The National Rifle Association is one of the most powerful political advocacy groups and has been at the center of one of the world’s most controversial issues: gun control in America.
The group is making headlines lately as President Donald Trump heads to Atlanta to speak at the NRA’s annual convention on April 28.
Here are 7 things to know about the NRA:
How, when and why did the NRA originate?
It all began with a magazine editorial and had nothing to do with civil rights advocacy.
In 1871, former Union Army officer Col. William C. Church published a call for a training organization after he and his fellow officers became frustrated with the Northern soldiers’ poor weapons skills, Time reported.
In the article, published in an August 1871 issue of the “Army and Navy Journal,” Church pointed to the success of Britain’s rifle association, the WInbledon riflery tournament range.
“The prosperity of [the British] association should be an incentive for the immediate formation of one of a similar character in this country,” Church wrote. “Let us have our rifle practice association, also a Wimbledon on American principles.”
The organization was officially granted a charter by the state of New York on Nov. 17, 1871.
The NRA actually has a history of supporting gun control efforts.
According to the Washington Post, the NRA backed the National Firearms Act in 1934 as well as the Federal Firearms Act of 1936, both of which established a system to license gun dealers and impose stiff taxes on private automatic weapon owners.
This was a time when prominent gangsters, such as Al Capone, Georgia “Baby Face” Nelson and George “Machine Gun” Kelly were active in the U.S.
Following the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy by Lee Harvey Oswald, who purchased the killing weapon from a mail-order ad in the NRA’s American Rifleman magazine, NRA vice president Franklin Orth wanted to ban mail-order rifle sales, the Post reported.
“We do not think that any sane American, who calls himself an American, can object to placing into this bill the instrument which killed the president of the United States,” he said.
What does the NRA represent today?
Today, the NRA is a powerful political advocate for gun rights and formidable opponent of gun control laws. The organization continues to teach firearm safety and holds several instructional programs.
What do Americans think about the NRA’s political influence?
According to a May 2013 Pew Research Center poll, 39 percent of Americans believe the organization had too much influence on gun control laws, whereas 37 percent said it was the right amount. Eighteen percent said the NRA isn’t exerting enough influence.
NRA membership: Cost, famous members
In addition to former presidents Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, some celebrity members include Chuck Norris, Ted Nugent, Whoopi Goldberg and Karl Malone.
According to the NRA website, yearly membership costs $35 per year; lifetime membership, $1,000. The NRA also offers discounts for seniors and disabled veterans and sells associate membership with limited benefits for $10 per year.
As of May 2013, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said membership exceeded 5 million people.
Where is the main office located?
The NRA headquarters is located in Fairfax, Virginia and houses a 15-lane shooting range with distances up to 50 yards, according to the NRA website.
What is the NRA convention?
The NRA convention, officially called the NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits, is the organization’s biggest annual event and features seminars, workshops, celebrity guests and special events.
The 2017 event will be held form April 27-30 in Atlanta and will be attended by more than 80,000 people, including President Donald Trump, who will be addressing the group.