A Brief, Unauthorized history of the nra

By Jason Vest

The NRA brands anyone who doesn’t share their views as a ‘Fudd,’ a play on Bugs Bunny’s nemesis Elmer Fudd. “They get very upset at those who don’t support the right to own every kind of weapon,” says Frank Smyth. “The fact is, I’m a paradox: I’m a Fudd, because I’m comfortable with gun control; yet I own a very non-Fudd gun, the Glock-19.”

It’s not a weapon he’s ever used outside of a gun range, but if anyone’s heard their fair share of shots fired in anger in dodgy spots the world over while investigating human rights violations, arms trafficking and extremism, it would be Frank Smyth. I first met Smyth in 1997, and after just a decade into journalism, he was already the stuff of legend. Perhaps “the youngest old Central America  hand” in the late 1980s before he left El Salvador to cover the first Gulf War,  Smyth was thought by many to have been killed at the hands of Iraqi Baathist cadre after he disappeared in northern Iraq in early 1991 on assignment for CBS News radio in the waning days of the first Gulf War, Smyth had in fact been captured and hauled to Abu Ghraib, then under the grisly management of Saddam Hussein. Released after deft, behind-the-scenes international negotiations, Smyth’s subsequent account in the Village Voice of a harrowing ordeal –  including witnessing the summary execution of a colleague, and being forced to listen to the continuous torture of fellow prisoners in the infamous Iraqi prison – was justly nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Read more in the new issue of The Ryder magazine