PolitiFact: NRA founded 'to protect freed slaves' from Klan, black leader says

Published June 8, 2013

The statement

The National Rifle Association was "founded by religious leaders who wanted to protect freed slaves from the Ku Klux Klan."

Harry Alford, president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, at a news conference

The ruling

Here's what the NRA says on its website about its founding:

Dismayed by the lack of marksmanship shown by their troops, Union veterans Col. William C. Church and Gen. George Wingate formed the National Rifle Association in 1871. The primary goal of the association would be to "promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis," according to a magazine editorial written by Church.

After being granted a charter by the state of New York on Nov. 17, 1871, the NRA was founded.

No mention of religious leaders, slaves or the KKK.

Brief histories of the NRA by the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post contain no such mentions, either. We called and emailed the NRA to inquire about Alford's claim, but the group offered no response.

Alford's wife, National Black Chamber of Commerce executive vice president Kay DeBow Alford, provided us three articles to back her husband's claim.

But none of them do.

1. A January article notes that the NRA founders started the group because of the Union soldiers' poor marksmanship and it calls the NRA the oldest civil rights organization in the United States. No mention of religious leaders founding the NRA to protect freed slaves from the KKK.

2. Ann Coulter: In an April 2012 opinion column, the conservative author and commentator said that when civil rights leader Robert F. Williams returned home to Monroe, N.C., after serving in World War II, the Ku Klux Klan was "beating, lynching and murdering blacks at will."

In 1957, Williams got a charter from the NRA, founded the Black Armed Guard and repeatedly thwarted KKK attacks, Coulter wrote. She didn't say whether the NRA played a role in the guard's fighting the klan.

Again, no reference to religious leaders or slaves. And the fighting against the KKK, whether it involved the NRA or not, would have occurred more than 85 years after the NRA's founding.

3. Psychology professor's article: A January article by Warren Throckmorton of Grove City College in Grove City, Pa., not only doesn't support Alford's claim, it disputes it.

Throckmorton noted that the NRA's website makes no mention of the KKK or getting guns in the hands of newly freed slaves.

We can't say whether Alford was misinformed or intended to mislead. But his claim is inaccurate and ridiculous — Pants on Fire.

Edited for print. Read the full version at