With Lawyers and Money, NRA Shifted Legal Thinking on Gun Rights


The Washington Post explores the NRA’s long effort to gain acceptance for an idea that was regarded as preposterous 35 years ago: that the Constitution confers an individual right to possess a firearm. In 2008, the Supreme Court endorsed for the first time an individual's right to own a gun. The 5 to 4 decision rendered ineffective some of Washington, D.C.’s trict gun-control laws. And Justice Antonin Scalia's majority opinion echoed the NRA’s argument that the Second Amendment articulates an individual right to keep and bear arms.

As the Obama administration pushes for gun-control legislation, it will have to contend with that changed legal understanding of the Second Amendment. That transformation was brought about in large part by a small band of lawyers and scholars backed by the NRA. For more than three decades, the NRA has sponsored legal seminars, funded legal research and encouraged law review articles that advocate an individual's right to possess guns, according to the organization's reports. The result has been a profound shift in legal thinking on the Second Amendment. And the issue of individual gun-possession rights, once almost entirely ignored, has moved into the center of constitutional debate and study.

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