Don't know if you (or anyone else in this thread) have come across this book:
I saw the author doing an interview on the history of gun legislation and it was an eye opening experience. He made the point that the 2nd Amendment was not a new idea but merely existed to enshrine existing rights carried over from English law. (Cue the delicious irony that 99.9% of all Brits think Americans are impossibly stupid and irresponsible for loving guns so much.)
He then went on to say that gun legislation and control has always existed even back in ye olde colonial 'founding father' times that Conservatives seem to love so much. People were required to serve in militias as needed and if they didn't have their own weapon, the town would rent them one - all of which was registered and recorded. Interestingly, no one ever mentioned guns for either hunting or self defense.
Other interesting side avenues was the fact that, well established towns in the so called 'wild west' had gun control and it was a legal requirement that visitors turned their fire arms over to the sheriff. If you were not freezing your ass off in a little shack on the frontiers, there was gun control. The 'everyone packing heat in the old West' notion has been greatly over stated by that bastion of accuracy 'Hollywood'. (This also ties in nicely with Nigel's point about puncturing the myth of the 'rugged individualist'.) The rugged individualist also had to hand over his gun and if he didn't, he was in deep shit - which is funny because the author mentioned that the legendary OK Corral incident was, a dispute that owed itself in part, to the unwillingness to comply with gun surrender laws. [He also got into the issues concerning concealed carry and why that is a hangover from the popularity in the Southern states for pistol dueling.]
Perhaps what was most startling was there was a time when the NRA actually was in support of measures following the rash 1960s assassinations (Kennedys & MLK.) Back then, even Charleton Heston was behind it, it was only later that he got entrenched into the 'first step to tyranny' meme.
Seems that the NRA took a new approach in the 80s which took the form of 'the police can't protect you, do it yourself' and have been flogging it ever since. The whole notion that 'Freedom = Own a gun' as representing American values and history doesn't pan out on closer examination. There has always been laws surrounding fire arms and it began with the English...lol
What the NRA are really doing (IMHO) is playing upon what has really been the issue for much of the 20th century which is 'the freedom to be a consumer'. Tell people absolutely anything and everything to make them want your product and do absolutely anything and everything to make sure that access to said product is entirely unimpeded - no matter how impractical, dangerous or irrelevant that product may be. All the better if you can push the emotional 'patriotism button' and cite authority based on a convenient, revisionist view of history.