The National Rifle Association (NRA) has taken a financial beating in the last few years owing to corruption allegations and external pressure being placed by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
In the latter case, James kicked off her campaign against the NRA in 2020 by filing a lawsuit against it, alleging that then-NRA Executive Wayne LaPierre used millions of dollars in donor money to enjoy a lavish array of personal benefits that had little to do with the organization’s original mission. James went as far as to call the NRA a “terrorist organization” as she undertook a legal effort to bleed the establishment gun lobby dry.
Naturally, the NRA has been compelled to spend at least $100 million in legal defense to stave off James’ legal crusade. According to a report by Stephen Gutowski of The Reload, this legal ordeal combined with the reputational damage the NRA has taken due to its corruption allegations, has seen its total funding take a complete nose dive.
Gutowski observed the following about the precarious state of the NRA’s fundraising:
“The NRA’s war chest has a bit more than a fifth of the money it spent in the 2016 election and a bit more than a third of what it did in the 2020 election, according to its most recent FEC filings. Those filings were from the end of 2023, which gives the NRA about nine months to try and fundraise to close those gaps by the election.”
Moreover, in 2023, internal sources and documents confirmed that the NRA had lost over a million members — going from a 2018 peak of roughly 5.5 million to close to 4.3 million. Owen “Buz” Mills, a veteran NRA board member who had routinely butted heads with NRA to brass since allegations of corruption emerged in 2019, claims that the organization’s membership has shrunk by another million, currently standing at about 3 million.
To make matters worse, the NRA’s political spending — what it’s most known for — plummeted from $54,398,558 in 2016 to $29,355,400 in 2020, per a breakdown of the gun organization’s spending provided by OpenSecrets.
For its part, the NRA is more focused on maintaining relationships with politicians so they can continue having a seat at the table in Austin and have influence on politics. This lies in stark contrast to the likes of Texas Gun Rights, an organization that has the ostensive mission of “mobilizing Texans to restore and defend the Second Amendment without compromise.”
TXGR is focused more on pressuring politicians and holding them accountable for their legislation behavior. TXGR, unlike the NRA, is willing to ruffle the feathers of the political establishment and move gun policy in a no compromise direction.
Making friends at the Texas State Capitol is not one of TXGR’s principal objectives. As TXGR’s President Chris McNutt eloquently noted, “If you’re in politics for friends, you’re in the wrong industry. Get a dog.”
In the Texan context, the NRA acts as an incumbent protection organization. For example, the NRA has endorsed numerous fixtures of the Austin political establishment such as House Speaker Dade Phelan and State Rep. Glenn Rogers.
On February 20, 2024, the NRA’s Political Victory Fund emailed its members announcing its endorsement of Glenn Rogers despite his well-documented shortcomings. In the email The NRA gushed about Rogers’ supposed pro-gun track record declaring that Rogers “has an outstanding and proven record of support for your Second Amendment rights in the Texas Legislature and is the ONLY NRA-PVF endorsed candidate in this race.”
Moreover, the NRA stressed that “Attempts by third-party, dark-money organizations to distort Glenn Rogers’s policy positions on gun issues are intentionally misleading and dishonest.”
Effectively, the NRA is endorsing candidates that no compromise organizations such as Gun Owners of America and TXGR are actively opposing. The NRA is simply not holding Republicans accountable for their legislative malfeasances. Worst of all, the NRA isn’t even bothering to consider pro-gun challengers to these incumbents that have the total support of the pro-gun grassroots.
Establishment politicians’ track records do not lie. Rogers and his ilk have played an instrumental role in advancing the failed impeachment effort against Attorney General Ken Paxton. Moreover, these elected officials, especially Rogers and Troxclair, pulled the lever for SB 728, which would create a registry for adults who had mental health issues when they were minors. This bill was originally designed to have Texas law align with the “Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.”
The BSCA was signed into law by President Joe Biden, with Second Amendment sellout Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) playing an integral role in securing the passage of this anti-gun bill. Under House Speaker Phelan’s watch, a gun control committee made up of 7 Republicans and 6 Democrats was created to kill certain pro-gun bills such as the Second Amendment Preservation Act (HB 5153) and a bill to ban the implementation of “red flag” gun confiscation laws in Texas (HB 1894).
The NRA’s endorsement of these politicians just demonstrates its tolerance for politicians who have suspect records on gun rights. It’s worth reiterating that the NRA is more concerned with optics and gaining access to elite political circles, not trying to make concrete advancements in gun rights. Occasionally, the NRA and its establishment allies may throw gun owners scraps, but that’s often the result of grassroots activists placing pressure on the political class to do the right thing,
Things are changing though. Years of internal corruption and unprincipled political behavior have taken its toll on the NRA, as evidenced by its dwindling membership and mounting financial issues. In light of these issues, groups such as the National Association for Gun Rights and state affiliates such as TXGR have stepped up to fill the void of a network of no compromise gun organizations that will hold politicians accountable during election and legislative seasons.
The various successes of NAGR, such as the passage of Constitutional Carry in multiple red states, has put no compromise lobbying on the map nationwide. Gun owners who are serious about taking the fight to Gun Control Inc. and rolling back gun grabs, should look towards NAGR and TXGR has vehicles for change.
The days of entrusting the defense of the Second Amendment to the likes of weak-kneed organizations like the NRA are long over.