NRA Convention: Gun Group Announces Member Milestone

Despite heavy public scrutiny and thanks in part to its efforts to reach new demographics, the National Rifle Association announced at its annual meeting over the weekend that it had topped 5 million members.

With public scrutiny of the group at an all-time high, the National Rifle Association (NRA) put a stake in the ground over the weekend and said, “We’re growing.”

Weeks after the group won a major legislative victory, defeating a widely publicized effort by President Barack Obama to pass expanded background checks in the Senate, the association was publicly defiant on efforts to limit gun rights during the association’s first national meeting since a series of high-profile shootings raised the profile of the gun control debate last year.

And to that effect, the group announced an unprecedented membership level that underlines the group’s strength, on and off Capitol Hill.

Among the highlights of the 70,000-strong conference in Houston:

The state of the NRA is stronger and larger than it has ever been.

A new milestone: On Saturday, the group announced that it had reached a new milestone in membership—reaching 5 million members, with one-tenth of those joining within the past six months. Underscoring the milestone, the group’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, promised that the group would continue to grow at a quick rate. “The state of the NRA is stronger and larger than it has ever been,” he said, according to USA Today. “Our commitment to freedom is unwavering and our growth is unprecedented. … By the time we’re finished, the NRA must and will be 10 million strong.”

Reaching a new demographic: One of the main focuses at the convention was the group’s female membership—something widely reflected by many of the 550 vendors in attendance and something that the NRA said showed new energy in the movement. “This is the National Rifle Association catering to demand,” the group’s Andrew Arulanandam told Reuters. “We’ve seen in the last few years an increase in women buying guns, joining the National Rifle Association, enrolling in personal safety classes, and going out and organizing women’s-only hunts.” This was underlined by the appearance of Sarah Palin at the event on Friday.

New leadership: While LaPierre will remain the group’s public face, the annual meeting also saw a vote on board members, with gun-friendly celebrities such as Oliver North and Ted Nugent among the 25 members receiving seats in a vote. On Monday, the group was also transitioning at the top, with Alabama attorney James Porter replacing outgoing President David Keane. Porter’s father was the group’s president in the 1950s.

And while polls have recently suggested that there may be a split between how the association represents member interests and what members actually want (particularly on background checks), members at a business meeting on Saturday strongly approved three resolutions: a reaffirmation of support for the group’s leadership, a no-compromise stance on gun control, and a show of support toward the National School Shield program that LaPierre announced during a high-profile press conference late last year.

Rifles on display during the NRA 2013 Annual Meeting. (photo by Gerald Rich/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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