Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
In a recent article for Newsweek, journalist Kate Plummer argues that the National Rifle Association is “slowly dying.”
She points to the following to make her case:
- Membership Decline: Wayne LaPierre, head of the NRA, predicted in 2013 a growth to 10 million members. However, as of a recent report, the membership has declined to about 4.3 million.
- Financial Struggles: The NRA’s revenue dropped significantly, with a 52% decrease in overall revenue and a nearly 59% drop in membership dues since 2016. Membership dues in 2022 were down more than 40% from 2018.
- Past Successes: The NRA had 230 legislative victories from 2003 to 2013.
- Recent Failures: More recently, the NRA failed to secure major legislative changes in 2017 and 2018, even with Republican control in Washington.
- Lawsuit by New York Attorney General: Letitia James filed a lawsuit alleging misappropriation of funds by top NRA officials, including LaPierre, for personal use.
- Bankruptcy and Financial Mismanagement: The NRA faced a $64 million reduction in its balance sheet over three years, turning a surplus into a deficit.
- Shift in Views: An NBC/WSJ poll showed 40% viewing the NRA negatively in 2018, a first-ever overall negative perception.
There are other headwinds for the organization, Plummer points out, including the rise of the Bloomberg-funded Everytown for Gun Safety over the past decade.
Thanks to Bloomberg’s billions, Everytown has proven to be a force to reckon with. For example, it just outspent the NRA 10 to 1 in its own backyard, in the 2023 Virginia elections.
Has the NRA seen better days? No doubt about it. But is it “slowly dying” — doubtful.
Look, the elephant in the room is Wayne LaPierre. He has become a divisive figure due to the aforementioned allegations of financial mismanagement. It’s not only about what happened to the organization under his watch but also what he was personally doing with donor dollars.
LaPierre was, apparently, flying in private jets, buying lavish suits and receiving other “excess benefits” to the tune of $300,000. LaPierre has since made good, though. He cut a personal check to the organization to right his wrongs.
For some members this was enough. For many others, including key “whale” donors, it wasn’t. As a result, those who were still disgruntled flocked to other pro-gun outfits, including the Second Amendment Foundation, Gun Owners of America, and the Firearms Policy Coalition.
The truth is gun owners may have stopped donating to NRA due to LaPierre’s perceived shenanigans, but they haven’t stopped donating to the pro-gun cause. Nor have they stopped buying guns.
To Plummer’s credit, she acknowledges this in her article.
Plummer writes, “Forty-five percent of U.S. households owned at least one firearm in 2022, according to research compiled by Statista, the highest figure since 2011—and 8 percentage points higher than in 2013, the year LaPierre said the NRA was on track for ‘unprecedented’ growth.”
One can argue that the pro-gun movement has never been stronger. With approximately 72 million gun owners in this country, gun banners certainly have their work cut out for them.
Four million of those still belong to the NRA, as highlighted earlier. Four million dues-paying members is nothing to sneeze at. And it all but ensures the NRA will continue to have a role to play in the 2A battles to come, even if that’s in a diminished capacity for the time being.
It’s also worth pointing out that LaPierre, 74, is not going to be around forever. So, it’s reasonable to think that a change in leadership could rejuvenate America’s longest-standing civil rights organization,.
Whether it’s through internal reform or a renewed focus on its core mission, the NRA’s fate isn’t sealed yet. It’s a dynamic entity in a country where the debate over gun rights is far from settled. The story of the NRA, like the story of gun rights in America, is still being written, one chapter at a time.
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