For Release: Wednesday, May 2, 2018
Washington, DC — As the National Rifle Association prepares to hold its annual meeting in Dallas this week (from Thursday, May 3 through Sunday, May 6), Josh Sugarmann, Violence Policy Center (VPC) executive director and author of the book NRA: Money, Firepower & Fear, charged that “today’s NRA is a gun industry trade association masquerading as a shooting sports foundation.” In making its case, the VPC offered the following three examples.
1) Many members of the NRA’s leadership are also members of the gun industry, and gunmakers make significant financial contributions to the organization.
Current NRA President Pete Brownell is the CEO of gun, ammunition, and firearm accessories vendor Brownells (NRA “corporate partners” like Brownells who give more than a million dollars to the organization are inducted into its “Golden Ring of Freedom” and their CEOs awarded with a yellow sports coat). In addition, according to the pro-gun website Ammoland, the top vote-getter in this year’s NRA board election is Ronnie Barrett, the CEO of Barrett, which manufactures assault rifles and 50 caliber anti-armor sniper rifles. In addition to Ronnie Barrett, two additional gun industry members are reported among the top 10 vote getters this year: Duane Liptak, Jr., executive vice president of Magpul Industries, a manufacturer of high-capacity ammunition magazines and other firearms accessories; and, Robert Nosler, owner and president of firearms and ammunition manufacturer Nosler.
The NRA receives millions of dollars from its “corporate partners” in the gun industry through both direct payments and sponsorships. The 2013 Violence Policy Center report Blood Money II–How Gun Industry Dollars Fund the NRA documents tens of millions of dollars in gun industry financial support for the NRA. In addition, the NRA News website features numerous gun industry “brand partners,” including assault weapon manufacturers Sturm, Ruger (manufacturer of the assault rifle used in the Sutherland Springs, Texas mass shooting), Sig Sauer (manufacturer of the assault rifle used in the Pulse nightclub mass shooting), and Smith & Wesson (manufacturer of the assault rifle used in the Parkland, Florida mass shooting). The “Official Sponsor” of this week’s Annual Meetings & Exhibits is online ammo and firearm accessories vendor MidwayUSA, which has donated millions of dollars to the organization.
2) While the NRA meeting includes a gun show where assault weapons are displayed and celebrated, these military-bred weapons pose a clear risk to law enforcement.
According to a February 2018 Violence Policy Center analysis, in 2016 (the most recent year for which data is available) one in four law enforcement officers slain in the line of duty were killed by an assault weapon. Included in this number are the five Dallas police officers who were killed with a Russian-made Izhmash Saiga AK-74 assault rifle in an attack in July 2016. Importation of these rifles was banned in 2014 by President Obama as part of the Ukraine-related sanctions. In 2016, 64 U.S. law enforcement officers (excluding Puerto Rico) were slain in the line of duty. Of these, 16 (25 percent) were killed with an assault weapon.
3) The NRA and gun industry are targeting young children as the replacement shooters necessary to maintain their financial bottom line and political viability in the wake of declining household gun ownership.
Following a trail blazed by the tobacco industry, in the face of declining household gun ownership the NRA and firearms industry have targeted young children in their marketing efforts as detailed in the 2016 VPC report “Start Them Young” — How the Firearms Industry and Gun Lobby Are Targeting Your Children. In a column in this month’s America’s 1st Freedom magazine titled “Mentor a New Shooter, Save the Second Amendment,” NRA President Pete Brownell promotes the NRA’s month-long Mentor Initiative, sponsored by gunmaker Taurus, Winchester Ammunition, and other gun industry members. In the column, Brownell warns, “It’s no secret, more and more young Americans grow up in urban environments void of family and friends to teach them about responsible firearm ownership. Frighteningly, more and more young Americans are learning about guns from television news stories, movies, video games or newspaper headlines.”
Violence Policy Center research cited in this release:
Blood Money II–How Gun Industry Dollars Fund the NRA (http://vpc.org/studies/bloodmoney2.pdf).
New Data Shows One in Four Law Enforcement Officers Slain in the Line of Duty in 2016 Felled by an Assault Weapon (http://vpc.org/press/new-data-shows-one-in-four-law-enforcement-officers-slain-in-the-line-of-duty-in-2016-felled-by-an-assault-weapon/).
“Start Them Young”–How the Firearms Industry and Gun Lobby Are Targeting Your Children (http://vpc.org/publications/start-them-young/).