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The NRA Lost $55 Million In 2017

The battle to stop the gun lobby appears to be working.
Photograph Courtesy of FLA News

Photograph Courtesy of FLA News

According to tax records obtained by The Daily Beast, the NRA's income dropped $55 million, from $367 in 2016 to $312 million in 2017, ending in the red for the second year in a row after spending a substantial amount to elect Donald Trump. The lack of revenue comes from a decline in donations, bad spending decisions, and their weakened stature as a political lobbying group in the wake of public support for gun control.

Throughout 2017, contributions to the NRA went from $125 million to $98 million, with nearly a fifth of its donations coming from an anonymous donor who gave $19 million - almost 20% of its revenue (as a nonprofit group, the NRA does not have to disclose its donors to the IRS.) Membership dues have also dropped between 2016-17 by $36 million. 

This led to a huge drop in spending from their 501(C)(4) arm, the Institute for Legislative Action. In 2016, the NRA-ILA spent $76 million in political contributions towards that year's election, including $30 million towards Trump. In 2017, only $27 million went through them, including contributions to the Republican Governors Association and the Republican Attorneys General Association. All in all, the 501(C)(4) shrank its budget by $82 million.

Granted, these numbers reflect an off-year, where there were no significant midterm elections. However, this year's midterms were bad news for the NRA, where they not only spent less than in previous cycles, but lost influence among political candidates on both the left and the right.

Politicians Reject the NRA

Earlier this year, Rebecca Dallet won a Supreme Court seat in Wisconsin, defeating Governor Scott Walker's handpicked candidate, Michael Screnock. Screnock had accepted the NRA's endorsement the day before the Parkland massacre, and Dallet rallied her base by endorsing gun control reforms. This was a big sign that Wisconsin, a state that voted for Trump by a slim margin, was on its way to becoming a blue state again - the NRA endorsed 11 candidates for office there this fall, but only 5 of them won, and one of them, Jim Sensenbrenner, ran unopposed. 

Around the same time, more and more Republican politicians started endorsing gun control measures, even if they were only baby steps. This resulted in the NRA downgrading them from As to Bs, and even Cs. Republican Larry Hogan, the governor of Maryland, went from an A to a C for supporting a red flag law this year. Florida's Rick Scott also went from an A to a C for signing a law raising the minimum age for gun purchase after Parkland. He subsequently received no NRA support in his Senate race. 

Despite helping pro-gun candidates like incoming Senators Marsha Blackburn and Josh Hawley, the NRA spent a lowly $7.3 million in the 2018 midterms, this year, a steep decline from the $27 million spent in the 2014 midterms. More embarrassingly, gun control groups outspent them by $2 million.

Financial experts insist that the NRA cannot continue at this current rate, and they show no signs of getting better. The glut of mass shootings in America and the movements to stop them are creating a perfect storm for the gun lobby. The gun control movement is winning a long game - and the NRA's diminished finances are a strong sign of their diminished long-term viability.