The National Rifle Association is one of the most powerful conservative lobbying groups in Washington and state capitols around the country. But if the NRA’s most recent tax filing is any indication, their influence—or, at the very least, their coffers—may be waning.
According to tax records obtained by The Daily Beast, the NRA reportedly lost a whopping $55 million in income from 2016 to 2017—a devastating downswing for an organization whose public profile has only grown in the gun-loving radiance of the Trump administration. Notably, almost 20 percent of the $98 million dollars taken in by the NRA in 2017 came from a single—and wouldn’t you know it, anonymous—donor.
What’s more interesting, the Daily Beast said, was an accompanying drop in NRA money coming from membership dues (as opposed to direct contributions). The NRA’s dues revenue took a steep nosedive from $163 million in 2016 to $128 million the following year.
While money’s (slightly) tighter than in years past, that’s not to say the NRA is exactly hurting. Per the filing, they still took in $312 million last year, which is plenty of money to pay for politicians’ thoughts and prayers, and put out brain-meltingly insane ads. (The group has, however, reportedly been forced to tighten its belt where it matters: Buying sweet, sweet java for its employees.)
Despite the drop in income, it’s important to remember that the NRA’s power doesn’t come solely from its bank account. Part of what makes the group such a successful lobbying juggernaut isn’t just its ability to fund campaigns, but also its skill at motivating people who are convinced that owning an AR-15 is a literal matter of life (theirs) and death (anyone else’s) to vote. Additionally, the 2017 numbers represent NRA money in a non-election year, when its overall operation is less focused on whipping up and doling out cash to candidates and races. So, it’s entirely possible the group will see its revenue tick up again by their next tax filing.
Still, given the newly energized youth anti-gun movement headed by school shooting survivors such as Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg of Parkland, FL, it is possible that the NRA’s death grip on America’s stifled discourse around guns is finally starting to loosen. One can only hope.