A Painful History Lesson on the NRA & Gun Control ~ LISTEN Now!

A Painful History Lesson on the NRA & Gun Control ~ LISTEN Now! iStock

New Jersey – -(AmmoLand.com)- I have been watching the news and started thinking about one of the stories getting attention, the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue in Virginia.

The big monument is Robert E. Lee, sitting on Traveler, his horse. A crowd was there cheering the removal of that statue, and it got me thinking about the real ramifications there and how we are currently viewing history. We could debate all day long about the Civil War and the effects of it; why the men who fought for the South were motivated or not, but that’s not what I was thinking about.

Robert E. Lee is part of our American history. To some, it might be a very painful history, and to others, it is someone that they admire. It has nothing to do with slavery. They admire his generalship, his wisdom on the battlefield, and the rest of his career prior to the Civil War. He faithfully served his country as well. So, there is a lot to it. But the bottom line is that it is our history. This is an attempt at removing our history and that is really a dangerous thing. It is a dangerous thing because, as the old saying goes, if we do not know history, you are doomed to repeat it.

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Plus, painful history is important to help shape our country. It also helps shape you as an individual. I was thinking about an old Star Trek episode where a fellow gets on board the Enterprise and is able to remove people’s pain and make them all happy. Even Spock gets happy. This guy may be a hustler or maybe he is a religious figure. It does not really matter. He can remove pain.

So, they go to Captain Kirk and say, this guy can get rid of your pain. Let him do it. Kirk says I want my pain. I need my pain. That’s what made me what I am. There is something really important there.

The pain made us as a country who we are. We cannot just remove it, and have it not have the effect that it had in shaping us and making us who we are and letting us learn from it. So, I looked at the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue and the other attacks that are taking place on our history. I started thinking about the painful history when it comes even to firearms. There is painful history about our political situation, and how we got here.

Now, let me just preface this by saying that I am a proud NRA member, a benefactor member, and have helped do many things for NRA. I am not anti-NRA at all. But what I’m going to tell you is, in effect, a painful history of things that occurred early on in the NRA. As the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue, removing this painful history is not a good idea. We need to know and understand it. It is generally not known out there, but by recognizing it, we can look at the mistakes that were made, and mistakes were made. I am not talking about the modern situation now with the attack by the New York State Attorney General and all the politics going on here. Questions about whether Wayne LaPierre should stay in leadership or not. None of that. I am not going to get into that, and it is not about that. I want to look at the actual history of the NRA when it comes to gun control and gun laws.

History Of The Nra As Comes To Gun Control & Gun Laws

You may be surprised to know that back in the 1920s and into the 30s, NRA was a proponent of gun control, and actually aggressively pursued the enactment of gun control laws. Laws that to this day, we are fighting. Laws to this day that the NRA is now fighting and has been fighting for many years to repeal and get rid of. But we need to know and understand what mistakes NRA made, and it was really done out of those folks being naive. If you want to read more about this, there is a really interesting article, believe it or not, in The Atlantic, which is a magazine that is generally considered, you know, left-wing, liberal without a doubt. But they had an article called The Secret History of Guns by Adam Winkler in the September 2011 issue.

It is a very interesting article to read. As much as I do not care for the politics of The Atlantic, and there, of course, is an agenda behind everything they do, this article does have many things in it that are factually true and surprising about guns and the history of guns. The fact that is put out by a liberal, left-wing magazine, and there is an agenda to it, does not mean that the history there is necessarily untrue or that we should reject it, want to close our eyes to it, and remove the statue. No, no, not a good idea. Instead, we should embrace it, understand it, and learn from it.

So, let me tell you that in the 1920s, NRA was actually a champion of enacting gun control. Because at that time, it had come over from England where there was gun control being pushed, and it came across the pond. It was after World War One, and there was this kind of a naive concept that gun laws could maybe work and go at crime and other concerns. The President of the NRA at the time was Karl T. Frederick. Karl Frederick was a Princeton and Harvard-educated lawyer. He was known as the best shot in America because he won three gold medals in handgun shooting at the 1920 Summer Olympics. So, he was a good shooter, obviously, a skilled shooter, and he was President of the NRA at the time. He was made a special consultant to the National Conference of Commissioners on uniform state laws.

In this role and during his NRA presidency, Frederick drafted what was called the Uniform Firearm Act. The Uniform Firearm Act was model legislation that was pushed in the States at the time throughout America with the NRA and Frederick pushing these uniform firearm laws because they wanted to see gun laws in all the states. It is shocking even say it, but what did these gun laws, these model firearm laws, what did they promote? Back in the 20s? I will tell you what they did. Number one, they required anyone that wanted to carry a concealed handgun in public must have a permit from the local police. Advocating permits. When what we had prior to that was constitutional carry. We had constitutional carry, and the NRA under Frederick pushed to not have constitutional carry and in fact have permits.

The standard in the Uniform Firearm Act was you had to be a suitable person and have a proper reason for carrying a firearm. Gee, have we seen any of this before? Of course, we have. New Hampshire’s pistol permit law required a suitable person, and do you know who backed a suitable person in the 20s? The Ku Klux Klan, that’s who, because that is how you could discriminate and not have those “unsuitable persons” get gun licenses and carry. This is historically true and painful. But here they were pushing suitable person and proper reason. Of course, in New Jersey, the proper reason became a “justifiable need”; the bar and the trick to denying citizens their gun rights completely.

What else did the model uniform firearm laws supported by NRA say?

Well, they required gun dealers to report to law enforcement, the sale of handguns. In essence, what was it? A firearm registration scheme. Handgun registration. Reporting the sale. Think about reporting the sale. Oh, my, what is the New Jersey pistol purchase permit say? Oh, it’s a purchase permit, and guess what it does? It reports the sale. Gee, I wonder where the roots for that came from? You guessed it, the Uniform Firearm Act. Finally, guess what else NRA supported in this Act? A two-day waiting period. That’s right, a waiting period. So, here we are – waiting periods, permits required to carry, handgun registration, and reporting the sale. It was naively pushed and promoted throughout America during the 20s and 30s. So much so, it was cited in the Article that the Virginia Law Review article from 1932 reporting about the Uniform Firearm Act and its success, basically that the license to carry concealed weapon were in effect in practically every jurisdiction.

Since then, what have we had to do? Fight to turn back the clock. Fight to get our rights back. Mistakes were made.

Again, I love the NRA. This is not NRA bashing. It is not about that. But it is a painful history that you need to know.

It is why we are here, what we are doing, what mistakes are made, and what we are trying to fight to correct. And that is exactly what it was. It did not end there, by the way. Because also in the 30s came the infamous 1934 machine gun act. The 1934 National Firearms Act (NFA), and NRA supported that, too. They supported it because they looked at it from a national scope. They did not have to worry too much about pushing states to pass gun laws if they could get a national gun law in effect. This was a radical idea, actually, because where would the federal government have even the powers to enact a federal gun law. The only way they could come up with is taxation. That is why if you ever wondered why ATF was part of the Treasury, and why you have to pay a $200 tax, because this law was enacted, utilizing at the time the federal government’s power of taxation.

I have read the original 1934 committee hearings, and you may be surprised to know what the original 1934 Firearms Act proposed to ban. It proposed to ban all handguns. It banned fully automatic firearms and all semi-automatic firearms. It had a magazine ban in it of 12 rounds. That’s right. That is the original NFA. Then what happened was there was through the committee hearings and NRA did fight to remove portions of this, we ended up with what we have today. They got rid of the handgun ban, and they kept semi-autos, etc. In the end, the National Firearms Act was supported by the NRA, and in it were not only machine guns and sawed-off shotguns, but also short barrel rifles, and silencers. What are our battles today? Oh my God, we are still dealing with trying to get suppressors off the list for hearing protection, and we are battling that. We are trying now to stop the pistol brace ban from taking effect. What is that pistol brace ban? How is it going to work? Oh my gosh, they are going to put it into the 1934 Short Barrel Rifle category, originally supported by NRA. Now, of course, it is vigorously opposed.

Again, it is history that is painful, but you need to know it. That is its origins. That is where it came from.

I read in the old American Rifleman magazine from 1934 after this passed. In the original riflemen, NRA proclaimed that they have solved the gun control problem for America. They have solved the gun problem for America by this wonderful new gun law. Of course, it laid the framework and the foundation for more and more gun laws federally. Including the 1968 Gun Control Act, which by the way, was also supported by the NRA and gun manufacturers that wanted to stop the import of cheap firearms and surplus stuff. Oh, yeah, that is right. Painful history, but true.

So, here we are now, and we are focused on not just getting our firearm freedom but regaining our firearm freedom based on mistakes that were made by, we’ll even say, well-intentioned individuals. That is the battle. Not knowing it is foolish, and not recognizing painful history is stupid. I want you to know these things and keep them in mind as we fight our fight for freedom, liberty, and our Second Amendment rights. I am going to talk more about history, and I love the history of guns specifically.

About Evan Nappen

Known as “America’s Gun Lawyer,” Evan Nappen is above all a tireless defender of justice. Host of the praised “Gun Lawyer” Podcast, author of eight bestselling books and countless articles on firearms, knives, weapons history, and the law, a certified Firearms Instructor, and avid weapons collector and historian with a vast collection that spans almost five decades, it’s no wonder he’s become the trusted, go-to expert for local, industry, and national media outlets. Called on regularly by radio, television, and online news media for his commentary and expertise on breaking news, Evan has appeared on countless shows including Fox, CNN, Court TV, WOR-New York. As a creative arts consultant, he also lends his weapons law and historical expertise to an elite, discerning cadre of movie and television producers and directors, and novelists. He also provides expert testimony and consultations for defense attorneys across America.

Evan Nappen
Evan Nappen

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