FACT CHECK: Does The NRA Have 2 Million Members?

Kush Desai | Fact Check Reporter

Former Trump campaign adviser Stephen Moore estimated on CNN Tuesday that the National Rifle Association (NRA) has around 2 million members.

Verdict: False

The NRA has 5 million members.

Fact Check:

While discussing gun control with Moore and CNN host Jim Sciutto, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich characterized the NRA as a “big money” influence on politics. Moore pushed back, arguing that the organization instead represents the interests of millions of people.

“When it comes to the NRA, Bob, look, they have – how many members are there in the NRA? I don’t know the exact number. I’m guessing about 2 million,” Moore said on “Erin Burnett OutFront.” “I mean, the NRA is representing a lot of people, Bob. It’s like saying unions should not have a voice in politics. I mean, why shouldn’t they?”

Moore acknowledged that he was guessing, but his estimate of 2 million members significantly understates the weight of his argument – the NRA reports having 5 million members.

Reich’s assertion that the NRA is a major political donor is correct – the organization has spent tens of millions on political campaigns. But the NRA derived almost half of its 2015 revenue from member dues alone. (Much of the other half was derived through royalties, advertising fees and merchandise sales.)

The NRA’s membership only includes official, dues-paying members, but millions of Americans who are not members strongly identify with the organization.

Many respondents to a 2017 Pew poll, for instance, who did not actually have NRA membership identified as NRA members anyway; the poll’s results ultimately indicated that the organization has 14 million members, almost three times its actual membership.

“In addition to our 5 million members, we have millions more Americans who support us and will tell pollsters they are members, even when they are not. For some, it could be that their membership has lapsed and for others, they might consider a family member’s membership part of their own,” the NRA’s official response to the poll said. “Even more to the point, the simple fact is that our support runs much deeper than among our members alone.”

While some polling does indicate that a majority of Americans have a very or mostly favorable view of the NRA, not all members agree with the NRA on every issue; Pew found that 28 percent of gun owners who identify as both Republicans and NRA members support banning assault-style rifles, a move the NRA and many Republicans oppose.

Most Americans – gun owners or not – agree with the NRA when it comes to other gun proposals like one that would, for example, prevent severely mentally ill people from purchasing guns.

This may have to do with how the NRA and gun culture for many Americans is not just about politics. “Most people assume that people who join groups like the NRA are people who support gun rights — but that is not always the case,” University of California- Santa Barbara political science professor Hahrie Han writes in an op-ed for The New York Times.

Han instead argues that popular support for the NRA and guns also has to do with the communities that they foster. In her op-ed, she points to the thousands of gun shops and gun clubs that serve as venues for recreation, social interaction and local community for many gun owners and hobbyists.

The NRA supports and deepens hobbyists’ ties to these communities by organizing firearms training sessions and by training community members to then instruct these training sessions themselves.

Han notes that the NRA brings these local communities together at the national level: about 80,000 people from across the country are expected to attend the NRA’s upcoming convention in Dallas.

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Kush Desai

Fact Check Reporter

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