NRA Holds Convention, Lobby After Texas School Shooting

Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, U.S., February 28, 2021.

Joe Skipper | Reuters

The National Rifle Association has a wealth of money at its disposal to influence the gun policy debate after the latest shooting massacre of school children in Texas, despite financial difficulties and internal unrest that have reduced the reach of the band.

The NRA held its annual convention in Houston this week, days after a gunman shot and killed 19 children and two adults within a five-hour drive in Uvalde. Reflecting the group’s continued influence, former President Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas and other national GOP figures will move forward with plans to speak at a forum hosted by the NRA’s lobbying arm on Friday afternoon.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott will not speak as scheduled, as he will return to Uvalde. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick also backed out of speaking at the NRA meeting, saying he wouldn’t want his appearance to “bring any further pain or grief” to the families of the victims.

Gun safety advocates who have called for new restrictions in response to mass shootings this month in Texas and Buffalo, New York – including President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer — renewed their criticism of the NRA for opposing repeated efforts to tighten gun regulations in an attempt to curb the carnage across the country. While the NRA’s power has taken a hit in recent years, financial records and lobbying statements show the group still has the wherewithal to try to influence gun policy talks in the weeks to come. come — as well as the midterm elections that will decide which party will control Congress next year.

The NRA will likely enter the political discussion as senators reinvigorate gun control talks and key midterm races unfold across the country. Lawmakers are deliberating on a wide range of measures regarding firearms. The proposals include a national “red flag” law, which could allow police or family members to ask a court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person deemed dangerous, and measures that could strengthen firearms background checks.

An NRA spokeswoman did not return a request for comment.

The NRA’s 501(c)(4) organization, which by law can lobby, entered 2021 with nearly $50 million in net assets, records show. In the first quarter of this year, nearly a dozen NRA officials, including the group’s CEO, Wayne LaPierre, spoke with the federal government about gun-related bills. The NRA spent more than $620,000 on lobbying during the quarter.

The organization spent the most it has ever spent on lobbying in a single quarter last year, just months after announced in January 2021 that it filed for bankruptcy and planned to move its operations from New York to Texas. The NRA spent more than $2 million in the second quarter of 2021 lobbying Congress and the Biden administration on gun reform bills, according to a disclosure report.

The separate 501(c)(3) gun group called the NRA Foundation, which cannot lobby but hosts events on topics such as gun safety and marksmanship, is entered 2021 with more than $140 million in net assets, according to that group’s Form 990. This organisation The sponsorship program allows supporters to donate money and, if donors contribute $1,500 or more, they can receive a firearm.

Gun control advocates hold a vigil outside the National Rifle Association (NRA) headquarters following the recent mass shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 25, 2022 in Fairfax, Virginia.

Kevin Dietsch | Getty Images

The NRA’s political action committee had more than $15 million at its disposal as of May, according to a Federal Election Commission filing. The PAC gave nearly $70,000 last month to Republican candidates running in the 2022 midterm elections.

The NRA committee gave $4,000 to GOP candidates in Texas in April. Reps. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, and Ronny Jackson, R-Texas, each received $1,000 from the NRA PAC. Texas congressional hopefuls Wesley Hunt and Morgan Luttrell also received the same amount.

Representatives for those candidates did not respond to questions about whether their campaigns will continue to accept money from the NRA.

As voters cast their ballots in primary elections across the country, senators began discussions this week on gun reforms that could pass the chamber in a bipartisan vote.

A new Politico/Matin Consult survey taken the day after the Texas shooting show broad support for some of the gun policy changes that Congress has considered in the past. About three-quarters of respondents, or 73%, said they strongly supported background checks on all gun sales, while a further 15% said they somewhat supported the proposal.

More than half, or 53%, of those polled said they strongly support a ban on assault weapons. Another 14% said they somewhat supported banning these firearms.

The NRA said it opposes expansion gun background check systems and has often spoken out against measures such as banning assault weapons.

The group has been spreading its messages widely in recent days. The NRA’s Facebook ads, which launched last week, are still active, according to the social media giant’s ad library. One of the active NRA ads features a photo of Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, with the message “Don’t let them take your guns.”

This leads viewers to an online petition to Congress that reads, in part, “I demand that Congress vote against every bill, every treaty, every resolution, and every amendment that would infringe on my Second Amendment rights of any way.”

While the NRA, which has more than 5 million members, has played a major role in shaping the nation’s gun culture and policy for decades, internal unrest has weakened it. .

The NRA’s bankruptcy announcement came after New York Attorney General Letitia James sued the organization, aiming to dissolve it entirely. His office claimed that current and former leaders, including LaPierre, used NRA funds for their own personal gain, costing the group more than $64 million over three years.

In March 2021, a federal judge rejected NRA’s offer to seek bankruptcy protectionallowing James’ costume to move forward.

A judge ruled in March of that year that James’ trial could not completely shut down the NRA, but also allowed the litigation to continue.

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The group will benefit from the continued support of a key adviser who has helped them overcome their recent financial and legal problems. Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors, a law firm that has long represented the NRA, has no plans to stop doing business with the gun lobby group, he told CNBC.

Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors is one of the firms that represented the NRA in the legal fight with James’ office. The NRA paid the company a total of more than $40 million in 2019 and 2020, the most recent years for which 990 tax forms are publicly available.

The company said in a statement that echoed the NRA’s repeated suggestion that mental illness more than the availability of firearms led to mass shootings, that it “would honor our commitments to the Association, its leaders and millions of law-abiding members”. The statement was sent in an email by company spokesman Travis Carter.

“This was an incomprehensible tragedy – the act of a deranged person. We send our prayers and deepest condolences to the victims, their families and this entire community. We also join others in calling for provide protection in our schools – to make them safe and secure,” the statement read.

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