Gun rights lobby outspends gun control advocates by a wide margin

NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre.
Getty Images
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre.

The issue of gun control has been one of the most divisive issues in American politics for decades. It emerged again, this time when a gunman killed 17 people at a high school in South Florida — the 18th school shooting this year.

Yet while the debate has generated millions of dollars in campaign contributions and lobbying on both sides, gun rights advocates have sharply outspent groups advocating gun control.

Since 1989, gun rights interests have given about $41.9 million in direct spending to candidates, parties and outside spending groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks data reported to the Federal Election Commission.

Nearly 90 cents of every dollar of that money went to Republicans, according to the CRP. In the 2012 and 2014 election cycles alone, gun interests spent at least another $48 million in so-called outside spending, which is not reported by individual candidates.

Most of the money has come from the National Rifle Association, which has contributed nearly $23 million in direct spending since 1989. During the 2016 election cycle, it put up another $54.3 million in outside expenditures, up from $27 million during the 2014 cycle. Other groups, including the National Association for Gun Rights, Gun Owners of America and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, have also spent millions promoting gun rights, according to the CRP.

While polling shows that the majority of Americans favor some form of gun control, individuals and groups supporting restrictions contribute only a fraction of the spending by gun rights advocates. Gun control groups have come up with just $4.2 million in direct spending since 1989, with 96 percent of those contributions to parties and candidates going to Democrats, the CRP estimates.

Much of the recent outside spending by gun control advocates, CRP data show, has gone to Nevada, home of the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, the nation's deadliest killing spree.

There have been other attempts by outside spending groups to counter the NRA's gun rights campaign, including an $8.6 million effort during the 2014 election cycle. That total was nine times as much as gun control advocates spent during the 2010 and 2012 cycles combined.

The bulk of that gun control spending, some $8.2 million, came from Americans for Responsible Solutions, a group founded by shooting victim and former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Everytown for Gun Safety spent $390,000, the CRP reports.

That doesn't include $5.6 million in outside spending by Independence USA PAC, a super PAC backed by Bloomberg, who gave a total of $28 million to outside spending groups during the 2014 cycle.

But gun control groups are still badly outspent overall. In the 2016 election cycle, they accounted for just $3 million in outside spending compared with $54.9 million from gun rights organizations, almost all of which came from the NRA, according to CRP.


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