AP Photos: A look back at past NRA conventions

The Associated Press
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FILE - In this May 20, 2000, file photo, NRA president Charlton Heston holds up a musket as he tells the 5000 plus members attending the 129th Annual Meeting & Exhibit in Charlotte, N.C., that they can have his gun when they pry it "from my cold dead hands, " The ending to his speech drew a standing ovation. (AP Photo/Ric Feld, File)

The National Rifle Association is gathering for its 148th annual meeting, which begins Thursday in Indianapolis.

What started in 1871 as a group devoted to hunting, shooting sports and gun safety has evolved into one of the most powerful forces in American politics.

Up until the late 1960s and 1970s, the NRA was viewed as willing to compromise on gun laws. That largely ended after the Gun Control Act of 1968 was enacted.

Some members pushed back, worried that further gun restrictions would undermine the Second Amendment.

The group perhaps most famously served as the rallying cry for gun rights activism when then-NRA President Charlton Heston in 2000 raised a rifle over his head and vowed to steadfastly cling to his right to bear arms and never allow it to be taken away "from my cold, dead hands."

In recent years, the organization has been closely aligned with President Donald Trump, who will be addressing this year's NRA annual meeting, the third consecutive year he's appeared before the group.

The annual meetings feature seminars on topics such as concealed carry of firearms, advice for older gun owners on how to best defend themselves, and protecting schools.

It also attracts hosts of conservative celebrities, country music in the convention halls and exhibits from gunmakers and companies offering accessories and attire.