- Lily Meckel
National Rifle Association: A Cheat Sheet
With the controversy surrounding possession of firearms in the United States an ongoing debate, it seems this is the right time to introduce you to the National Rifle Association (NRA). This cheat sheet aims to give you the low-down on what this entity is, what they do, their role in politics and whether they might be in trouble.
What is the NRA?
The National Rifle Association (NRA) is a gun rights organisation in the United States. It was founded in 1871 in New York by two veterans, William C. Church and George Wingate as a governing body for the use of rifles in sports. It has since evolved into a lobbying group and is now the largest gun-advocacy group in the US. With a budget of 250 million US dollars a year, the NRA has a lot of influence on conversations around gun control, which is a heated and controversial topic in the United States.
What does the NRA stand for and what are its aims?
The initial aim of the NRA was to improve marksmanship, in other words, to improve gun training. The main aim of the NRA today is the protection of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which is the right to bear arms. Yet, this amendment has been subject to debate over its meaning.
Nonetheless, it is generally interpreted as the right for everyone to carry guns, and the organisation has put massive efforts behind preventing gun-control measures from being implemented.
What is its influence on US politics, and how does it exert influence?
The NRA majorly influences US politics regarding gun policy. Despite increased public desire for gun control following deadly shootings time and time again, the NRA has managed to prevent gun control legislation from passing. The means through which it does so is through fundraising, lobbying and campaigning.
Lobbying is one of the main activities of the NRA. It spends around $3 million on lobbying per year, whilst unofficial contributions through PACs are likely to make this sum considerably higher. Through lobbying, the NRA influences members of Congress and their votes on legislation.
They have a considerable hold on Republican politicians in particular, having made several campaign donations to political figures. In Texas, for example, where recently one of the deadliest mass shootings took place in Uvalde, both senators, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, are among the top recipients of pro-gun group donations, which has influenced their anti-gun control stances.
The NRA has directly and indirectly funded several political campaigns, thereby majorly influencing the direction of elections and politics in the country. Another way the NRA influences politics is through grading political candidates based on their view on gun rights, with this having considerable influence on voting behaviour.
Thus, through various methods, the NRA has significant influence over the state of American politics and society, despite being an unelected body.
Is the NRA in crisis?
In 2020, a legal case was opened against the NRA for allegedly misusing charity contributions for personal spending, seeking to dissolve it. This legal battle is still ongoing today.
The tremendous influence this organisation has on American politics demonstrates the wider issue of the hold money has on politics, something of considerable concern in a democratic society.
Harrowing statistics, such as that in 2020 guns became the leading cause of death among US teens and children, and more Americans died of gun-related injuries in 2020 than in any previous year, demonstrate the need for action. Despite debate surrounding the right to bear arms, there is no question that most Americans desire increased gun control of some form.
For more resources on this topic, head to our dedicated US Politics section.
Edited by Abbie Harby