Gun Industry “Corporate Partners” Donated Between $19.3 million and $60.2 million to the NRA since 2005, New VPC Report Reveals
Washington, DC — The National Rifle Association has received up to $60.2 million in donations from the firearms industry since 2005, including eight “corporate partners” that each gave a million dollars or more, a new report from the Violence Policy Center (VPC) reveals.
In the new report, Blood Money II: How Gun Industry Dollars Fund the NRA, the VPC reveals that members of the gun industry have donated between $19.3 million and $60.2 million since 2005. And while the NRA claims on its website that it has no financial ties to the gun industry, its own publications, statements, and even awards ceremonies prove otherwise.
One of these “corporate partners” is Freedom Group, manufacturer of the Bushmaster assault rifle used in the mass shooting of 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012. Cerberus Capital Management, which owns a 94 percent share in Freedom Group, pledged to sell its investment in the days following the Sandy Hook shooting but has yet to uphold its promise.
After ramping up its financial support to a million dollars or more, Freedom Group’s leadership was inducted into the NRA’s Golden Ring of Freedom at the organization’s annual meeting in May 2013. The Golden Ring of Freedom is reserved for those who have “given gifts of cash totaling $1,000,000 or more,” according to the NRA.
A second inductee was Smith & Wesson, manufacturer of the assault rifle used in the July 2012 mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado that left 12 dead and 58 wounded. In a promotional video on the NRA’s website, Smith & Wesson CEO James Debney explains, “I think it’s important for everybody to step up and support the NRA. They are our voice.”
VPC Executive Director and study author Josh Sugarmann, a native of Newtown, states, “Less than five months after the tragedy in Newtown, while families and the entire community still mourned, the NRA was celebrating its financial ties to the manufacturer of the assault rifle used in the shooting. In the wake of declining household gun ownership, the NRA has turned to the funder of last resort: the gun industry itself.”
The VPC first exposed the gun industry’s growing financial support of the NRA in its original Blood Money study, released in 2011. At that time, gun industry financial support of the NRA totaled between $14.7 million and $38.9 million. Since then, the giving levels have risen dramatically. (The exact total is not possible to know because in its promotional efforts the NRA only reports a range of giving levels within its “Corporate Partners Program” — for example, gifts between $1 million and $5 million and gifts between $500,000 and $1 million.)
Freedom Group, Smith & Wesson, and other million-dollar donors were honored at the “biggest, best NRA Ring of Freedom Brunch ever” during the NRA’s May 2013 annual meeting in Houston, according to the group. These “selfless, passionate, and devoted leaders” were given yellow sports coats, each with a Golden Ring of Freedom crest on the front pocket, and then took part in “what has become a joyous — and loud — Golden Ring of Freedom custom: the ringing of the ‘Freedom’ bell.”
The new report shows the NRA’s top corporate benefactor remains MidwayUSA, the official sponsor of the organization’s annual meeting for this and previous years. MidwayUSA sells ammunition, high-capacity ammunition magazines, and other shooting accessories. MidwayUSA has donated more than $9 million to the NRA, primarily through its NRA Round-Up program, which rounds up customer purchases to the nearest dollar and gives the difference to the NRA’s lobbying arm.
Additional gun industry “corporate partners” that have given a million dollars or more to the NRA include: gunmakers Beretta USA, Springfield Armory, and Sturm, Ruger & Co; accessories vendor Brownells; and target manufacturer Pierce Bullet Seal Target Systems. Donors that have given $250,000 or more include: Benelli USA; Cabela’s; and Glock.
In addition to direct donations, the NRA has embarked on an aggressive series of “sponsorship” programs funded by the gun industry. Gun companies sponsor specific NRA programs, online features, and memberships. This year, Brownells, headed by NRA board member and newly minted Golden Ring of Freedom member Pete Brownell, renewed its commitment as the “presenting sponsor” of the NRA’s “Life of Duty” program, which allows individuals or corporations to purchase one-year NRA memberships for members of the military and law enforcement. And in December 2012, the NRA announced that Smith & Wesson would be the “presenting sponsor” of the NRA Women’s Network.
To read the full report, please visit http://www.vpc.org/studies/bloodmoney2.pdf. The report includes a full list of gun industry members and their funding levels as well as extensive quotes from both NRA officials and gun industry executives extolling the growing financial links between the two.