How the NRA Works

By: Vivien Bullen & Patrick J. Kiger

How Influential Is the NRA?

NRA members, Annual Meetings and Exhibits
NRA members visit exhibitor booths at the NRA's 146th annual Meetings and Exhibits on April 29, 2017 in Atlanta. Scott Olson/Getty Images

The NRA has been successful in helping to elect candidates who share its opposition to restricting Second Amendment rights, but it hasn't converted a majority of the American public to its view. Gallup polling from October 2017 showed that 60 percent of Americans think that laws covering the sale of firearms should be made stricter, with 33 percent saying they should be kept as they are now, and only 5 percent favoring loosening restrictions [source: Gallup].

NRA members tend to be more conservative than the American public, and even more so than other gun owners. According to a 2017 Pew Research Center poll, 77 percent of NRA members are Republicans or lean Republican, compared to 58 percent of gun owners who don't belong to the NRA. (Only 20 percent of NRA members are Democrats or lean Democrat.) Pew found that NRA members are more likely to own five or more weapons (52 percent) than non-NRA gun owners (24 percent), and they're more likely to have a gun loaded and accessible to them at all times (53 percent versus 34 percent for non-NRA gun owners). Additionally, 45 percent of the NRA members surveyed said that owning a gun is very important to their overall identity, compared to 20 percent of non-NRA gun owners [source: Pew].


Pew also found that NRA members, while generally for less legal restrictions on weaponry, weren't completely monolithic in their opposition to gun control. Eighty-eight percent favored allowing concealed carry of guns in more places, while 73 percent favored shortening waiting periods for purchase. But 79 percent favored preventing mentally ill people from buying guns, and 72 percent favored barring gun purchases by people on federal no-fly or watch lists. And a bare majority of 52 percent even favored requiring background checks for private gun sales and transactions at gun shows, a loophole that many gun control advocates want to close.

Sixty-three percent of NRA members thought the organization had the right amount of influence over gun laws in the U.S., and another 28 percent said it had too little influence. Only 9 percent felt it had too much influence. Meanwhile 50 percent of non-gun owners thought the NRA had too much influence and 34 percent felt it had the right amount [source: Pew].