The NRA is far from the only pro-gun group at the table in state legislatures now. In Utah, one of the first states to remove permit requirements this year, it was just one of at least six gun rights groups speaking in favor of the bill at the Capitol — and it wasn’t the most outspoken one.
The number of generally pro-gun rights states outnumbers those that pass gun control measures 40 to 10, although the latter have more people, so the country’s population is about evenly divided between the two camps. And a Pew Research Center report released in April found the number of Americans who favor stricter gun laws has declined this year to 53%, down from 60% in September 2019.
“Gun rights, the Second Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms is bigger than any organization,” said Jordan Stein, communications director for the Gun Owners of America, one such group.
Gun owners would continue fighting if the organizations that often help them organize and coordinate around the issue were gone, he said.
Recent gun sales suggest a new zeal for owning a weapon. Gun dealers sold more than 2 million firearms in January, a 75% increase over the same month last year and the biggest-selling January on record, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, an industry trade group. The FBI, meanwhile, reported 4.3 million firearm-related background checks, the highest monthly total since the system was created over two decades ago.
While the NRA is easily the best-known gun lobby, Josh Horwitz, the executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said the real players are the state gun groups.
“The groups that work at the state level are much more powerful than they used to be,” Horwitz said. “Even if the NRA went away tomorrow, and it may, (Senate Republican leader) Mitch McConnell is still going to be checking in with whatever the Kentucky gun rights alliance is, and the Ohio legislature is going to be checking in with the Buckeye Firearms Association.
“We’re in a generational battle,” he added. “Guns in America is going to be a big fight for a long time.”
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