The Washington Post tells the modern history of how the National Rifle Association became a “mighty gun lobby,” starting from the “Revolt at Cincinnati” in which “a rump caucus of gun rights radicals” took over the NRA annual meeting in 1977. Then about a century old, the group was mainstream and bipartisan, focusing on hunting, conservation, and marksmanship. Now, the NRA fights against gun-control legislation, which is its best friend: It claims an influx of 100,000 new members after the school massacre in Newtown, Ct. The NRA, already with 4 million members, hopes the push by Democrats to curb gun violence will bring the membership to 5 million.
William Vizzard, a retired official of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives now on the faculty of California State University at Sacramento, says the NRA is not trying to be like other Washington organizations seeking to influence legislation. “The NRA is a populist lobby,” he says. “They get support when people are mad and stirred up. They want the attention. They're not interested in fixing things. They want to stir things up, and the more they stir things up, the more members they get and the more money they make. What do they gain by compromising? Nothing.”