Tuesday’s tragic shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, has once again stirred up the debate over gun control. A surge in lobbying by gun rights groups last year, though, could stave off significant changes.
Lobbying spending by those groups set a new record in 2021, according to a report from OpenSecrets. Gun rights groups spend $15.8 million on lobbying last year, compared to just $2.9 million in lobbying from gun control groups. That is more than five times as much. In the first quarter of 2022, gun rights groups have spent $2 million and gun control groups just $609,000.
That 2021 figure is the highest total from gun rights groups since 2013, when gun control was a front and center topic following the Dec. 14, 2012 attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which saw 20 children and six adults killed.
At least 19 children and two teachers were killed in Texas Tuesday when a gunman opened fire at Robb Elementary School. Several more students were wounded in the attack. President Joe Biden, speaking Tuesday night, called for limits on the sale of powerful weapons.
Since 1998, gun rights groups have spent $190 million on lobbying, with 60% of that total being spent in the past nine years. Gun control advocates have spent just $30 million since 1998.
Beyond lobbying, gun control groups have contributed $50.5 million to federal candidates and party committees between 1989 and 2022, with the vast majority going to Republicans. They spent especially heavily in the 2020 election, with $16.6 million in outside spending. For 2022, they’ve already contributed $4.4 million, says OpenSecrets, based on its analysis of Federal Election Commission data.
The National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America are the leading contributors of lobbying and campaign contribution spending for gun rights groups.
Spending on House and Senate races generally pales in comparison to the amount these groups spend on presidential and gubernatorial elections. For instance, in 2020, the NRA alone spent over $12 million campaigning against Biden and another $4.5 million in favor of Donald Trump. (Some high-profile Senate races, like Jon Ossoff vs David Purdue in Georgia in 2020, capture millions in spending, but the NRA’s candidates lost those races.)
That said, Texas Senator Ted Cruz has been the biggest beneficiary of those groups when it comes to campaign spending. A separate study by OpenSecrets looking at funds received by gun rights groups from 1989-2020 shows he has received a disproportionately larger amount of funds from those groups, compared to other lawmakers.
Cruz received $442,333 in that time period, compared to $248,058 to Steve Scalise, the second-largest recipient of funds from gun rights groups.
Here’s how the list of politicians who have benefited from gun rights lobbying stands, minus 2021 contributions. (Note: Don Young (R, Alaska) would have ranked fourth on this list, but passed away in March, 2022.)
Ted Cruz (R, Texas) – $442,333
Steve Scalise (R, La.) – $248,058
John Cornyn (R, Texas) – $238,875
Pete Sessions (R, Texas) – $202,926
Ron Johnson (R, Wis.) – $197,993
John Thune (R, SD) – $186,260
Mitch McConnell (R, Ky.) – $179,557
Ken Calvert (R, Calif.) – $166,116
Pat Toomey (R, Penn.) – $162,676
Marco Rubio (R, Fla.) – $161,044
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