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Gun groups spent less on lobbying last year, when a new law passed

Disclosure laws do not cover grassroots efforts used by both sides

Chairman Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., conducts a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing titled “After the Highland Park Attack: Protecting Our Communities from Mass Shootings,” in July 2022.
Chairman Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., conducts a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing titled “After the Highland Park Attack: Protecting Our Communities from Mass Shootings,” in July 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Many of the biggest groups lobbying on federal gun policy, including the National Rifle Association and Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, spent less money to lobby the federal government in 2022 than in the previous year, even as Congress moved legislation.

The NRA posted the biggest decline in federal lobbying spending, reporting $2.5 million last year, compared with $4.9 million the prior year, according to lobbying disclosure reports filed with Congress. 

That dip in spending came as lawmakers, weeks after a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, moved a bipartisan measure to expand background checks for gun purchases and provide funding for some mental health initiatives. 

Lobbying disclosures do not capture grassroots efforts, which are a signature component for both sides of the gun legislation debate. 

“Last year, powered by thousands of grassroots Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers, Everytown helped pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act — breaking a nearly 30 year logjam on major federal action on gun safety,” Sahil Mehrotra, a spokesperson for Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a statement. “The results of our lobbying expenditures speak for themselves, and we continue to urge Congress to keep taking action on gun safety.”

The NRA, which has shown signs of declining influence in recent years, reported lobbying on a range of topics in its fourth quarter disclosure, including on background checks and on firearm bans and sales. 

Nominee defeated in 2021

“While others focus on inconsequential benchmarks, the NRA focuses on results for our members and gun owners,” an NRA spokesperson said in a statement to CQ Roll Call. “Our full-time in-house lobbying team represents NRA members on Capitol Hill and are the subject matter experts that elected officials turn to for Second Amendment policy. And in 2021, the effectiveness of our organization was on display when the NRA led the way in derailing the gun control lobby’s hand-picked candidate for ATF Director, David Chipman. NRA members remain ready to engage and respond during the 118th Congress on any issue that may impact their rights.”

Other groups that lobby in support of gun ownership rights also posted a decline in spending or about the same amount. The National Shooting Sports Foundation reported spending $4.9 million on federal lobbying in 2022, down from $5 million in 2021. Gun Owners of America spent $2.8 million in 2021 but had only reported about $800,000 last year for the first quarter and did not file reports for the other three quarters, according to House and Senate disclosure databases.

The National Association for Gun Rights reported spending $1.4 million last year, a decrease from nearly $1.6 million in 2021, lobbying reports show. Austin Hein, a registered in-house lobbyist for the association, noted that the group’s lobbying spending declined only in last year’s fourth quarter. In the first, second and third quarters, the association reported spending between $428,000 and $450,000, while it spent just shy of $290,000 in the fourth quarter. 

The fourth quarter dropped, Hein said, because the group was focused more on the midterm elections than on action on Capitol Hill, which was in recess for much of the fall campaigning period. In the new Congress, he said the group was focused on maintaining the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to break a filibuster and on making sure that the House Republican majority isn’t “caving to gun control.”

He noted that last year’s law had Republican and Democratic supporters. “So we need to make sure our Republican members of Congress aren’t reaching across the aisle to pass more unconstitutional gun control measures,” Hein said. 

‘Work remains the same’

On the other side of the gun policy debate, Giffords and Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund both reported spending less in 2022 than in 2021, with Giffords spending $280,000 in 2022 compared with $500,000 the year before and Sandy Hook Promise spending $320,000 last year compared with $455,000 the prior year, according to disclosures. 

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence increased its federal lobbying spending to $140,000 in 2022 from $130,000 in 2021. 

Christian Heyne, Brady’s vice president of policy and programs, said last year’s legislation was the culmination of years of lobbying. 

“The amount of organized effort across the Hill has been consistent over the last 10 years,” Heyne said. In the new Congress this year, he added, “The work remains the same.”

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