Thoughts and prayers: The NRA is bleeding money

Revenue from membership dues has dropped by more than $25 million.

Donald Trump at the NRA Convention in Louisville, Kentucky on May 20, 2016. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Donald Trump at the NRA Convention in Louisville, Kentucky on May 20, 2016. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has lost tens of millions of dollars in membership dues since the 2016 election and is more than $30 million in debt, according to an audit obtained by OpenSecrets.

The gun advocacy group previously alleged financial hardship in a lawsuit filed earlier this year, citing “serious difficulties obtaining corporate insurance” after Lockton dropped the NRA’s gun owner insurance.

The group is also facing a serious decline in revenue from its members, per the “new third-party audit of the group’s finances” acquired by OpenSecrets, which shows membership dues dropped by more than $25 million in 2017. After reporting $27.8 million in assets in 2015, the NRA is now $31.8 million in debt.

As OpenSecrets explained, the NRA’s membership dues had dropped previously, but bounced back the following year:

Dues were down slightly in 2016 as well, and an analysis of the NRA audits going back to 2009 — the earliest year for which such audits are available — shows that 2016 to 2017 was the only period during which dues declined for more than a single year. In 2014, for example, the NRA’s dues revenue fell by more than $47 million, but they bounced back by $37 million in 2015.

OpenSecrets also noted the gun advocacy group’s political spending has slowed compared to recent election cycles:

But one possible indication that the group’s finances aren’t as robust as they have been in past cycles is that its election spending has slowed down considerably in 2018. The NRA has reported $2.7 million so far this cycle — mostly from its PAC — down from $19.2 million at this point in 2016 and $10.7 million at this point in 2014, the last midterm election cycle.

Brian Mittendorf, an Ohio State University accounting professor, said the NRA should be concerned about its finances.

“Their current business model cannot be sustained the way it is going,” he told OpenSecrets. “It can be sustained in the short term, but not the long term. The financial statements would indicate that. The big takeaway is that there were some red flags about their long-term financial health in 2016, and nothing alleviates those concerns in their 2017 financials. If anything, it shows they’re coming to fruition.”


The NRA has had a difficult year outside of its apparent financial hardship. After dozens of companies ended relationships with the group following a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the NRA has been connected to Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and accused of illegal coordination with a Republican Senate candidate.