NRA discovered the Second Amendment 50 years ago

My mother wouldn’t let her kids play with toy guns because she had the quaint idea that children shouldn’t be playing at killing other children.

So we were forced to use other kids’ guns or point our fingers in place of pistols and use sticks for rifles when we played the Saturday movie-inspired games of cops and robbers. This was one of the popular games “before the war,” as we would come to describe the first seven or eight years of our lives, but after Pearl Harbor, the “cops” became soldiers and the “bad guys” were also transformed.

We outgrew these childish games with guns about the time the real soldiers, sailors and Marines came home from that war, wanting to remove guns from their lives forever as they went to school on the GI Bill, married and settled down.


My generation of kids from that war and the baby boomers who followed us into the 1960s and the Vietnam War era were the last to be drafted and therefore the last actually required to perform our Second Amendment right to bear arms. We didn’t think using a gun was something sacred, just something we had to do — temporarily. (We didn’t call a rifle a gun, of course, and some still remember the vulgar doggerel we had to recite for the platoon sergeant if we did.)

My last experience with a gun of any kind came on a rifle range during basic training in the very hot summer of 1956. Our company of recruits was composed almost equally of drafted 22-year-olds just out of college and 18-year-old volunteers. 

On the firing range, each target shooter had a fellow recruit at his side, serving as something of a coach, and my partner was a young man who managed to slam the M-1 bolt into the chamber while it was occupied by my thumb. I received my sharpshooter medal as a consolation prize and never had much of an interest in guns after that.   

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the clever gun marketers of the National Rifle Association have been able to romanticize the gun and wrap it in the flag for generations whose young men were never subject to the draft and, with the exception of those who volunteered, never fired a shot in anger or, for that matter, in uniform.  

The NRA’s strident opposition to gun control is a fairly recent phenomenon, dating back only 50 years to 1968, when Congress reacted to the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy by proposing stricter gun laws. The NRA was able to block the most stringent provisions of the legislation, which mandated national gun registration and a license for all gun carriers. Before that time, the NRA was an organization devoted to the safe use of guns and for much of the century it had existed, the NRA supported and even drafted gun-control legislation.

But by the 1970s, the NRA discovered the Second Amendment and determined any attempt to control guns represented an attack on the only part of the Bill of Rights that mattered, the amendment that protected the right to bear arms that were in vogue in the 18th century.

Suddenly, the NRA determined, the free and unfettered use of firearms of any kind became constitutionally protected because the Founders thought it would be good to have armed citizens in place of a standing army.  

The strange thing is, a big chunk of the American public bought it, as did a big chunk of the U. S. Senate and House, recipients of the legal bribes offered and gratefully received from the lobbyists of the gun-manufacturing industry.  


Fortunately, the newest generation of young adults — students — have tired of getting shot at by those enjoying their Second Amendment rights and don’t seem to be buying the NRA propaganda. There’s hope.

Finally, there’s a remarkable statistic worth thinking about. The number of Americans killed by guns since that terrible year of 1968 — an estimated 1.5 million — exceeds the number killed in all of our wars — an estimated 1.3 million.  


Simsbury resident Dick Ahles is a retired journalist. Email him at rahles1@outlook.com.