I ended my NRA membership last year. My association began with a Boy Scout Marksmanship merit badge in 1952. I shot in target competitions for an American Legion rifle team and YMCA pistol team and became an NRA certified instructor. Marksmanship was my sports ticket to win my high school letter. I learned self-confidence, firearms safety and accomplishment of hard work. The NRA was a perfect steward for the sport.

What I learned helped me become an international photojournalist and author.

And then, in the 1960s, the National Rifle Association turned a corner to eventually become the shrill perpetrator of a big lie claiming every politician who didn't agree with their "anti-gun-grabber" agenda was not fit to be called "American," was not a patriot.

Through political and financial blackmail, the NRA and a minority membership of shooters and collectors became a Political Action Committee, holding Americans seeking public office hostage to the NRA interpretation of the Second Amendment.

Five million NRA members are a drop in the bucket. Funding by firearms manufacturers and right-wing millionaires has kept the NRA in business.

No one has to be a member of the National Rifle Association to pursue marksmanship as a sport, to collect vintage firearms, or to respect the Second Amendment as did our Founding Fathers -- a right to own a firearm guaranteed by a responsible government (that "well-regulated" militia).

I still go to a local indoor pistol and rifle range every couple of months to test my marksmanship skills on paper bulls-eye targets.

At age 77, those skills have aged a mite. I only wish the NRA had aged well. A big lie shouted over and over doesn't accumulate a shred of truth. A great promise has become corrupted.

Gerry Souter

Arlington Heights