In the wake of the shooting of 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, the National Rifle Association quickly began combating calls for stricter gun laws by working to convince Americans that gun control measures would have supposedly disastrous effects. The group pushed the message that only guns could protect people from dangerous situations and spread rumors that the government was using a background checks bill to secretly track gun owners. The efforts worked — not only was federal background check legislation defeated, but gun sales increased and the NRA’s revenue increased by almost $100 million.
According to recently released financial documents, the NRA grossed almost $348 million in revenue in 2013, up close to $92 million from the group’s 2012 revenue of $256 million. In the first year following one of the deadliest shootings in U.S. history, the organization’s contributions and grants increased by $10 million and program service revenue shot up by $68 million from the year prior.
While raking in an additional $91 million, the group only increased its spending on lobbying by $10 million. The organization also paid its public relations agency $14.5 million as they dealt with reputational damage control following Newtown.
In the first 18 days after the shooting, the NRA gained more than 100,000 new members. Firearms sales also soared in the weeks after the shooting. In the first year, the manufacturer of the firearm used by Adam Lanza in Newtown said its sales rose as much as 36 percent.
The NRA has a history of responding to mass shootings, including the Sandy Hook massacre, by offering condolences to the victims but continuing to push to make it easier for people to get access to guns. Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said at a press conference just a week after the shooting that the group would not move on its staunch opposition to gun control legislation. Instead, LaPierre used the Newtown shooting to push for more guns in schools. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” he said.
The NRA has also responded to mass shootings by pushing for some of its most extreme legislation. The first federal legislation to pass post-Sandy Hook that addressed firearms actually weakened gun safety and made it easier for people to acquire guns. The six provisions which passed Congress in a rider limited enforcement actions the government could take against dealers that violated the law, expanded the class of protected guns and shielded gun dealers whose guns are lost or stolen. A representative for the NRA was not immediately available for comment.