The National Rifle Association, one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the U.S., lost $55 million in income last year, largely because of a steady decline in membership fees, according to a new tax return first obtained by the Daily Beast.
In 2017, the NRA reported $98 million in contributions, compared to a whopping $125 million in 2016. About one-third of its contributions came from a single, private donor, who gave the gun rights advocacy organization $19 million.
And while the gun rights group still pulled in about $312 million in total income in 2017, that’s far less than it nabbed in 2016 – $367 million – a year that saw a spike in donations and dues as the lobbyist group worked to elect Donald Trump to the White House.
Perhaps most significantly, however, was the decline in membership dues. The group took in more than $128 million in dues last year, a steady decline – about 22 percent – from the $163 million it had raked in during the previous year, although it’s unclear whether there were fewer members or if existing members paid less.
A spokesperson for the NRA, Andrew Arulanandam, however said membership is currently at the highest level it’s ever been in the “almost century and a half history of the National Rifle Association.”
“We stand at approximately 5.5 million members,” he told FOX Business. “And I think it’s a testament to the strength of the National Rifle Association and the confidence that people have in our historical ability to protect their Second Amendment rights.”
He also pointed to a September article by The Washington Post that found the group’s magazine membership had surged by 350,000 subscribers since the Parkland, Florida, shooting in February.
The NRA offers several different price options for memberships, according to its website, including: $45 for one year, $75 for two years, $100 for three years and $150 for five years and $1,500 for a lifetime membership.
During the 2016 presidential election, the NRA spent an unprecedented amount of $54.5 million to help secure Donald Trump’s victory, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political campaign spending. In the past several years, however, the group has become a lynchpin in the ongoing and fierce debate about gun control, the Second Amendment and mass shootings in the U.S.
In February, after the Parkland shooting left 17 dead, an online NRA boycott campaign went viral and a slew of notable companies – including United, Delta, Enterprise Holdings, First National Bank of Omaha and MetLife – announced they would sever ties with the group.
In response, the NRA said that boycotts would neither “scare nor distract” its members from defending gun rights.
Memberships and donations to the NRA tend to spike after mass shootings, which some experts believe is based on fear of tighter gun control regulation. After Parkland, for instance, donations to the NRA tripled, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.