New York Times’ ‘Secret History’ of National Rifle Association Maligns America’s Long-Serving Civil Rights Organization

Largely using public records that date back 50 years, the Times paints a colorful and yet mostly distorted picture of how the NRA emerged as the most effective advocacy group in the nation.

AP/Ted S. Warren, file
An attendee at a gun rights rally carries his gun in a holster that reads 'We the People,' on January 18, 2019, at Olympia, Washington. AP/Ted S. Warren, file

The New York Times got quite the “scoop” this weekend regarding the National Rifle Association of America: the Association is involved in public and legal advocacy to protect Second Amendment freedom. 

The article, headlined “Lawmakers’ Files Reveal Secret History of N.R.A.,” reports that Representatives John D. Dingell Jr. and Bob Barr, during times they were both in Congress and serving on the NRA Board of Directors, sought to educate the public about gun-related issues and engage in advocacy to defend constitutional freedom. 

The story is largely told from public records that date back 50 years — hardly a “secret story.” In doing so, the Times paints a colorful and yet mostly distorted picture of the Association and the process by which it emerged as the most effective advocacy group in the nation. 

The Times gives the false impression that the NRA’s rise to prominence included a calculated decision to abandon the Democratic Party. The truth is that the NRA has always supported pro-Second Amendment Democrats and Republicans, as evidenced by its support of the lead character in the Times’ investigative piece, Dingell, who died in 2019. Mr. Barr, a Republican, who is currently on the NRA Board, left public office in 2003.

The NRA’s support for pro-Second Amendment candidates, regardless of their political affiliation, hasn’t changed over the years. Indeed, it was the Democratic Party leadership that chose to mandate that gun restriction be a part of the portfolio of its candidates — as a prerequisite to receiving support from the national base.  

In glaring falsehoods never fact-checked against even its own news stories, the Times falsely reports the NRA continued with its 1999 Annual Convention in the immediate wake of the Columbine High School tragedy. 

Yet on April 23, 1999, the Times wrote in a front-page article, in response to the high school shooting, “the N.R.A. has announced that it would scale down the three-day event here [in Denver] to one day and would cancel all seminars and exhibits by vendors and gun manufacturers.”  The NRA only hosted a brief Members Meeting during that time, in accordance with the organization’s bylaws. Facts can be frustrating.  

The Times reports that pro-gun legislation championed by Dingell and other Democrats was “opposed by police groups.” The fact is the measure, dating back over three decades, received bipartisan support and was backed by the Justice and Treasury Departments. President Biden, then a senator, voted for the measure.

Today, the NRA works with police at the local and national level: many of our firearms safety programs are directed to law enforcement, so officers learn how to train millions of civilians on responsible gun ownership.  

The Times also suggests the NRA is opposed to gun safety locks. The Association is an advocate for such devices but believes their use should not be mandated. This is particularly true in private home settings (in crime ridden cities) in which immediate access to a firearm is often necessary for personal protection. 

The Times apparently missed this piece, “5 Tips to Safely Store Your Guns,” featured on the NRA website.

Of course, the Times offers its obligatory critique of “assault weapons,” semi-automatic firearms that are legally sold — in transactions that are almost always performed following dealer initiated background checks that are supported by the NRA.

The term “assault weapon” is a term coined by gun control advocates and favored by the liberal press — the firearms in question are not automatic weapons, designed to “spray” bullets, or particularly enhanced in their functionality.

Ultimately, the Times’ reporting is predictable and performative:  it seeks to portray the NRA as negatively as possible. There is no mention of the Association as the world’s leader in firearms education, its mission to promote law-abiding gun ownership, or its drive to support current gun laws to stop violent crime. 

We make no apologies for our work with Representatives Dingell and Barr, or other public servants who champion the Second Amendment.  The NRA stands by its record – on full display in public documents and its efforts to unabashedly protect constitutional freedom. 

The New York Sun

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