Politics

NRA spent $1.6 million lobbying against background check expansion laws in months leading up to latest mass shootings

Key Points
  • The National Rifle Association spent $1.6 million during the first half of the year lobbying Congress against laws that would enact stricter background checks for people looking to buy guns, according to disclosure reports.
  • One of the dozens of bills targeted by the NRA is H.R. 8, a bipartisan proposal that passed the Democratic-controlled House in February and has yet to be taken up by the GOP-controlled Senate.
  • Calls for tougher background checks and gun control in general have increased yet again in the wake of three mass shootings in California, Texas and Ohio that have left more than 30 people dead.
  • President Donald Trump on Monday tweeted that lawmakers should pass legislation to improve background checks while implementing immigration reform.
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with leaders of conservative groups, including Wayne LaPierre (R), executive vice president of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Nicholas Kamm | AFP | Getty Images

The National Rifle Association spent $1.6 million during the first half of the year lobbying members of the House and Senate against laws that would enact stricter background checks for people looking to buy guns, according to disclosure reports.

One of the dozens of bills targeted by the NRA is H.R. 8, a bipartisan proposal that passed the Democratic-controlled House in February and has yet to be taken up by the Republican-controlled Senate. The second-quarter filing shows that NRA lobbyists continued their efforts against the bill after its passage in the House. The lobbyists also looked to make changes to the Background Check Expansion Act from Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

Calls for tougher background checks and gun control in general have increased yet again in the wake of three mass shootings in California, Texas and Ohio that have left more than 30 people dead. President Donald Trump on Monday tweeted that lawmakers should pass legislation to improve background checks while implementing immigration reform.

At about noon ET on Monday, the Trump campaign held a call with surrogates, telling them to focus on the president's support for background checks, along with his condemnation of violence and white supremacy, if they are asked about the recent spate of shootings, according to a supporter who was on the call. The person said there was no mention of the influential gun rights group.

The NRA, which earlier this year said it opposes expanding background checks, spent $30 million to support Trump's campaign in 2016. A senior NRA official told CNBC on the condition of anonymity that it opposes universal background checks but is in favor of laws that forces gun store owners to review and disallow the sale of guns to anyone with a record of mental illness or a felony arrest. As NBC News reports, the bill that passed the House, H.R. 8, would create new universal background check requirements for gun transfers between unlicensed individuals, something the NRA, according to this official, is vehemently against because it believes that constitutes a private transfer.

During his national address earlier Monday, Trump did not mention background checks and focused on "red flag" laws, which are meant to take firearms away from those deemed a threat to themselves or others. The NRA has supported some "red flag" proposals.

The official later forwarded a statement from the NRA, which shows it agrees with Trump in his comments denouncing the attacks.

"The National Rifle Association welcomes the President's call to address the root causes of the horrific acts of violence that have occurred in our country," the statement read. "It has been the NRA's long-standing position that those who have been adjudicated as a danger to themselves or others should not have access to firearms and should be admitted for treatment."

The lobbying reports do not disclose with whom the NRA lobbyists met with in Congress. The organization's political contribution record, however, demonstrates which politicians the NRA prefers to see in power.

The NRA's PAC, the National Rifle Association of America Victory Fund, gave the reelection committee of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky $4,950 in June, according to Federal Election Commission documents. Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, a Republican member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, received $2,450 from the committee. Two House Freedom Caucus members and staunch Trump allies, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., each saw $1,000 go into their campaign coffers.

Progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., accused McConnell for "sitting on" H.R. 8.

McConnell has condemned the shootings and the NRA expressed their sympathies to the victims families.

Representatives for McConnell and the Trump campaign did not return requests for comment.

The NRA's lobbying has been a longtime presence in Washington. Last year, which included the midterm congressional elections, it spent $5 million on lobbying. It spent almost the same amount a year earlier.

The group invested just more than $870,000 during the 2018 election cycle, with most of its contributions going to Republicans, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. In the early stages of the 2020 elections, it's invested $61,000, and the majority of those donations have gone to GOP candidates.

Still, even though the NRA continues to push its agenda in Washington, the group has been hobbled by a slew of recent controversies. Former lobbying chief Chris Cox resigned in June after being accused of working with other officials in plotting a coup attempt against CEO Wayne LaPierre. Cox has denied being involved in any effort to take out LaPierre.

Oliver North resigned as president of the group during the battle against LaPierre, who accused North of trying to oust him with damaging information. The NRA also recently parted ways with its longtime media agency, Ackerman McQueen.