April 3, 2020


Once Upon a Time, the NRA Stood Up to the Gun Industry (Frank Smyth, April 3, 2020, LitHub)

During Roosevelt's second term, a new bill, the Federal Firearms Act, was introduced by Senator Royal Copeland, Democrat from New York. The bill proposed extending the 1934 law to establish a federal licensing regime for firearms dealers and to record their sales while barring sales to "prohibited" individuals including convicted felons.

The NRA supported the legislation, noting that it would "not in any way impinge upon" owners of pistols or revolvers. Additionally, the organization supported legislation to restrict a new, "'freak' class of weapon" called the Magnum revolver. 

The NRA's position was articulated in 1937 by C. B. Lister in the American Rifleman. (The NRA still awards a trophy in his name, honoring him for his leadership in "building the NRA to an organization of national stature.") In his article about the "freak" Magnum revolver, Lister seems to foreshadow the views of many gun reform advocates today: 

In view of the fact that the Magnum is, from the standpoint of the sportsman, definitely in the "freak" class of weapon, and inasmuch as the hunting of big game with a one-hand gun is definitely not within the capabilities of the average shooter, who has difficulty enough aligning his sights and securing hits with the rifle, it seems most probable that Congress will feel that legislation is desirable which will have the practical effect of restricting sale of the Magnum to Police Departments. 

The Magnum, in Lister's opinion, was a "freak" weapon because the charge in the round was more powerful than that used in other handguns. Making an argument that would cause today's NRA leaders to cringe, Lister concluded that such weapons should be restricted not just to the police, but only to those police "especially trained in the use of these weapons."

The American Rifleman ran an unsigned editorial on the page next to Lister's signed article that made the same point: "Inasmuch as the gun performs no practical function for the sportsman which cannot be [performed] as well or better by arms of standard type, it is impossible to defend the Magnum against legislation which would have the practical effect of limiting its sale to agents of the Federal, State, and local police." 

The opposing view is judicial activism at its worst.

Posted by at April 3, 2020 8:05 AM