Despite strong gun sales, NRA membership apparently shrank in 2020

Evidence that many people may be withdrawing their financial support for the National Rifle Association given its recent troubles.

Trent Steidley

2020 was a gangbusters year for gun sales with a likely 20 million total gun sales. And the gun industry has been willing to say this is a strong sign of future support for gun rights going forward. An August press release from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) even inferred that at least 5 million new gun owners had been created by late 2020 and that “These first-time buyers represent a group of people who, until now, were agnostic regarding firearm ownership. That’s rapidly changing, and these Americans are taking hold of their God-given right to keep and bear arms and protect themselves and their loved ones.” So does it follow that strong gun sales in 2020 are going to translate into strong(er) support for gun rights from the public?

That is probably what the leadership of the The National Rifle Association (NRA) would be hoping for. The NRA…

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3 thoughts on “Despite strong gun sales, NRA membership apparently shrank in 2020

  1. If magazine subscription is a good proxy for membership, one concludes that membership goes up and down by up to eighty percent several times (1991,1998,2006). Really? Is there any collaborating evidence for such titanic swings? Maybe I missed it due to insufficient coffee and Daylight Savings Time kicking in, but I don’t think Trent discussed it.


    • I linked this story in original post, but I can expand on it here. (
      Mother Jones tracked the NRA’s claimed numbers and compared it to a limited run of these AAM data. There are indeed shifts that are quite sizable in the NRA’s membership overtime even looking at the their claimed numbers for the time periods that Khal mentions. To my knowledge, there have been no successful independent efforts to verify the NRA’s claimed membership with its actual numbers (i.e. a third party who could compare membership data to see if it adds up to the NRA’s claims). It appears that the NRA’s claimed membership is much larger than the magazine subscriptions, but they seem to trend up and down in much the same way.
      The AAM data though are verified by a third party (, which makes sense since advertisers want to know what the audience and that is indeed a certain size and the NRA wants to sell ad space in their magazines. So while its probably not a 1 to 1 measure of members, it is indeed an independently verified measure of “eyeballs on NRA media.” Which, again, is predominately (almost entirely?) offered to NRA members.


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