Who’s Who in the World of Guns Rights Organizations?
You may think that all gun rights groups in the United States are created equally, but they’re not.
While their mission statements are largely the same – protecting Second Amendment rights for all American citizens – that’s where the similarities begin to take a subtle turn.
Some work almost exclusively for the firearms industry. Others represent grassroots gun owners against what they often say is a government hell-bent on eroding a constitutional right. Still others help shape firearms policy by directly lobbying federal, state, and local lawmakers. Most groups have programs that actively promote shooting and, particularly, shooting safety. All support regulated hunting. Many perform legal advocacy work and have argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. Some groups, depending on their nonprofit designation, make political endorsements, including for president.
Millions of American sportsmen and women, particularly hunters and shooting-sports enthusiasts, are members of gun rights groups. And some hardcore advocates are likely members of more than one.
Below are six vignettes of U.S. gun rights groups for Outdoor News Publications readers to learn about. For additional information, check out their websites.
Fairfax, Va. – https://home.nra.org
Formed in 1871, the National Rifle Association is the “oldest civil rights organization” in United States whose primary mission is defending Second Amendment rights, according to Jeremy Greene, NRA marketing and media relations director. The nonprofit group has 5 million members nationwide.
“They’re moms, dads, daughters, sons, friends and co-workers … with a common passion: “Our Second Amendment,” he said.
The NRA should appeal to hunters, Greene said, because the organization was founded “on the principles of firearms training and marksmanship.” The NRA, he said, has several programs promoting shooting and shooting safety. “The NRA established and developed the first hunter education program, which is now taught by state fish and game departments across the country and Canada,” said Greene.
The NRA’s website contains extensive information about its mission and its programs. That includes state-by-state grades and endorsements of political candidates. The NRA has several publications, including American Rifleman and American Hunter magazines. The group has several membership options, including its $35 annual membership.
Newtown, Conn. – nssf.org
Formed in 1961, the National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to “promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports.”
Bill Brassard, senior communications director for NSSF, said the nonprofit organization has roughly 12,000 members, which include manufacturers, distributors, retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and more. “NSSF members support a wide range of programs aimed at recruiting, training and ultimately retaining sport shooters and hunters,” he said.
Over the last decade, NSSF, Brassard said, has grown its government-relations efforts across the nation and will continue to do so “to protect the rights of hunters and shooters.” In addition, NSSF provides members with research and analysis on all industry trends. Research reports can be found on everything from firearms-related injury statistics to hunting demographics and expenditures to understanding peer influence on youth participation in hunting and shooting.
NSSF owns and operates the industry’s largest annual trade show. The SHOT show, which will be held this month in Las Vegas, brings in scores of firearms/outdoor industry exhibitors from as many as 100 countries.
Annual NSSF memberships start at $25.
Bellevue, Wash. – saf.org
Formed in 1974, the Second Amendment Foundation is dedicated to “promoting a better understanding” of America’s constitutional heritage to “privately own and possess firearms.” Dave Workman, the foundation’s communications director, said the nonprofit puts on numerous annual public “educational and legal action programs designed to better inform the public about the gun-control debate.” Each year, the foundation sponsors state and regional Leadership Training Conferences for “grassroots activists.”
“We’ve really become an established major force on the legal front,” said Workman, who noted the foundation and its attorneys have in recent years worked on several high-profile gun rights cases.
According to Workman, the foundation has 650,000 “members and supporters” that represent a “broad cross-section of the American public.” Annual memberships start at $25. The foundation has several publications, including TheGunMag.com and Women & Guns, which the foundation says is the world’s only women’s firearms magazine.
Springfield, Va. – gunownersofamerica.org
Formed in 1975, Gun Owners of America is a nonprofit “lobbying organization” whose mission is to “preserve and defend the Second Amendment rights of gun owners.” It’s been called the only no-compromise gun lobby in Washington.
“We see firearms ownership and the Second Amendment as a freedom issue,” said Larry Pratt, GOA’s longtime executive director.
From state legislatures to the U.S. Congress to city councils, Pratt said GOA represents the views of gun owners “wherever” their rights are threatened. Over the last 30 years, Pratt said the GOA has built a nationwide network of attorneys to help fight court battles that “seek to encroach on the rights of gun owners.”
GOA’s America Political Victory Fund raises funds for pro-gun candidates across all levels of government. GOA has endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, for president, according to Pratt.
The organization’s basic membership costs $20 annually. Members and nonmembers can sign up for its email alerts and get its newsletters on the organization’s website.
Windsor, Colo. – nationalgunrights.org
The National Association for Gun Rights is a “nonprofit, nonpartisan, single-purpose citizens’ organization” dedicated to “preserving and protecting” the right to keep and bear arms. Its mission is to mobilize public opposition to anti-gun legislation.
According to its website, the group, which has a satellite office in Virginia, has a membership of 3.5 million “grassroots activists” and works “tirelessly” to hold politicians accountable “for their anti-gun views.”
The group’s legal team is “constantly at work in the courts” defending the Second Amendment. NAGR supports concealed carry and believes “firearms training should be affordable, high-quality and legally optional.”
An individual membership costs $35 annually. Family memberships are $65. The group publishes a quarterly newsletter called The Gun Activist.
The Firearms Policy Coalition is a nonprofit, grassroots Second Amendment organization. Its stated purposes and objectives are many and include the “fundamental individual right to keep and bear arms.” According to its website, the organization supports and promotes the shooting sports and all lawful uses of firearms.
The organization’s website has a “news” tab that chronicles all current events and public policy issues surrounding the Second Amendment.
The Coalition’s annual membership costs $30. You can even register to vote through its website.