The NRA and Congress

Impacts of the NRA’s Lobbying: Part Two in a Series by Samantha Street

The NRAs influence over Congress continues (courtesy NRA).

The NRA’s influence over Congress continues (courtesy NRA).

Samantha Street, Staff Writer

Read the first story in this three-part series.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) refers to itself as the nation’s oldest civil rights organization. This five-million member association has spent 203.2 million dollars on political activities in the past two decades (Politifact). How much influence does this organization have on United States gun policy?

The NRA bills itself as the “proud defenders of history’s patriots and diligent protectors of the Second Amendment.” The organization claims it “fights back against politicians, judges, and bureaucrats who want to regulate, restrict, and ultimately, destroy your Second Amendment freedom.” The NRA formed a lobbying arm in 1975 and a Political Action Committee (PAC) in 1977 (BBC). These were created to fund politicians that supported the individual rights interpretation of the Second Amendment. In a PBS interview, Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Warren Burger once referred to the gun lobby’s interpretation of the Second Amendment as “one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American public by special interest groups.”

Lobbying is any attempt by individuals or special interest groups to influence politicians. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the NRA spent over 3 million in lobbying in 2016. While the NRA appears to be funded by individuals since 2005 at least $20 million has been donated to the organization by the gun industry (Business Insider). The NRA also profits off advertising associated with gun manufacturers. Funds from the gun industry have led some to question the true motivations of the association.

The NRA is strongly opposed to almost any form of gun control including but not limited to: background checks, assault weapon bans, and gun owner databases. The organization funds many Republican candidates including Mike Turner, who represents Ohio’s 10th district which includes Clayton, who has received over $20,000 in campaign contributions (Washington Post). Their influence and prevalence have made it very difficult in recent years to pass any kind of gun control at the federal level. President Trump told senators that they are “afraid of the NRA” and “they [the NRA] have great power over you people” (CNN).

Approximately 40% of Americans own a gun or live in household with a gun (Pew Research Center). One in five gun owners are members of the NRA, but 40% of all adults believe the NRA has too much influence over gun policy.