The mission statement of the National Rifle Association includes the imperative to defend the U.S. Constitution, especially the right of American citizens to keep and bear arms. It stipulates that the NRA promotes the effective training in firearms of law enforcement officers, the armed forces and participants in shooting sports.
Appalled by the poor marksmanship of the Union troops during the U.S. Civil War, General George Wingate and Colonel William Church founded the NRA in 1871. In a magazine article written at the time, Church declared that the association's purpose was to promote marksmanship as a science. Beginning in 1934 with the creation of its Legislative Affairs Division, the NRA became more involved politically in pursuing the protection of the Second Amendment rights of Americans to own, display, carry and use firearms.
In 1874, the NRA organized a team of American riflemen to defeat sharpshooters from Great Britain in a challenge match. This brought the NRA to national attention. It founded rifle clubs in universities and military colleges in various states, as well as organized youth programs that promoted safety and marksmanship in shooting sports. In 1949, the NRA began administrating hunter education programs to make hunting a safer sport. In 1960, the NRA Police Firearms certification program was established to train law enforcement personnel. In 1990, the establishment of the NRA Foundation made the NRA a tax-exempt organization with its mission statement written into its bylaws.