National Rifle Association.

The NRA is probably the most intimidating single-issue pressure group in the United States.

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Each year, American students study United States history, lear­ning about the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They're taught that the founding fathers fought tirelessly to build the government we have today and protect our freedom and rights. Of the 10 amendments on the Bill of Rights, most of us remember the basics, but we're probably a little fuzzy on some of the finer details. The National Rifle Association (NRA) is doing everything in its power to make sure no American citizen forgets the Second Amendment.

The Second Amendment states, "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" [source: National Archives]. In layman's terms, this amendment says that American citizens have the right to own a gun. But the world is obviously a different place now than it was in the 18th century, and many politicians believe that gun ownership should be restricted and regulated. The NRA isn't pushing for complete freedom regarding public ownership of guns, but it is concerned that some gun legislation is infringing upon citizens' rights. Today, the NRA focuses much of its energy on protecting the Second Amendment.

­The NRA is probably the most intimidating single-issue pressure group in the United States, so it has a huge name-recognition factor [source: BBC]. The largest of the 13 national pro-gun groups, the NRA has nearly 4 million members, who focus much of their attention on action in Washington, D.C. In 1998, they contributed roughly $4 million to political campaigns, organizing strong grassroots efforts for the 200 plus pro-NRA members of Congress. And with seven lobbyists permanently in D.C. to watch over the Second Amendment, it's safe to say the NRA won't be backing down anytime soon.

So, how did this powerhouse come to be? Check the next page to find out.