How to Compete With the NRA
The primary reason the NRA is so successful at keeping guns, rifles, assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in so many people’s hands is because they are organized and well-funded. The foundation of the organization is the NRA itself – a non-profit 501 (c) (4) that has a reported 5 million members who pay about $40 annually each. This is key (a 501 (c) (4) cannot accept tax deductible contributions (although they can accept contributions that are NOT tax deductible) so the NRA focuses on membership).
The NRA holds fundraisers, and is affiliated with four non-profit 501 (c) (3)’s – NRA Foundation, NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund, NRA Special Contributions Fund, NRA Freedom Action Foundation – all of whom can collect tax deductible donations and use these funds to support firearm organizations, educate the public, and provide legal assistance. The NRA is also affiliated with a PAC (NRA Political Victory Fund) which contributes to political organizations and candidates.
The bottom line is that the NRA and its related organizations raise more than $400 million annually and have more than $100 million in net fund assets. They have a steady source of income (membership and program fees) outside of contributions which are strong but can vary from year to year, and they have a strong cushion to rely on if they have to.
Despite all the mass shootings that occur so often in our country, the NRA won’t give an inch when it comes to any type of gun control because they believe the second amendment – “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” – refers to a person’s unalienable right to bear arms. If the horrific mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012 where 20 young children and 6 teachers were killed couldn’t bring the NRA to the table, nothing will short of out performing them.
People who support gun control, background checks, and keeping firearms out of the hands of the dangerous and mentally unstable shooters (primarily males under the age of 50) must organize by consolidating and outperforming the NRA in terms of fundraising. There are dozens of anti-gun non-profits but the “biggest” and most well-known are:
- Brady Center to End Gun Violence
- Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
- Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, Inc.
- Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, Inc.
- New Yorkers Against Gun Violence
- Newtown Action Alliance
- Violence Policy Center
- Americans for Responsible Solutions
- States United to Prevent Gun Violence
- Stop Handgun Violence
- Independence USA PAC
Most of the above organizations raise less than $1 million a year and have less than a $1 million in net fund assets. The strongest organization is the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, Inc. (founded in 2014 by combining Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America) which raised $40.8 million in 2014 and has $5.6 million in net fund assets. Spearheaded by Michael Bloomberg, Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, Inc. is the closest thing to an adversary there is to the NRA but Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, Inc. has a long way to go because they raise about 10% of what the NRA and its affiliate organizations raise annually.
Established as a 501 (c) (4), Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, Inc. is the counterpart to the NRA, also a 501 (c) (4). Both can
- engage in unlimited lobbying as long as the lobbying pertains to their mission;
- engage in political activity;
- endorse or oppose political candidates; and
- donate money and/or time to political organizations.
The people need a well-funded adversary for the NRA and the only way to obtain one is to take the strongest organization – Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, Inc. – and push it to the next level which means two things: establish membership in Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, Inc. and consolidate the smaller organizations behind Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, Inc. as 501 (c) (3)’s.
Membership fees in Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, Inc. would provide a steady income stream and bring the members together under a common umbrella to focus on legislation, lobbying, and political candidates while consolidation of the 501 (c) (3)’s would bring focus to the platform where affiliate organizations zero in on specific issues: education, programs, legal assistance, and research. Instead of small individual underfunded squadrons fighting a well-funded and equipped army, an army would be fighting an army.
Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, Inc. should establish membership levels with the goal of growing membership and spreading the word to increase public support for gun control and background checks. Annual memberships could start at $10 (annually) with members provided a bumper sticker and other marketing tools (which are changed annually to keep the membership fresh). A premium membership could be $25 annually followed by multi-year memberships that offer discounts. All levels of membership would be provided various marketing tools to further the message. 1 million members at $10 annually would provide $10 million annually; 5 million members at $25 would provide $125 million, and so on.
There is strength in numbers and the NRA has capitalized and succeeded by raising funds to support their cause and creating specific organizations to focus on all aspects affecting their message. If those of us who want stricter gun control and background checks want to succeed, we need to do the same.
To read more about Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, Inc., go to Everytown.org