One of the most transparent acts of cowardice in American politics is promising to “stand up to the NRA” and “gun lobby.” The “gun lobby” played a prominent role in Joe Biden’s mendacious gun-control speech last week, wherein the president continued to mythologize the power of the NRA, while depicting tens of millions of gun owners as dupes.
Bloomberg says “NRA Keeps Its Hold on US Politics, Despite School Shootings and Internal Strife.” The BBC wonders: “US gun control: What is the NRA and why is it so powerful?” In a Hill piece — laughably headlined, “NRA contributions underscore grip in GOP” — we learn that the Second Amendment advocacy group contributed “roughly $149,000 to Senate recipients in the 2020 cycle, with nearly all the funds going to Republicans, according to OpenSecrets.”
Let’s for a moment set aside the fact that anti-gun rhetoric used in major media and cultural outlets amounts to tens of billions of in-kind contributions to Democrats every year. From the years 2017-2022, Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer received $3,754,646 from investment firms and another $3,038,489 from law firms. Where are the articles about the “iron grip” lawyers and hedge funds have over the majority leader and his party? The “gun lobby” hardly even makes a blip on Mitch McConnell’s fundraising portfolio. McConnell’s political support for gun rights is probably predicated on the fact that nearly 55 percent of adults in his state reside in a household with a firearm. (And because gun owners aren’t exactly sharers, you should assume that number is higher.)
In 2016, the NRA, which some Democrats have branded a “domestic terrorist organization,” spent $54.4 million on outside spending. That fell to only $29.3 million during the 2020 election. Gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety spent $60 million in the 2020 election. To put that in perspective, $14 billion dollars was dropped on the 2020 election, spending dominated by the Democratic Party. To put it in context, from 2021-2022 George Soros has contributed $128,722,563 to left-wing political causes.
In 2021-2022, the finance sector, leading spenders on elections, gave 52.5 percent of its contributions to Democrats. Lawyers, 70 percent. The tech industry, over 76 percent. The health care sector, 59. Labor, 87.5 percent. Most of these industries spend many times more yearly than the gun lobby spends in a decade. Do these industries, most of whom deal with policy that is more consequential to everyday Americans, not have an “iron grip” on the Democratic Party?
The NRA’s lobbying efforts in 2020 amounted to $2.2 million. To put it in perspective, The National Association of Realtors spent $84 million that year. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent nearly $82 million. Facebook, nearly $20 million. Amazon, nearly $18 million. The NRA is the 1,043rd largest contributor to political races and the 270th biggest spender on lobbying in 2020. Unlike most of these industries, the NRA’s funding comes from small donors.
Because of mismanagement and internal conflict, NRA contributions to political candidates have cratered in recent years:
Has anyone detected a corresponding drop in support for gun rights in Congress?
The NRA is an expedient punching bag for politicians and activists unwilling to condemn gun owners themselves. But its power is derived from its members, not cooked up from the ether or propped up by a sugar daddy. (Of course, even if NRA had its own George Soros, its cause, lobbying to defend the Second Amendment, would be worthwhile.)
The NRA, which runs an array of programs to cultivate responsible gun owners (it does more for gun safety, in fact, than any anti-gun advocacy group), is only influential because it represents — either through direct membership or through ideological kinship — a lot of American voters. If the NRA disappeared tomorrow, another advocacy group would simply emerge to take its place, and it would probably be more purist in its defense of the Second Amendment.