When you think of the National Rifle Association, what comes to mind? Maybe you picture a hunter in the field, ready to take a trophy buck. You might also think of a competitive shooter setting his sights on his target or a lobbyist climbing the steps of the Supreme Court, to defend our right to own firearms. While all of these things are an accurate depiction of the NRA, the organization was founded for a very different reason.
During the Civil War, the majority of troops had little to no training with the rifles they carried into battle. This led to poor marksmanship skills and ineffective war tactics. Realizing the need for a higher standard of training, Union veterans Colonel William C. Church and General George Wingate organized the NRA in 1871. More than 140 years later, what started as a means to provide marksmanship training to troops has developed into a bigger mission.
After the NRA was established, the Creedmoor range was built on present-day Long Island in New York and the first annual matches were held in 1873. The establishment of Creedmoor was the beginning of NRA's involvement in competitive shooting, a tradition that continues today. In 1903, the National Matches moved to Camp Perry, an Army post operated by the Ohio National Guard. For more than 100 years, thousands of people have traveled to the shores of Lake Erie to compete at Camp Perry. The National Matches also led to the development of countless other competitive shooting programs, and thousands of NRA-sanctioned tournaments and matches are held every year in a variety of shooting disciplines.
In 1903 the NRA also began focusing on youth involvement in the shooting sports. By 1906, more than 200 young men were competing in matches and the NRA began to urge all major colleges, universities and military academies to establish rifle clubs, some of which still exist today. Fast forward 106 years, and today more than one million young people participate in NRA programs each year, including the Youth Hunter Education Challenge, NRA Day, NRA Youth Cooperative Organizations, and many more.
Although NRA began as an organization dedicated to marksmanship training, it soon became a defender of Second Amendment rights. By the early 1930's repeated attacks on Americans' right to keep and bear arms led to the development of the Legislative Affairs Division, mailing out legislative facts to members so they could take action. Recognizing the need to politically defend the Second Amendment, the NRA created the Institute for Legislative Action in 1975, the arm of NRA responsible for fighting anti-gun legislation and lobbying for gun rights on Capitol Hill.
Many people now know the NRA as a leading political force and the largest defender of Second Amendment rights, but NRA has stayed true to its marksmanship training roots. Since its inception, the NRA has continued to serve as the world's premier firearms education organization. In order to ensure the financial support for shooting sports programs for generations to come, the NRA established the NRA Foundation, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt organization, in 1990. This special financial term allows NRA to raise millions of dollars to fund their shooting and firearms activities to benefit members and the public.
To keep all of the programs NRA offers and the fight to preserve the Second Amendment up and running, there are people working behind the scenes to make it all possible. But since the NRA was created in 1871, there have been a group of people responsible for overseeing the NRA, including the Officers and the Board of Directors. Currently, there are eight Officers of the Association, each of whom plays an important role in the NRA, and 76 Directors. The men and women who serve as an Officer or on the NRA Board of Directors are elected, but in different ways. While the Board of Directors elects the Officers (such as the President, 1st and 2nd Vice Presidents, and Executive Vice President) from their own ranks, the Directors are elected by the members of the NRA.
In order to be elected to the NRA Board of Directors, a person must be nominated. This can happen in one of two ways: the person can be recommended to the Nominating Committee or they can be nominated by petition. The NRA encourages members to recommend nominees, and any well qualified, fully paid Life Member is eligible for nomination. Each year prior to the NRA Annual Meeting of Members, the Board of Directors are elected by Life Members who are eligible to vote and once elected, the Directors serve for a term of three years.
The Board of Directors meets several times a year and Directors also attend Committee Meetings throughout the year. Board members sit on committees for the NRA that are related to their areas of expertise or interest such as the Finance Committee, Women's Policies Committee, and the Youth Programs Committee, to name a few. Everyone who serves on the NRA Board of Directors has a passion for the shooting sports and helps keep the NRA strong by developing new programs and finding ways to increase the number of people involved in the NRA.
More than 140 years ago, did the two men who started the NRA have any idea what it would become? The NRA has grown strong over the years thanks to the strength of our members and the dedication of the staff, Officers and Board of Directors who oversee the programs and services of the organization. Stay involved in the NRA and one day you may find yourself helping to run the world's foremost defender of the Second Amendment and leader in firearms education and training.