President Joe Biden on Tuesday, asked: “When, in God’s name, are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?”
The National Rifle Association is the largest and most powerful gun rights organisation in America. The NRA heavily lobbies against gun control legislation and financially backs lawmakers who have historically not supported increased regulations.
It includes direct contributions to lawmakers, efforts to independently support elected officials, and campaigns to sway public opinion on issues related to firearms.
The NRA was founded over 150 years ago and still plays a significant role in influencing and formulating public policy today. It has over 5 million members who are “diligent protectors of the Second Amendment.” The NRA was formed in 1871 by two Union veterans from the Civil War, Union veterans William C Church and George Wingate.
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At the time, the association was predominately for recreation purposes and, according to the NRA, Church wrote that the goal would be to “promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis.”
Wayne LaPierre has been the NRA’s executive vice president for decades now. He took over the position in 1991.
The NRA remained broadly nonpartisan until the 1970s. Its lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, was formed in 1975, and in 1977, the NRA built its own Political Action Committee (PAC) to fund lawmakers. Today, it is one of the most influential of special interest groups, with a very large budget to influence Congressmen and Congresswomen on gun policy in the US.
The NRA has close ties with the Republican party, and Republican politicians have long solicited the support of the group and its members. The NRA directly gave over $600,000 to politicians during the 2020 elections, almost all of it to Republicans, according to the nonprofit monitoring group OpenSecrets.
According to a 2019 list calculated by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, senators who have received the largest funding from the NRA throughout their career included Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, at over $13.6 million in donations and Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., at over $6.9 million.
However, the organisation has run into financial hardship in recent years. The NRA’s revenue declined 23% from about $367 million in 2016 to $282 million in 2020.
In fact in 2021, the NRA filed for bankruptcy, after being accused of massive fraud.
The NRA’s bankruptcy filing was later rejected in federal court – with U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Harlin Hale of Dallas ruling that the organisation did not file its bankruptcy petition “in good faith” but instead did so “to gain an unfair litigation advantage” and “to avoid a state regulatory scheme.”
Meanwhile, gun control groups like the Giffords organisation, founded by former US Congresswoman and gun violence victim Gabby Giffords, accuse NRA lobbyists of primarily being motivated by the goal “to sell more guns and pad the bottom line of gun lobby executives”.
Gun control advocates also blame lobbyists for helping to loosen firearms restrictions in Republican-dominated state legislatures across the country.
The NRA actively gives money for building and maintaining gun ranges. Its lobbying budget, including official and unofficial spends, runs into tens of millions of dollars every year.