A day before President Obama is scheduled to debut his administration’s action plan on gun violence prevention, the National Rifle Association released new membership numbers aimed at convincing lawmakers they’re still a force to be reckoned with in the gun control debate.
In a sign of confidence in return, members of the gun control community said the NRA’s surging membership will have little effect on the debate over gun legislation.
The NRA told numerous outlets Tuesday that its membership has swelled by 250,000 in the month since the Dec. 14 elementary shooting in Newtown, Conn., which kicked off the current conversation on guns.
That brings the NRA to 4.25 million members, according to the organization. Some in the gun control crowd doubt that number — a spokesperson for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence pointed TPM to this Mother Jones investigation into the NRA’s reported membership total.
It’s not clear how many of the NRA’s members actually pay for the privilege, according to Mother Jones, and the magazine said it found a “strong indication that the NRA’s true size is closer to 3 million.” That’s still a lot — especially considering that the NRA members who do pay shell out $35 for the privilege. (The Huffington Post reported Tuesday that memberships have been recently discounted.)
But those the gun control crowd said the reported big surge in NRA membership doesn’t change anything in the post-Newtown debate. Pointing to shifting poll numbers and the newfound eagerness by Democrats to take up the issue of gun control once again, proponents of new regulations say the momentum is on their side.
“You’re certainly seeing energy on both sides of the debate right now, but national polling numbers clearly indicate the shift has been toward supporting sensible gun laws, not toward the increasingly discredited agenda of the NRA,” said Ladd Everitt, spokesperson for the CSGV.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the gun control advocacy group pushed by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, pointed to its own surging membership numbers post-Newtown as evidence that the NRA’s boost is being countered by a surge of Americans eager to see new gun legislation considered.
“We have 450k new members [since Newtown],” Mark Glaze, director of the Bloomberg group told TPM in an email. He was referring to the group’s DemandAPlan.org, grassroots organizing website, which he says now boasts more than 1 million members. He also noted “100 new mayors have joined Mayors Against Illegal Guns” since the elementary school shooting.
DemandAPlan.org membership is free. Glaze said the group has seen a big surge in small-dollar donations after Newtown as well as a membership surge.
“About 600k has come in through the website since Newtown in small contributions,” he wrote. He said individual donations “average around $80.”