The relationship between firearms manufacturers and the NRA has recently become a major subject of discussion in the gun debate. But this isn’t new. What should be noted is the fact that the two entities were not always in step as they are today. After World War I, reform measures targeted gun makers in order to prevent the gangs of the era from obtaining weapons, writes The Atlantic’s Pamela Haag.

The manufacturers, for their part, viewed restrictions such as a ban on submachine gun sales to civilians as an acceptable exchange for less handgun regulation. The National Rifle Association stated it was “absolutely favorable to reasonable legislation” confined to submachine guns and sawed-off shotguns. But it was also developing the “slippery slope” argument which now defines the group’s stance on gun policy.

“After President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the National Firearms Act into law, Joseph Keenan, the assistant U.S. attorney general, noted differences between the tactics of the NRA and the gun industry. Keenan chided the ‘opposition to rules and regulations’ that came from ‘those whom we term hobbyists,’ represented by the NRA. By contrast, he noted, the gun industry had ‘shown a splendid spirit of cooperation.’That spirit of government cooperation would later evaporate.”

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