First I want to than Jay and his comments. It made me realize part of the problem we are having with all this Anti-NRA campaigns.
I think the issues is a lot of people have joined the Second Amendment cause and are unaware or do not know what was happening just 30 years ago. Those of us who were alive and/or paying attention have failed to see that the new generation knows little about the near past or the atmosphere we were living in. It is our failure, we have not portrayed efficiently what happened and now the NRA has this image of always being all powerful, all knowing, all fixing. We know that was not the case and must remedy it.
Today three quarters of Americans firmly believe that the Second Amendment is an Individual Right just like the First or the Fifth or any other. Thirty years ago the numbers were reversed and the Second Amendment was seen only as something that had to do with them hunters-Bambi-Killers. The Gun Control act of 1968 was deeply entrenched and the idea of a Citizen being able to carry a pistol for personal protection was akin to having little green men from Mars land in your backyard. Actually there was a better chance of Martians landing than people accepting CCW.
Then crime, that had been on the rise steadily, shot up to the stratosphere with the Drug Wars. Cocaine Cowboys were not an episode of Miami Vice but real individuals machine gunning competitors in the streets of Miami and dealers shooting customers in the great cities of this country. Add to this the assassination of John Lennon, the attempt on Reagan (that produced poster Boy Brady), mass shootings in California and some other incidents, a call came to restrict even more the access to guns. This was not just a simple media call like we are used to it, this was a ferocious crusade from every field of society but gun owners.
The NRA then was forced to switch from a “Field & Stream” type organization which was only worried about hunters losing their rights to hunt to an all out Second Amendment group. It was not a nice transition and it left many people disenchanted or downright pissed off and many quit or were set aside. Some of those are still out there in other groups which you can imagine. This also brought the attention of the Anti Gunners and the Media who promptly made the NRA their favorite punching bag. Every crazy bastard with a gun was an NRA member unless otherwise proven the opposite (but don’t hold your breath waiting for a correction from the press), every NRA member was a possible killer. Legislative influence in Congress? Are you fucking kidding me? What was that?
Being an NRA member was to be a combination nutjob-leper. For many police departments having an NRA sticker in your windshield was probable cause to do a felony stop on your ass. You never commented at work that you were a shooting aficionado and an NRA member because you might get fired (always other causes were mentioned) or you could expect never to get a raise or to advance in the corporate ladder. People went to the extremes of removing anything gun related from their lives in fear that their friends and neighbors would freak out and their children be ostracized. The NRA member was a sick individual that was better off in a prison camp even though we were the most law abiding citizens out there. You were associated with every neo nazi group there was, spit on, screamed on. Wearing an NRA cap meant to people you had your bedsheets and a cross to be burned in the back of your pick up truck. This is a no-shitter people, I am a Hispanic that speaks with an accent and never hid his origins but I was accused of belonging to racist groups that would target me in a millisecond. How is that for stupidity and hysteria?
In my opinion, the turning point came the days after April 19, 1995: The Oklahoma City Bombing. Once it was known that Timothy McVeigh had planted and detonated the explosives, the media went nuts and accused the NRA of being somewhat involved with the event. And then there was this picture:
Many anti conservative cartoons were based on this famous picture but the one that struck home for most of us NRA members was one that said “Thank You NRA.” By stroke of the pen of somebody wanting to cash political points in the midst of such a tragic incident, were officially associated with the nastiest motherfucker of that era (Do you remember after 9-11 some congresscritter trying to associate gun owners with Islamic terrorists? Same deal but it almost worked then). We were mad, but now we went ballistic. The floodgates opened specially after it was found out that firefighter Chris Fields was an NRA member and he was not very fond the image of the kid and of his image being used for cheap political fodder. The Internet that was barely making inroads in the Media was flooded with our kind denouncing such crass tactics. Phones messages and faxes flooded every radio & TV station, every congressman’s office, every body and any body that was in position of some power.
But the Powers That Be at the time did not relent and neither did we. They were expecting us to keep being polite and we weren’t. From the famous “Jackbooted Thugs” comment to the Wayne LaPierre statement: “I’ve come to believe he needs a certain level of violence in this country He’s willing to accept a certain level of killing to further his agenda” it was clear that the gloves were off and the tide had turned. But this was already 1,999 and by 2,000 is when the NRA had developed political power enough to influence presidential elections and put the fear of God in Congress. NRA members were not afraid to sow their colors as we were once, people were carrying weapons for self defense and some “crazy” individuals were talking about Open Carry and even not needing to have a permit to carry a gun!
So Jay, the Sunset Provision in the AWB was a stroke of genius in an otherwise ghastly bill during absolutely anti-Gun anti-NRA times. The NRA had the faith than even though we would have to wait ten years, it would bear fruit and it did. And they hate us for it, we fucked up their master plan with one little expiration date. If the NRA hadn’t “signed in” with the AWB, it would still be the law of the land. That simple.
We live in an instant society and I understand people want all things perfect and now, but the reality is that sometimes you must fight wars by attrition and not by Shock and Awe. Maybe for the new generation we are moving at a snail’s pace, but for us old farts the changes we have seen in the last 5 years alone are nothing short of a frigging miracle.
This is such a poor and short summary and only from my point of view. If you have memories of what was to be an NRA member then, please share them in the comments section.