By Chuck Nottingham
As a U.S. military small arms competitor and instructor in the '60s, I was encouraged by the government I served to join the National Rifle Association to take advantage of its expertise and training.
At that time, we gratefully acknowledged the NRA's contribution to marksmanship skills, firearms safety, and right-to-bear arms. This year marks my 40th anniversary as an NRA member and rifle, pistol, and hunter safety instructor. Several updates and additional certifications were picked up since 1960.
A Montana hunter educator since '64, we relied heavily on NRA for manuals and most other safety data and materials. Again, association with NRA's long technical and safety history lent validity and prestige to our efforts.
Now in its 127th year, NRA's facts, figures, and know-how just keep getting better and better.
But its adversaries subscribe to an ever-expanding metropolitan mind set. It's an attitude disdaining individual traditions which helped build this country. Big-city types want safety and security legislated rather than part of our educational and social systems. Too many rely on television for not only their total entertainment, but most of their education and experiences. Urban heros and heroines are no longer people who train and work and do before teaching others. Most champions are actors, cartoon characters, talk-show hosts, or politicians with popular slogans.
In the last three decades, I've seen the NRA increasingly vilified by members and non-members, gun owners and non-gun owners, and even people whose business it is to promote safety both for not doing enough or for being too politically incorrect.
Though estimates vary, conservative statistics show 60 to 80 million people in America own guns, yet NRA's membership is just a bit over 3 million. When a gun owner, hunter, or shooter complains about what NRA does or doesn't do, I ask to see a membership card.
I've witnessed fellow teachers bitterly criticize current gun ignorance and violence influenced by glitzy media then refuse even to consider the free Eddie Eagle GunSafe program for their classes solely because it is offered by NRA. Since 1988, Eddie Eagle has reached 12 million kids and, according to National Safety Council accounts, has saved thousands of small lives. It teaches if a kid sees a gun: STOP! Don't touch. Leave the area. Tell an adult. It's free by calling 1-888-4-EAGLE-4.
Yet national columnist Ann Landers condemns the NRA while applauding Kidsandguns a just-on-line borrower of the entire NRA concept as innovative civic-saviors.
I'm also a long-time instructor-trainer for American Heart Association's CPR and was embarrassed when its 1992 national meeting adopted bogus data from anti-gun sources rather than NRA and the National Safety Council. Even though data have since been shown false by physicians and safety experts, it persists in AHA CPR training. American Red Cross and National Safety Council Green Cross, also with whom I'm certificated, declined to pass on the bogus information in their courses.
I've been present as Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks education leaders rejected safety updates due entirely to its NRA origin forgetting the nation's and our state's hunter safety programs originated and continue with NRA concepts and materials.
Likewise, I've seen NRA encourage shooting and gun-safety in programs like ROTC, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H, and JayCees only to hear some proponents of those valuable programs malign the NRA that provides their best source of instruction.
Lately, lobby organizations Gun Owners of America is an example are springing up on the premise NRA is "too soft on second amendment rights." The irony of the copy-cat coalitions is that political opportunists and anti-gun activists may soon wish their old nemesis and scapegoat, the NRA, were all they had to contend with.
I access numerous sources for these columns, but since my whole family are NRA members, we're treated to all four technical and safety magazines. One for shooters and collectors, one for hunters, one for second-amendment and home-personal security concerns and my personal favorite the one for kids.