Neal Knox, who helped make the National Rifle Association a political powerhouse nationwide, has died of cancer at 69, reports Gun Week. Knox was the first editor of the publication, which called him the “conscience of the gun rights movement.” Gun Week says that many people credit Knox “with having been largely responsible for creating a grassroots movement in defense of the right to keep and bear arms that became the ‘gun lobby.’ ” Knox rose to the office of NRA First Vice President in 1995; he later lost a bid for the group’s presidency to actor Charlton Heston.
Knox had been instrumental in the creation of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action (ILA), its powerful lobbying arm. Knox served as executive director of ILA from 1978 to 1982, when he was known as a hardline fighter against proposed gun-control measures. Knox urged the federal government to conduct research on gun-control laws beginning in the mid-1970s. “He was confident that objective academic research would support his hunch that gun laws were failures,” said a former colleague.