History Matters

Neal Knox – The Gun Rights War  is History

By Chris Knox

(August 3, 2009) Most readers of this column knew my late father, Neal Knox, as a Washington lobbyist and gun-rights hard-liner.  And most of you also know that his family – particularly my brother Jeff and I, along with our mother Jay – continue the work he started with The Firearms Coalition.  But in my travels, I’ve been dismayed to discover that many of "our guys" – from shooters at the range to industry types at the trade shows –  don’t really know or understand who Neal Knox was and what a significant impact he had on their rights.  More importantly, they don’t know or understand the history of the fight which has brought us where we are today.  Imagine a west-bound wagon train with no one among them who had ever forded a river with a wagon or crossed a difficult mountain pass.  Neal Knox – The Gun Rights War is the journal of an experienced guide and wagon master.  He wasn’t perfect and he wasn’t always right, but he had a good compass and was always trying to move in the right direction. 

            Neal Knox was in the midst of, and usually played a leading role in, every significant event of the American gun rights movement from 1966 until the end of his life in 2005.  He was the man that Gun Week called "the conscience of the gun rights movement," and the man that the anti-rights crowd called "the evil genius of the NRA." He earned those titles by bringing a viewpoint to the debate that was – and still is – too often overlooked or simply disregarded.  He brought the viewpoint of the gun enthusiast.  Guns were his passion.

            Neal Knox was a gun writer and editor, a competitive shooter, a reloading expert and tinkerer, and he was a deeply committed gun rights activist.  He wrote for magazines such as Guns, Guns & Ammo, and Southern Outdoors, and was the founding editor of Gun Week newspaper.  He was the editor of Handloader magazine and founding editor of Rifle magazine.  He competed in everything from skeet to combat pistol and wrote for the top reloading manuals.  With Jim Carmichel he won the 1972 Southwest Regional Two-Man 1,000 Yard High Power Rifle Championship.  And in 1974 he won the National Bench Rest Shooting Association Heavy Varmint National Championship. 

            His political activism grew out of his love of guns and shooting.  He wrote hundreds of articles about rights and politics taking on politicians and an ineffective NRA.  In 1977 he was one of the leaders of the "Cincinnati Revolt" forcing NRA back toward defense of rights rather than just sports and conservation.  In 1978 as Executive Director of the Institute for Legislative Action, the NRA’s lobbying arm, he took NRA on the offensive with the McClure-Volkmer bill declaring war on ATF and the Gun Control Act of 1968.  He always operated from principle and was even expelled (probably illegally) from the NRA Board for lobbying Congress against amendments gutting the McClure-Volkmer bill.  In 1997 he lost re-election as NRA First Vice-President (and from the succession to the NRA presidency) by a vote of 38-34 to Charlton Heston.  The Heston election sealed control of the NRA Board by a faction whose leaders characterized NRA as a "fundraising organization."

            The knowledge and experience, chronicled in Neal Knox – The Gun Rights War, offers some readers a warm visit with an old friend, while for others it provides a guide to effective political action – and the pitfalls along the way.  For still others the book is an uncomfortable reminder of some unpleasant history.  The book isn’t about picking at old sores.  It’s about a life spent committed to an ideal and the difficult struggle toward a goal.  It’s vital that we, the gun owners of the 21st Century understand what happened to bring us here, and how to avoid the mistakes of the past.  Getting to know Neal Knox and his story goes a long way toward those goals and it counters the efforts of some – who have a much broader reach than we do – who suggest he played only a marginal role in the struggle.  You can order the book from The Firearms Coalition’s web site or at 

            I would also ask that you recommend me as a guest on your favorite talk radio shows and send me information about those shows so I can contact them directly.  Also, recommending the book for review by your favorite magazines, newspapers, or blogs helps us spread the word.

Permission to reprint or post this article in its entirety is hereby granted provided this credit is included.    Text is available at    To receive The Firearms Coalition’s bi-monthly newsletter, The Knox Hard Corps Report, write to PO Box 3313, Manassas, VA  20108.   

©Copyright 2009 Neal Knox Associates