According to tax forms obtained by the Daily Beast, the NRA's membership dues brought in far less money in 2017 than the year before — $35 million less, to be exact. Contributions to the organization plummeted as well, and its total reported income was $55 million less in 2017 than the year before.
Of course, it's impossible to say exactly what caused the group's financial decline. But it's worth noting that the NRA has undergone a significant change since Trump's election — from a gun rights organization to a broader pro-Trump, anti-left advocacy group.
In 2017, the NRA released several ads that didn't mention guns at all, and focused solely on attacking opponents of the president. Those who don't support Trump, NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch intoned in one of the ads, are "saboteurs" whose "hateful defiance" of Trump constitutes "the most ruthless attack on a president ... in American history." Trump's opponents, Loesch says, want to "bully and terrorize" law-abiding citizens and "drive their daggers through the heart of our future," but will ultimately "perish in the political flames of their own fires."
But the NRA hasn't abandoned its pro-gun advocacy. After 17 people were killed in a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida in early 2018, Loesch represented the NRA at a CNN town hall meeting, and attempted to convince survivors of the shooting that stronger gun laws aren't necessary. Later, the president of the NRA accused the "Parkland kids" — a group of students who survived the shooting and subsequently became gun control advocates — of engaging in "civil terrorism" against gun owners.
As a result of these and other controversies, including one in which a host on NRA TV suggested in 2017 that North Korea should launch a nuclear attack on California, the NRA became the subject of renewed public criticism, and several big companies cut financial ties with the organization in light of that criticism.
Whether those financial boycotts played any role in the NRA's falling profits is unclear. What is clear is that between the end of 2016 and the end of 2017, the NRA's income from membership dues dropped from $163 million to $128 million, the Daily Beast reports. Contributions to the organization fell from $125 million to $98 million during that same period of time, and its total income plummeted from $367 million to $312 million.
As the Daily Beast notes, it's not unusual for the NRA to pull in more money during presidential elections than in off-years, and that could potentially explain the organization's recent financial decline. And yet in 2015, the NRA actually made more money in membership dues — $165.7 million, according to the Hill — than it did in 2016. Similarly, its total earnings in 2017 were around $33 million less than in 2015, so the organization's financial woes — and especially its drop in membership — can't be attributed entirely to 2017 being an off-year.
McClatchy reported in June that the NRA spent $70 million to elect Trump in 2016 (though only $30 million of that was required to be publicly disclosed). That may have worked out for Trump; for the NRA, not so much.