NRA Membership Numbers Are Not Slightly Exaggerated – They’re Outright Lies

NRA badge @ Sodahead

NRA badge @ Sodahead

It seems that the tragic mass shooting seen at Sandy Hook Elementary has caused many people to think a bit more on the issue of gun control. It even caused a lot of people to drop their membership in the NRA, even some famous members like former President George Bush, Sr. In response to this drop, the NRA fought back to get those losses back. Just eighteen days after the school shooting, the NRA claimed to have 100,000 more members.

According to a report by the Atlantic Wire from December 20, just days after Sandy Hook event, the NRA claims that their total membership is a whopping 4.3 million. The number came directly from the NRA’s website but, since that time, it seems that the NRA got wind of the misleading number, resulting in a dead link. The question of numbers becomes much more foggy when looking at the 2012 sponsorship prospectus. It touts a membership of around two million. It seems that this purposeful misrepresentation of membership numbers has been going on for a while. A report by Mother Jones shows that it’s been going on since at least 2001. Why would there be such a discrepancy in their numbers? It seems this Ponzi scheme has many layers.

The report by Mother Jones reveals one reason for the discrepancy. It seems that some of the inflation comes from doing what the Mormons do – counting the dead. Yes, you read that correctly. Journalist Osha Gray revealed to Mother Jones that the numbers are inflated by at least one million.

Two years ago, David Gross, then an NRA board member, confided to me that a substantial number of the group’s 1 million Life Members are, well, dead. “There just isn’t that much incentive to go find out when someone passes away,” Gross explained. “Not when the cost of maintaining (a dead member) is minimal and when they add to your membership list.”

Another way that the organization fudges its numbers is by requiring someone to become a member in order to practice shooting at their local range. Not all ranges require this, but some choose to do it so that they can qualify for grant money from the NRA. It’s hard to fathom exactly how many clubs require this of their members, but surely the number cannot be discounted.

One other way that the NRA adds fake members is through membership drives. Like any organization that is trying to increase membership, it acquires lists that contain people’s names and addresses. It sends postcards to people on the list, and if they send it back, their name gets added to the membership rolls. In fact, there’s a case where someone received one of those postcards and sent it back with comments that they did not want to belong. Lo and behold, the person received their very own NRA membership card. Knowing that the organization doesn’t care to clean up its membership rolls by checking to see if someone has passed away, it’s highly probable that they would ignore what someone writes on a postcard, and enroll them anyway.

This deception in membership numbers may not seem that important. However, in light of the recent backlash against the NRA for lack of cooperation to close loopholes in the law, and even finger-pointing at other causes for mass shootings, this only points out the hypocrisy of it all. If the NRA is willing to lie about something as simple as how many people have joined the organization willingly, it brings into question many other issues that impact everyone, whether or not they own a gun. It compels the question, what else are they lying about?