Revenue for the hugely influential far right National Rifle Association (NRA) has plummeted in recent years, falling precipitously from highs hit in the 2010s, a new analysis finds.
A newly-released audit of NRA revenue shows that, adjusted for inflation, the group’s fundraising totals in 2022 were 52 percent lower than in 2016, with a 59 percent decrease in membership dues. The NRA received $213 million in fundraising in 2022, the audit shows — less than half of its fundraising high of $465 million in 2016. The audit was obtained and posted online by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).
Not only did last year see the lowest overall revenue for the group in over a decade, it also saw the lowest membership revenue since at least 2004, CREW found in its analysis. The group raised $83 million in revenue from membership dues in 2022, while membership revenue hasn’t fallen below $100 million in any year since the early 2000s — even throughout the Great Recession.
CREW also noted that the group is going through a mountain of legal troubles that are having an impact on its finances. Legal expenses for the group rose from 1 percent of its spending in 2017 to roughly 20 percent in 2021 and 2022, the audit shows. And more lawsuits are pending, like New York Attorney General Letitia James’s investigation and lawsuit that alleges the organization has been mismanaging and abusing its finances for years.
The NRA’s influence runs deep within U.S. politics and has a huge draw among Republican politicians in particular. But the analysis shows that the group that bears perhaps the largest responsibility for the vast proliferation of private gun ownership across the U.S. in the past decades may be waning in strength; for instance, while the group still spends millions on lobbying each year, it has been spending less in recent years, decreasing from over $5 million in lobbying expenses in 2017 to $2.6 million last year, according to OpenSecrets.
This doesn’t mean that gun lobbyists have quieted down. Though the NRA may be the most notorious pro-gun group in the U.S., it is not the only gun lobbying group with political pull; the group’s lobbying totals only represented about a fifth of gun groups’ lobbying expenditures in 2022, for instance.
Reports on the NRA’s internal politics also indicate why the NRA in particular is declining, while gun lobbying remains relatively steady. In recent years, the group has been embroiled in infighting, leading to an exodus of members to other groups like Gun Owners of America and the National Association for Gun Rights.
On the other hand, the NRA’s decline in revenue in recent years may be evidence of shifting attitudes toward gun ownership — or at least declining approval of the group responsible for the decades-long blackout of gun violence research in the U.S.
Polling in recent years has found that public opinion is increasingly shifting in favor of legislation curbing gun ownership. In May, an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that 60 percent of Americans favor curbing the U.S.’s gun epidemic, while a Fox News poll in April found that vast majorities of voters favor gun control measures like background checks and requiring a 30-day waiting period for gun purchases.
Meanwhile, gun violence in the U.S. is on the rise. A study published earlier this month found that gun deaths of children increased by a whopping 87 percent between 2011 and 2021. Meanwhile, 2021 saw a record number of gun deaths and child gun deaths, according to analyses of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. A record 48,830 people died due to gun-related causes in 2021, including over 4,700 children.
CREW’s analysis was published as yet another U.S. community was ravaged by gun violence. On Wednesday night, a 40-year-old Army reservist shot and killed at least 18 people and injured 13 at a bowling alley and a nearby restaurant in Lewiston, Maine. This is the deadliest mass killing in the U.S. this year, and made 2023 one of the deadliest years for gun-caused mass killings since 2006.
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