for years to come.