In the wake of the student led activism following the Parkland, Florida mass shooting, the topic of the NRA has once again been thrown into the national spotlight. I have a middle schooler who’s school participated in the walkout on March 14th. It was a student led protest to take 17 minutes of silence, one for each child killed, but to also make a statement about the need for stricter gun laws in this country. The children had discussions in their advisory groups and voted on how they wanted to participate, as well as what the signs they would hold would say. We talked that evening as a family about the walkout and about the political climate in this country surrounding the issue of guns. The subject of the NRA came up. My son asked me what exactly the NRA was. I knew enough to loosely explain it and explain why it was controversial. But the question made me realize that there were a lot of holes to fill in for my own understanding of the organization. And if I had some unanswered questions, probably many other parents might have them too.
Here are some basic facts about the NRA that we all should know to be informed and educated.
The NRA was founded in 1871 by Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside with the goal to promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis.
It is a non-profit organization with an annual revenue of around $400 million dollars. It’s present CEO, Wayne LaPierre was paid $5.1 million dollars in 2015.
Funding for the NRA comes primarily from individual donors and members recruited through money funds by NRA initiatives like member newsletters, sporting events and gun safety education and training programs. Funding also comes from large corporations, many within the gun industry which donate millions to the NRA’s political action committee.
After mass shootings such as Sandy Hook and Parkland, donations to the NRA increased, as gun advocates worry that their right will be taken away. There is also a notable increase in gun sales after mass shootings.
While polls show consistently that the majority of Americans actually favor stricter gun laws, the opposition is poorly funded. Big money for opposing groups primarily goes toward environmental and women’s right issues, and not gun control.
The NRA spends its money in two major ways: lobbying and elections.
It has the dubious distinction of being the biggest “dark money” spender in American politics. Part of its apparatus is organized in a form that doesn’t require the group to disclose where their money comes from.
The NRA promotes the “good guy with a gun theory”, prompting politicians to propose the answer to our gun problem is more guns. The NRA has built a movement that has convinced its followers that gun ownership is a way of life and central to one’s freedom.
Do your research. As parents and citizens, it is our duty to educate ourselves, as best we can, and make informed decisions with our activism and at the voting booth.