A hunter's perspective of the National Rifle Association

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I headed across the field to the ground blind that was tucked into the edge of the shady woods about 3 p.m. I carried a cold drink, some snacks and a couple of magazines in my turkey vest. It was warm and windy, and I knew that walking the logging roads and calling would not be so effective under these conditions.

I put a jake decoy out on the edge of the field and was prepared to sit the rest of the afternoon. I knew that turkeys fed in this field sometimes and frequently crossed it from one woodlot to another. All I needed was some patience and something to keep my mind occupied for three or four hours.

At the clubhouse I had picked up a couple of magazines from a stack that someone had dropped off. I do the same thing - taking back issues of outdoor magazines to the club for anyone to read. The ones I had picked up were American Hunter, the official journal of the National Rifle Association of America.

I'm not a member of the NRA and was not familiar with this publication, but I was not disappointed. The magazines were full of hunting articles and more. The most interesting section to me was a page titled The Armed Citizen. There were clippings from various newspapers and short stories from TV stations all over the country about encounters with criminals. In most cases, the presence of a firearm, without a shot being fired, prevented a serious crime from happening.

The NRA has been around for a long time. Founded in 1871 in New York by members of the National Guard and retired Army officers, it grew from concerns about poor marksmanship exhibited during the Civil War. It has become the leading advocate for gun rights and the shooting sports, with about 5 million members.

The NRA champions the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights. The amendment states that "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." After many court cases, the Supreme Court has ruled that the "right" belongs to the individual.

The militia is the farmer, the merchant, the individual citizen - the whole people. The right to self-defense and personal protection is founded in English law and is critical to our existence.

The Institute for Legislative Action was established by the NRA in 1975 and is the lobbying arm of the NRA. The ILA's work is done in the halls of government in Washington, D.C. - advocating for our rights and freedom.

The NRA Foundation was established in 1990 and has awarded nearly $335 million in grant funding to the shooting sports. The grants provide funding that benefits youth education, law enforcement, hunter education and much more. The Friends of the NRA is nonpolitical and is the fundraising arm of the foundation.

The Friends of the NRA is having its Annual Dinner & Auction this Thursday, Aug. 10, at the American Legion on Artillery Drive, starting at 6 p.m. Willie Sue's is catering the event. The meal will be your choice of steak or chicken. There will be live and silent auctions, to include guns, a quail hunt and much more.

Tickets are $40 for singles and $80 for couples and are available at Strong Arms and online at friendsofnra.org. Because this is a catered event, ticket sales will end Monday so that Willie Sue's can have an accurate number. I've been told that there may be a few tickets available at the door. But not many.

I've certainly enjoyed the rights and freedoms that the NRA has worked so hard to preserve and realize that I could do more to help. It's never too late to do something for the common good. I'll be joining the NRA.

It really hit home with me when local NRA volunteer Ralph Baker told me recently that I would probably be hunting those turkeys with a stick and string if it weren't for the NRA. And he may be right.

Dan Geddings is a weekly columnist for The Sumter Item. Email Dan at cdgeddings@gmail.com.