The 1960s were sad times. President Kennedy was shot in 1963. In 1968, Reverend Martin Luther King was shot and killed. Two months later, Bobby Kennedy, the president’s brother and U.S. Attorney General, was shot to death.
Anti-gun fervor went through the roof. Considerable legislation was introduced. Mail order guns became prohibited. A national debate on gun control was launched; and is alive today.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) was founded in 1871 to advance rifle marksmanship. In the ’60s, it became the major organization defending the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Its goal was a million members.
The modern NRA has become a prominent gun-rights lobbying organization while continuing to teach firearm safety and competency. It also led the charge for child firearms safety. With a current membership of five million, its efforts have kept legal firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens.
Japanese Admiral Yamamoto opposed Japan’s Pearl Harbor attack, fearing it would “awaken a sleeping giant” – one that had “a rifleman behind every tree.” The war ended badly for Japan without the world learning whether America’s gun ownership policy would have made a difference, but it certainly appeared that it did. It had been tested in 1776 by the British.
The NRA referred to America as a “Nation of Riflemen.” It began with frontiersmen who shot game for their family’s survival – men like Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett – maybe Sergeant Alvin C. York, although few remember him. He was drafted during WWI but opposed the war for religious beliefs. He decided to follow orders and serve, letting God direct his path. Applying skills he developed as a hunter in Tennessee, he neutralized enemy troops and captured 132 of them!
Others also distinguished themselves during wars. There were men like Doris Miller, a Black cook aboard a ship in Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, who – untrained — seized an anti-aircraft gun whose gunner had been hit by enemy fire and disabled. He shot down four to six enemy planes before his ship began sinking. He had played football in Waco and hunted squirrels with a .22 rifle.
Billy Sandifer was a rawboned kid from Premont, in South Texas, who grew up hunting in the Brush Country. He served courageously in Vietnam and for his marksmanship was compared to Audie Murphy, another Texan.
In WWII, Murphy was known for raw courage and shooting ability. He commandeered a machine gun from a burning U.S. tank destroyer and eliminated a number of advancing enemy troops as he called in artillery fire on his own location to halt the German advance. He also killed or captured over 50 enemy troops and is still the most decorated American soldier in history. He was also a hunter before joining the Army. A friend, Charlie Schreiner IV, sent me a photo last week of his mother, a game warden, and Audie Murphy with a turkey Murphy had shot on the Y.O. Ranch after the war.
They all began as riflemen!