Democrats have stepped up calls for Congress to take on the gun lobby in the wake of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas — even though the firearm industry and groups that advocate on its behalf spend relatively little on lobbying compared to other organizations.
“As a nation, we have to ask: When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?” President Joe Biden said Tuesday in response to the shooting. “When in God’s name will we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?”
“It is long past time for our country to stand up to the gun lobby and pass reasonable gun safety laws,” Vice President Kamala Harris said this week.
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Pointing fingers at the gun lobby is not a new tactic from Democrats. For years, gun control activists have aimed their fire at the National Rifle Association, a powerful gun rights group that the Left has long fashioned as the villain in their narrative on guns.
But in recent years, the NRA has lost much of its clout thanks to mismanagement and corruption, which has left the group with mounting financial struggles.
The gun lobby is not a single organization, but rather a collection of advocacy groups and corporations that invest in lobbying the government against firearm restrictions.
The largest of the gun rights groups, according to Open Secrets, is the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which describes itself as the “firearm industry trade association.”
The NSSF spent $5 million on lobbying in 2021.
As the second-largest gun rights lobbying group, the NRA spent $4.9 million on lobbying in 2021. Gun Owners of America, another gun rights group, spent $2.8 million on lobbying last year.
Individual firearm manufacturers also invest more modest amounts in lobbying.
Smith & Wesson spent $185,000 on lobbying in 2021, for example, while Sig Sauer spent $545,000 on lobbying in 2021.
Calls to curb the influence of the gun lobby typically suggest that politicians are beholden to the gun industry due to these lobbying efforts, as well as campaign contributions.
Gun rights groups do indeed give money to candidates, most of them Republicans.
The NSSF’s political action committee poured $512,000 into Republican candidates in the 2020 election and just $8,700 into Democratic candidates. Despite its struggles, the NRA’s political action committee gave $606,600 to Republican candidates in the 2020 race and just $9,900 to Democratic candidates.
But the real power of groups such as the NRA wield comes from the popularity of their missions, as well as the intensity of gun rights supporters. The NRA has roughly 4.9 million members, giving the organization the kind of grassroots support that forces politicians to entertain its message.
The gun lobby’s spending is dwarfed by a number of other industries that invest far more heavily in trying to get Washington to do their bidding.
Facebook, for example, spent more than $20 million on lobbying in 2021.
Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company, spent $11.8 million on lobbying in 2021.
The National Realtors Association, which represents the real estate industry, spent more than $44 million on lobbying in 2021.
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Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a pharmaceutical industry trade group, spent $30.4 million on lobbying in 2021.
While sweeping restrictions on guns remain unpopular, polls have shown support for more measured approaches to gun safety — potentially giving Congress a window of opportunity to pass something in the wake of the Uvalde shooting.
Most people in the United States support expanding background checks to all types of firearm sales.