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NRA Loses One Million Members in a Significant Decline

A decade ago, the National Rifle Association seemed like an unstoppable force in American politics. A shooter killed 20 children at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., in 2012. Democrats and Republicans in Congress appeared ready to pass new restrictions on guns. The NRA called on its members to voice their opposition, and the bills died. Today, the NRA has shed hundreds of thousands of members and large sums of money. It is standing trial for fraud and self-dealing in New York. “The NRA is little more than a shell of itself after hemorrhaging hundreds of millions in legal fees,” Joshua Powell, a former top NRA official who settled with the state before the trial, told The New York Times. The organization’s fall is not a death knell for Second Amendment advocates, but it is a blow.

After an investigation, New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, filed a lawsuit in 2020 citing exorbitant spending by the NRA leaders, particularly CEO Wayne LaPierre’s use of the nonprofit’s funds to cover millions of dollars in expensive clothes, travel, and other luxuries. Many NRA members lost trust in the organization and quit, which meant they stopped paying dues. To deal with shrinking revenue and mounting legal expenses, the NRA cut programs that were popular with members, such as gun training and education. As a result, the NRA has lost more than one million members, out of six million at its peak in 2018. Its revenue has dropped by more than 40 percent since 2016. The NRA's decline does not help the gun rights movement. Already, the NRA’s opposition was not enough to stop Congress from passing a bipartisan gun safety law in 2022. Some state and federal lawmakers hope to pass additional measures that expand background checks, ban assault weapons, and remove guns from dangerous people. In the past, the NRA could call on its members to defeat such bills. It is now less able to do so.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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