The Washington Post reports that subscriptions to National Rifle Association print publications are up about 350,000 between February and June. Since the NRA doesn’t release membership numbers, the WaPo figures that’s a good proxy indicating a surge in new memberships since the Parkland shooting on February 14.
All NRA members are entitled to a complimentary print or digital subscription to one of four magazines — American Rifleman, American Hunter, America’s First Freedom and Shooting Illustrated. As part of its outreach to advertisers, the NRA releases subscriber numbers for each of the four magazines on a semiannual basis. Those numbers are independently verified by the Alliance for Audited Media, a third-party media consulting firm.
The NRA’s latest AAM statements, which cover January through June, show total magazine subscriptions increasing from 3,746,153 to 4,066,198 over that period. Much of that increase comes from Shooting Illustrated, which was added to the NRA’s roster in 2016. This year marks the first time the NRA has included it in AAM statements.
The increase came after a lull following the 2016 elections and the perception by many gun owners that the threat to gun rights would subside after the Obama administration rode off into the sunset.
Monthly figures going back several years show that subscriptions to the other three magazines peaked in October 2016 and had been steadily declining through 2017. But the trends show an inflection point in April and May of this year, after which the numbers began to rise again. That time period corresponds to an April pledge by the group to sign up 100,000 new members in 100 days.
As we’ve seen before, nothing sells guns or NRA memberships like a media-enabled post-mass-shooting national push to further restrict Americans’ Second Amendment rights. And this year the advent of the heavily AstroTurfed Parkland Funky Bunch’s national media blitz and summer gun control tour no doubt provided just the impetus many Americans needed to send in their NRA dues.
But the WaPo expresses skepticism about the six million member total the NRA has claimed recently.
The NRA currently claims a membership of about 6 million individuals. It’s unclear why that figure is higher than the 4 million magazine subscribers, considering that all individual members are entitled to a subscription. In the past, the group has said that digital-only subscriptions are not included in the AAM statements and that some members choose to forgo subscriptions completely. The NRA did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
As someone who’s one of those NRA members who chooses not to receive any of their magazines, your faithful correspondent can well believe that there are a great many more dues-paying members than those who receive those dead tree publications.
While the Parkland shooting galvanized supporters of stricter gun-control laws, other evidence suggests that many gun owners were similarly spurred to action. In the month following the shooting, for instance, donations to the NRA’s Political Victory Fund surged to a 21st century high.
So just as President Obama earned his title as the greatest gun salesman in American history, David Hogg and his high school pals have worked as hard to increase the NRA’s membership rolls as any other group ever has. New York’s Governor Soprano is doing his bit, too. And if the GOP loses the House of Representatives this fall, it may not be long before the NRA soon claims seven million members.