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Gun violence in the US

Donations to NRA’s lobbying arm surged in March, despite rise in gun control protests

Biggest amount came from ‘small-dollar donors’ who contributed less than US$200 each

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 April, 2018, 11:51am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 April, 2018, 8:15pm

The National Rifle Association’s political arm had a record spike in donations in March, even as students took part in demonstrations in Washington and around the country calling for stronger gun control.

The NRA Political Victory Fund raised US$2.4 million, up from US$779,063 in February, according to its latest filing with the Federal Election Commission.

That was more than it had raised in any month since at least 2000, a review of FEC records showed.

In 2016, when the NRA spent US$31 million either attacking Hillary Clinton or supporting the campaign of Donald Trump, its political action committee collected a little less than US$1.5 million in its best fundraising month. The Political Victory Fund ended March with US$5.8 million in the bank.

The February 14 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, has led to calls for more firearms safety measures, which the NRA opposes. Students have organised protests, including school walkouts and March for Our Lives events across the country.

The Florida Legislature enacted new controls on gun ownership after the shooting, including a three-day waiting period for the purchase of all firearms, limiting sales to those 21 or older, and banning bump stocks. Even Trump said he would be willing to take on the gun lobby if necessary in the wake of the shooting.

The NRA’s membership drives and fundraising pitches have highlighted the protests.

“The threat to our freedom has never been more real,” said one social media post that includes a link to its membership page. Another post said gun control proponents “are manipulating and exploiting children as part of their plan to DESTROY the Second Amendment”.

Small-dollar donors – those giving US$200 or less – fuelled the surge of donations, accounting for some US$1.9 million of the total. It reported spending only US$105,130, including 21 contributions to political campaigns.

Representative Pete Sessions of Texas got the largest donation of US$4,950, but other recipients included Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and John Barrasso of Wyoming.

The NRA also uses its lobbying arm, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, to spend on elections – and it spent US$33 million in 2016. Under federal law, that group does not have to report information on its finances or its donors to the FEC.