Keefe Report: The Core Mission of the National Rifle Association

posted on January 31, 2021

For 150 years, the National Rifle Association has been the strongest voice for firearm safety, training and individual marksmanship. While political events have forced NRA more and more into the legislative arena, all of the things upon which the NRA was founded, marksmanship, firearm safety and the national defense, are still part of our mission, even if we don’t shine the spotlight on those aspects of the Association often enough. In the mainstream media, NRA seldom gets credit for the good work it does, including teaching Americans to be safe and proficient with firearms. That is a shame.

In this time of a much different kind of safety, the era of COVID-19, many of our events and matches simply cannot safely occur. That doesn’t mean NRA is not committed to that core part of our mission. While many matches have been suspended, and classes taught by NRA certified instructors—125,000 of them strong—have had to be canceled or modified, the work of the volunteer members who conduct such events and classes, continues.

In our February 2020 issue, there's an “NRA 150 Milestones” piece written by National Firearms Museum Senior Curator Phil Schreier about two remarkable Americans. These were men whose commitment to NRA was as unwavering as their commitment to our nation in times of war and peace. They were committed to excellence in marksmanship, and they both earned our nation’s highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, as well as having served as presidents of NRA.

Of the two, I never had the privilege of meeting Maj. Gen. Merritt Edson. Long before I knew he was a past president of NRA and the Association’s executive director, I knew about “Red Mike’s” leadership and heroism as commander of “Edson’s Raiders.” And I knew about the ridge on Guadalcanal named for him by the men who fought under his command.

The other man was one I did know. His name was Joseph Jacob Foss, and among his many accomplishments he was a Marine fighter pilot, later a general and the man who put together the Super Bowl. While he was a close friend of Phil, I was fortunate enough to meet him a number of times and see first-hand what kind of man and leader he was. Joe was a force in and of himself.

I was once in the Browning booth with my friend Rich Bauder at the NRA Annual Meetings, and Rich was showing me the Browning BOSS system. Essentially, it was a barrel attachment that allowed you to tune barrel harmonics by making subtle adjustments to its length, thereby improving accuracy. It was a clever idea, then and now.

Rich also knew Joe Foss, and when he saw him walking by he handed him a piece of sectioned barrel with the BOSS on the end of it. Bauder said, “Joe, you need to see this; it’s going to revolutionize shooting.” Foss looked at the device, turned it upright to where it had been cut and replied, “Richard, that’s like telling a boy you’re going to give him a pony and handing him a bucket of $&@t.”

I am told that Rich did send Joe a complete A-Bolt with the BOSS system after that, so this great American hero could go to the range with the entirety of the “pony.” Joe Foss was a true American patriot and hero, and I am proud that, at least for a time, he was my president.


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