In this video, AJ+'s Sana Saeed breaks down the long history of the NRA, from its beginnings as a post-Civil War sports club to its present day pro-gun activism. It turns out the group wasn't always the aggressive Second Amendment defender it is today; the NRA actually used to support gun control. NPR has a similar video featuring senior political editor and correspondent Ron Elving discussing the history of the NRA too:
As NPR's accompanying article explains:
The power of the organization is legendary, especially the widely published report cards it issues giving A to F grades to lawmakers. The cards have been credited with the election (or blamed for the defeat) of many a candidate, including incumbents.
Even the nuances of the group's affection, an A+ over an A grade, for example, can make the difference for candidates, especially in Republican primaries.
That is why the NRA has anchored the opposition in every major gun-related debate since it altered its main aim from marksmanship to hard-edged political activism. That change came 40 years ago and was related to other shifts in political sentiment, including the departure of Southern rural conservatives from the Democratic Party. All these helped elect the first presidential candidate to ever be endorsed by the NRA, Ronald Reagan, in 1980.
Read the full article on NPR's website.