As someone who has been involved in the ups and downs of politics for many years, I am very familiar with the games politicians play, trying to show that their opponents are on the skids and headed to defeat.
And as a long-time member of the Board of Directors for the National Rifle Association, I am quite familiar with the games played by gun control advocates and their cohorts in the media, trying to convince the American public that the NRA is on the skids and headed to defeat.
Despite the wishful thinking evident in recent opinion pieces in Newsweek (“The NRA is Slowly Dying“) and Rolling Stone (“The NRA Is Cannibalizing Itself“), the 152-year-old civil liberties organization is alive and well and fulfilling its long-standing mission to protect the constitutionally guaranteed right to possess firearms in America.
The Newsweek article cites as evidence for its thesis that the NRA is “dying” the fact that its number of dues-paying members (currently more than four million) is marginally lower than in some prior years. The article also notes that because its revenues also are less robust than in some recent years, the association is “fading.”
Conveniently ignored by Newsweek’s authors, is the fact that many membership-driven organizations have seen declines in both membership and revenue since the disruptions caused in 2020 and 2021 by the COVID pandemic.
The Newsweek opinion piece correctly notes that New York Attorney General Letitia James has engaged in a more than three-year-long legal battle to destroy the NRA, which was incorporated under the Empire State’s nonprofit laws in 1871. The since-reelected AG first campaigned in 2018 on a platform that declared the NRA a “terrorist” organization that needed to be be dissolved.
Omitted from the magazine’s analysis are the significant legal costs of defending against James’ abusive litigation, essential expenditures that necessarily have forced the NRA to make adjustments in its spending priorities. Many organizations targeted by vindictive regulators have had to contend with similar situations. The NRA is hardly “cannibalizing” programs, as the Rolling Stone article claims.
Perhaps the most telling deficiency in the Newsweek opinion piece is the metric it uses to describe the NRA’s decline — the number of “legislative victories” scored in the decade the article considers the benchmark for the current predicament it claims the NRA faces. According to Newsweek, the NRA “scored 230 legislative victories” in the decade from 2003 to 2013 – including many that protected and expanded the individual right to purchase and carry handguns in numerous more restrictive states across the country.
It is, however, when the author of the “NRA-is-slowly-dying” article asserts that “such successes have become rarer in recent years” that her thesis falls apart under scrutiny. In the same number of years (10) since the author claims the NRA enjoyed legislative “successes” — that is, from 2013 to 2023 — the Association has an additional 206 legislative wins to its credit, only slightly under the 230 cited by Newsweek in the decade prior.
Noteworthy also, is the fact that the NRA’s many legislative victories — both defeating anti-firearms legislation as well as passing bills to protect and expand those important rights — have taken place in every state across the country except Massachusetts. All-in-all, hardly evidence of an advocacy organization in its death throes.
The list of these recent civil liberties victories run the gamut from defeating legislative bans that would criminalize possession of certain firearms because of their appearance, to blocking the Biden administration’s effort to defund shooting, hunting, and archery safety and education classes in schools.
Then there is the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 Bruen decision, achieved thanks largely to the NRA’s supportive advocacy, that has dramatically strengthened the ability of firearms-rights groups to successfully challenge abusive and unconstitutional gun control laws at the state level.
The NRA message of responsible firearm ownership continues to be reflected in the facts of gun ownership in the country: the number of U.S. households with at least one firearm remains relatively constant at 45 percent, with more that 72 million firearms owners in the country, some two-thirds of whom cite personal protection and fear of crime as their primary reason for such ownership. Gun safety and ownership programs aimed at women — an education priority of the NRA — are surging.
None of this reflects evidence of a failed or weakened mission by the NRA, no matter how much its opponents wish it were otherwise.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.