The Women’s March on Washington claim that “over 1 million [people] in Washington” and “over 5 million [people] worldwide” marched the other day. Very cool. I’m happy to see people peacefully exercising their rights and making their voices heard.
Assuming their numbers are accurate, and I have no particular reason to doubt them, I find it interesting how these marchers are — according to both themselves and the media — are part of some mass movement that should influence public policy and to which politicians and other people of influence should particularly listen.
Yet, the NRA with its 5+ million members (not to mention other groups, like the GOA, SAF, etc. with hundreds of thousands of members) is a fringe group of cousin-humping rednecks that should be mocked, denigrated, and ignored by those in positions of authority.
Funny how numbers mean different things.
Back in late 2013 I checked how popular various pro- and anti-gun groups were on Facebook at Twitter. I figured I’d repeat the analysis to see how things have changed in the intervening years. Newly-added groups or individuals are bolded.
Gun Rights Groups:
- National Rifle Association (Facebook): 4,360,790 (2013: 2,748,839) +58.64%
- National Rifle Association (Twitter): 294,000 (2013: 191,692) +53.37%
- Gun Owners of America (Facebook): 1,107,856 (2013: 276,867) +300.14%
- Gun Owners of America (Twitter): 68,300 (2013: 22,786) +199.75%
- Second Amendment Foundation (Facebook): 378,722 (2013: 119,810) +216.1%
- Second Amendment Foundation (Twitter): 11,200 (2013: 4,962) +125.72%
- National Association for Gun Rights (Facebook): 4,274,248
- National Association for Gun Rights (Twitter): 7,424
- Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (Facebook): 205,747
- Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (Twitter): 1,442
- National Shooting Sports Foundation (Facebook): 348,490 (2013: 157,718) +120.96%
- National Shooting Sports Foundation (Twitter): 41,800 (2013: 21,104) +98.07%
- SHOT Show ? run by NNSF (Facebook): 96,866 (2013: 44,573) +117.32%
- SHOT Show ? run by NSSF (Twitter): 51,400 (2013: 23,649) +117.35%
- Glock, Inc. (Facebook): 1,475,378 (2013: 614,185) +140.22%
- Glock, Inc. (Twitter): 158,000 (2013: 63,336) +149.46%
- Smith & Wesson (Facebook): 1,184,344 (2013: 680,937) +73.93%
- Smitth & Wesson: (Twitter): 140,000 (2013: 54,447) +157.13%
- Sturm, Ruger & Company (Facebook) 493,549 (2013: 345,734) +42.75%
- Sturm, Ruger & Company (Twitter): N/A (Ruger appears to have no Twitter presence anymore.) (2013: 18,310)
Gun Control Groups:
- Americans for Responsible Solutions (Facebook): 177,283 (2013: 89,414) +98.27%
- Americans for Responsible Solutions (Twitter): 1,671 (2013: 210,708) -99.21%
- Mayors Against Illegal Guns (Facebook): N/A (MAIG no longer has a Facebook account.) (2013: 19,271)
- Demand Action ? MAIG on Twitter (Twitter): N/A (MAIG no longer has a Twitter account.) (2013: 26,860)
- Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America (Facebook): 442,548 (2013: 122,938) +259.98%
- Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America (Twitter): 36,500 (2013: 12,254) +197.86%
- Brady Campaign (Facebook): 112,893 (2013: 58,650) +92.49%
- Brady Campaign (Twitter): 25,600 (2013: 17,170) +49.1%
- Violence Policy Center (Facebook): 58,268 (2013: 20,571) +183.25%
- Violence Policy Center (Twitter): 3,926 (2013: 1,934) +103%
- CSGV (Facebook): 198,066 (2013: 46,314) +327.66%
- CSGV (Twitter): 13,800 (2013: 9,575) +44.13%
- Shannon Watts (Facebook): 1,166
- Shannon Watts (Twitter): 11,800
- Everytown for Gun Safety (Facebook): 905,324 (Everytown didn’t exist in 2013, but was formed from MAIG.) +636.41%
- Everytown for Gun Safety (Twitter): 56,500
What can we learn from these numbers?
Compared to the 2013 stats, all entries on the list except Ruger (who discontinued their Twitter account) and ARS (who lost essentially all of their Twitter readers, for whatever reason) had significant growth.
The NRA alone has more than 2.3x the number of Facebook followers of all the gun control groups combined. The National Association for Gun Rights is nipping at the heels of the NRA, with 98% of the number of followers. The GOA has only 58% the followers of all the gun control groups combined, though they dominate all the gun control groups except Bloomberg-funded Everytown.
The Brady Campaign (5.9% of gun control followers) and VPC (3.1%) are more or less rounding errors, with ARS (9.3%) and CSGV (10%) being only slight better.
Everytown alone has 47% of the total number of gun control followers. Everytown + MDA make up 71% of the total number of gun control followers, though the GOA + SAF have 10% more followers than Everytown + MDA. Glock alone has 9.5% more followers than Everytown + MDA.
Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a Colorado no-compromise gun rights group, has more Facebook followers than any gun control group except Everytown and MDA.
Recently I’ve seen gun control advocates suggest that they have enough people on their side to join the NRA en masse, outnumber the gun owning members, and either dismantle the organization or vote in NRA elections to change the group’s position on issues. Although absurd on its face, the proposal is even more laughable when you consider that the grand total of people who’ve clicked “Like” to *any* of the gun control groups on Facebook is less than half the number of people who’ve done so for the NRA even though clicking “Like” involves no expense or effort. Actually joining the NRA requires the expenditure of actual money for 5 years to get voting privileges, something essentially none of the gun control advocates are willing to do.
Every single one of the gun-rights groups is a membership organization funded by dues-paying ordinary people. None of the gun-control groups have dues-paying members, and while some individuals and groups donate money to the groups, the vast majority of the funding for Everydown and MDA (the only groups that matter) comes from Bloomberg and other wealthy elites.
Gun control groups are basically paper tigers, though backed by Bloomberg’s billions, at least two of those tigers have a bit of a bite. We should be wary.
Nikki, a blogger I had (to my detriment) previously been unaware of, responds to a sniveling coward who goes into full Pants Shitting Hysteria when confronted by an NRA decal on someone’s car window.
Read the whole thing.
Pennsylvania recently passed a law that allows membership groups (read: the NRA), including those without legal standing (that is, they haven’t been directly harmed by a law), to sue cities that have enacted gun laws that violate the state preemption laws. If they win, the plaintiff would be entitled to attorneys fees.
It’s no surprise that clueless anti-freedom people such as Elanor Clift (who recently penned this missive) try to spin this situation as horrible and the NRA as some sort of soulless monster intent on stripping “common sense gun laws” from poor, helpless cities.
For example ((I’m leaving out the absurd misunderstanding of the so-called “Florida loophole” that Ms. Clift makes and am focusing solely on the preemption issue.)),
Ed Foley, the mayor of Jenkintown, a borough in the Philadelphia suburbs, told the Daily Beast that the NRA forced him ?to choose between public safety and financial solvency.? […] Under the threat of a lawsuit brought by the NRA, an ordinance in place since 2010 requiring Jenkintown residents to report lost or stolen firearms at the police station was rescinded in a public meeting. ?It was a hold-your-nose vote,? says Foley. ?It?s such an innocuous law, and it doesn?t do anything to restrict anybody?s right to have a gun. I don?t know why the NRA isn?t a bigger supporter of the police. The police want the law.?
Naturally, they focus on how reasonable and “innocuous” that law is, and that the “police want the law”. Who could argue with something as sensible as requiring that someone who had their gun stolen report that theft to the police?
Indeed, I agree — in principle — that such laws are not an undue burden on honest gun owners, subject to certain conditions. I do, however, think that they’re useless: honest people would report their stolen property to the police anyway and seek reimbursement from their insurance company. Straw purchasers, who the law is seemingly aimed at, probably wouldn’t. Thus, the law would essentially only affect honest people while doing effectively nothing about straw purchasers.
But I digress. The effectiveness or innocuousness ((Which is, I was somewhat surprised to discover, actually a word.)) of a particular law is not the issue. The issue — which is conveniently ignored by anti-gun writers — is that such laws violate state preemption law and are thus invalid. The new law allowing challenges to such invalid, illegal “laws” seeks to remedy this without requiring that someone be made a sacrificial lamb by violating the law and challenging it in court.
If the people of Pennsylvania think that lost-and-stolen laws are a good idea, they’re welcome to write and submit a bill in the state legislature. Such a law would be perfectly legal everywhere in the state. However, cities and other localities lack the legal authority to pass gun laws — any gun laws — in the state, and it’s wrong for them to ignore preemption, even if they have the best of intentions.
Hat tip to Sebastian.
Overall, the election seems to have gone well for the pro-freedom side: Republicans (who are typically, but not always, pro-gun-rights) have a substantial majority in both federal houses. Unsurprisingly, the forecast at FiveThirtyEight was quite accurate, and better than most individual polls.
As usual, the true winners are the TV companies who made zillions of bucks running political ads.
I can only hope that the Republicans use their majorities in both houses to actually accomplish productive things and avoid burning precious political capital on divisive social issues. We’ll see.
Republican governors were elected in blue Maryland and Massachusetts, which surprised me, while a Democrat was elected as governor in Pennsylvania. The race in Colorado is too close to call yet, but FiveThirtyEight is predicting that Hickenlooper will barely squeak by with a win, or potentially a runoff.
As expected, endorsements from gun-control groups were essentially meaningless outside of “safe” districts: the Americans for Responsible Solutions “Champions for Common Sense Official Election Night Tally Card” listed 13 races in the House and Senate. While AZ-2 is still being counted (with the two candidates within a few handful of votes of each other at the current moment), six of the ARS-endorsed candidates lost their elections.
Miguel has a good rundown of what Bloomberg’s money got him (hint: not much, with about 50% of those he endorsed or funded losing their races).
Although they were roundly rebuked in most races, gun-control groups did have one victory worth noting: I-594 in Washington (which mandates background checks on nearly all transfers of firearms, including temporary transfers) passed with just under 60% of the vote, significantly less than the “90% of Americans” that gun-control groups claim support such measures. Gun-control groups wildly outspent pro-gun-rights group by more than a factor of 17, with gun-control groups (and a few wealthy benefactors like Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and Nick “We need more school shootings!” Hanauer) contributing more than $10.6 million, while pro-gun groups and individuals only contributed a bit more than $602,000. The fact that a school shooting took place in Washington just a few weeks before the election probably helped bolster support for the measure, even though the measure (if in effect at the time) would have made no difference.
The Bradys (and their allies) are spinning the passage of I-594 as “the only place where guns were directly on the ballot this election day” while ignoring the dozens of races where gun-control supporters were defeated. While the measure is likely to be challenged in court, the gun-control side is happy about this one victory and promises that it is an “indication of things to come”. It’d be worthwhile to keep your eyes open for when similar measures are proposed in other states — such measures need to be challenged early.
In short: it wasn’t a perfect election for the pro-gun-rights side, but overall we did pretty well. Gun control at the federal level is now essentially off the table, though we need to be concerned about state-level measures promoted by big-money groups and donors.
My strategy for political fundraising is pretty simple: like many people, I join membership organizations that are aligned with my position on a particular issue (( For example, the NRA, GOA, and SAF for gun rights, the ACLU and EFF for freedom of speech, privacy, etc. )), keep my membership up to date, and subscribe to their mailing lists.
Additionally (and in my view, more critically), I also subscribe to the mailing lists of groups advocating against my position. For example, I’m subscribed to ARS mailing list (( I’d subscribe to Everytown and CSGV, but I’m not sure I could survive bashing my head against the wall that frequently. )). Whenever they send out a message calling for more donations (( ARS often asks for small donation amounts and has an “anonymous donor” that will match all contributions. Anyone know who that donor is? )) I make a note of the amount they request. Every few months I add up all the requests that ARS makes, double it, and split that amount between contributions to the NRA, GOA, and SAF.
Groups like the NRA, GOA, and SAF work to concentrate and amplify the voices of their members. Individually, a vote or a letter to your legislator isn’t terribly meaningful, and I can’t make flashy TV ads or do much with $50, but the NRA and other groups can use that money much more effectively for lobbying, advertising, etc.
While I can’t hold a candle to Bloomberg’s billions, I try to do my part.
I’m curious what strategies others have when it comes to fundraising and political advocacy. Thoughts?
Americans for Responsible Solutions seems to be getting a bit nervous.
Here’s an excerpt from a recent fundraising email entitled “Potentially devastating” which I received from them:
Bad news. This headline just came in:
NRA goes big in key 2014 races
“The National Rifle Association has reserved $11.4 million for its initial fall advertising campaign and will begin airing its first TV commercials in three Senate races crucial to determining which party controls the chamber next year.
“The gun rights group said it plans to spend much more than the initial outlay during the final weeks before the midterm elections.”
$11.4 million, with “much more” to come? That could be more than enough money to unseat leaders in Congress who support commonsense proposals to reduce gun violence.
We [ARS] already have ads on the air in 4 House races. But now that the NRA’s moving into statewide races, we need to be there too.
Our country simply can’t afford to lose members of Congress who voted to expand background checks. If they lose, the gun lobby’s candidates will sit in the House, Senate, and governors’ mansions around the country.
They won’t just block expanded background checks — they could even roll back some of the most basic laws in place that help make our communities safer.
It sounds like ARS is getting worried. Good.
From guns.com comes this report that, effective August 1st, 2014, it will be legal to hunt game in Louisiana with suppressors, thus adding Louisiana to the list of 33 states where hunting with suppressors is legal.
Hunters in the Sportsman?s Paradise will be able to use legally-owned suppressors to both harvest game and control pests following Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal?s signing of House Bill 186 into law Friday.
HB186 strikes the state’s ban on using National Firearms Act-registered suppressors, commonly but incorrectly referred to as “silencers,” in hunting, and replaces it with language to allow widespread use by lawful sportsmen.
The popular bill had sailed through the state Legislature, passing the Senate unanimously on May 20 with little comment by lawmakers.
“This is about mitigating the noise and preventing hearing loss,” said Rep. Cameron Henry (R-Metairie), sponsor of the legislation.
The law will?allow any person who possesses an NFA-compliant and properly registered firearm suppressor to use the device to both harvest game animals as well as pests and nuisance wildlife such as beaver and nutria. However, in an apparent bid to void use by those with a history of poaching, it forbids the use of suppressed firearms by those who have been convicted of certain wildlife violations in the past five years.
As a suppressor owner and advocate, this is excellent news. I had no idea that so many states allowed hunting with suppressors.
I really should join the American Suppressor Association, as they and the NRA were instrumental in getting this bill passed.
Of course, not everyone was happy:
Only a handful of Louisiana House representatives voted against the suppressor bill when it passed through that chamber in an 82-15 vote in April. Those who did oppose it voiced concerns about the use of suppressors by criminals as well as the broad allowances to use the devices for virtually all game in the state.
“I don?t know why we need silencers to hunt birds,” said Rep. Austin Badon (D-New Orleans). “We don?t need this bill.”
For some reason, Americans are seemingly unique in the widespread belief that suppressors are tools of assassins, hit men, secret agents, and other stealthy types. In many countries, including those that are decidedly anti-gun like the UK, the use of suppressors is considered one of being polite and neighborly: just as it’s rude and disturbing to drive a car without a muffler, shooting unsuppressed firearms can be impolite in some circumstances.
Rep. Badon is off the mark: all shooters should be able to use suppressors if they wish, and their use should be encouraged. Not only does it help reduce hearing damage for the shooter, but it minimizes the irritation of those who may be disturbed by the sound of unsuppressed shooting. Win-win for everyone.
Gun control groups routinely tout that they’re representing some large fraction of Americans in order to boost their claims to legitimacy. I’ve always been a bit skeptical about this, since various public records seem to show extremely low numbers of paid members among gun control groups, and high numbers of paid members of gun-rights groups.
I generally consider paid membership numbers to be more reflective of actual interest, as paid members are putting their money where their mouth is. Still, knowing how popular various groups are on the two major social media services — Facebook and Twitter — can yield some insight, particularly into how interested slightly-to-moderately motivated subset of the population is in what they say. Clicking a button to “Like” something on Facebook or “follow” them on Twitter requires basically no effort and allows one to get updates from those that they “Like” or “follow”. Since there’s essentially no barrier to entry, I’d expect that social media numbers would be a good way to measure the relative interest in what the different groups have to say.
I reviewed the numbers of Facebook “Likes” and Twitter “followers” (hereafter referred to as “subscribers”) for gun rights groups, gun companies and industry trade groups, and anti-gun groups on November 8th, 2013 at about 9:00pm UTC. Here’s what I found:
Gun Rights Groups:
- National Rifle Association (Facebook): 2,748,839
- National Rifle Association (Twitter): 191,692
- Gun Owners of America (Facebook): 276,867
- Gun Owners of America (Twitter): 22,786
- Second Amendment Foundation (Facebook): 119,810
- Second Amendment Foundation (Twitter): 4,962
- National Shooting Sports Foundation (Facebook): 157,718
- National Shooting Sports Foundation (Twitter): 21,104
- SHOT Show – run by NNSF (Facebook): 44,573
- SHOT Show – run by NSSF (Twitter): 23,649
- Glock, Inc. (Facebook): 614,185
- Glock, Inc. (Twitter): 63,336
- Smith & Wesson (Facebook): 680,937
- Smitth & Wesson: (Twitter): 54,447
- Sturm, Ruger & Company?(Facebook) 345,734
- Sturm, Ruger & Company?(Twitter): 18,310
Gun Control Groups:
- Americans for Responsible Solutions (Facebook): 89,414
- Americans for Responsible Solutions (Twitter): 210,708 ((There is no official ARS Twitter account, so this is the sum of followers for Rep. Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, as their individual accounts are mentioned specifically on the ARS website and who have 139,800 and 70,908 followers, respectively.))
- Mayors Against Illegal Guns (Facebook): 19,271
- Demand Action – MAIG on Twitter (Twitter): 26,860
- Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America (Facebook): 122,938
- Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America (Twitter): 12,254
- Brady Campaign (Facebook): 58,650
- Brady Campaign (Twitter): 17,170
- Violence Policy Center (Facebook): 20,571
- Violence Policy Center (Twitter): 1,934
- CSGV (Facebook): 46,314
- CSGV (Twitter): 9,575
What does this tell us? First off, it’s noteworthy to point out that all groups except Americans for Responsible Solutions had far more subscribers on Facebook than on Twitter. Perhaps the ability to post arbitrary-length messages on Facebook is preferable to the 140-character limit imposed by Twitter?
The fact that the NRA has the largest number of subscribers is unsurprising: they are a huge organization and have ~5 million dues-paying members and a very active public outreach group. They also have a substantial number of subscribers on Twitter.
I was surprised by the number of subscribers to the Gun Owners of America Facebook account: the GOA is a no-compromise group that, while having about 300,000 dues-paying members, also has nearly that many Facebook subscribers, about 77% the number of Facebook subscribers to all the gun control groups combined.
I was also surprised at the number of subscribers to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. The NSSF is the firearms industry trade group and I don’t normally think of it catering to the general public. Still, it has more Facebook subscribers than all but one of the gun control groups. The SHOT Show, an annual trade show for the shooting sports industry, is not open to the public yet still has more Facebook subscribers than the CSGV, VPC, and Mayors Against Illegal Guns and more Twitter subscribers than all but two of the gun control groups.
Glock and Smith & Wesson, both gun companies, each have roughly 2x the number of Facebook subscribers of all of the gun control groups combined. Each has more Twitter followers than all but one of the gun control groups. Ruger has roughly as many Facebook followers as all the gun control groups combined, and more Twitter subscribers than half of the gun control groups.
Even though there’s essentially no effort involved in subscribing to a group’s Facebook or Twitter feed and people can subscribe with a single click, the gun control groups have a rather poor showing: the only group to exceed 100,000 subscribers on Facebook (something achieved by every pro-gun or industry group, with the exception of the SHOT Show) was Moms Demand Gun Sense in America. They are roughly tied for subscribers as the Second Amendment Foundation, a group more normally found successfully fighting legal battles in courtrooms rather than reaching out to the public on social media. MDA has fewer Twitter followers than any individual pro-gun or industry group with the exception, again, of the SAF.
The NRA alone has more Facebook subscribers than all of the Facebook and Twitter subscribers of all of the anti-gun groups combined. Talk about the 800lb gorilla in the room.
It’s pretty clear that the pro-gun-rights side has far more popular support, not only among dues-paying members, but also among people who need only click a mouse button to register their support.
As to whether or not these levels of support hold when extended to include the general public, I leave as an exercise to the reader and the professionals.
If anyone has details on other groups, either pro- or anti-gun that you’d like me to add to the list, please let me know and I’d be happy to add them. I just picked the groups that I happened to be aware of and that had at least a moderate presence on these two social media platforms.
I’ve been a Life Member of the NRA for many years now and while I occasionally disagree with certain things they do ((I’m not a big fan of Wayne LaPierre and think that his constant demonizing of “liberals”, while occasionally well-deserved, is driving otherwise-sympathetic people away from the NRA and gun rights in general when our side needs them the most.)), overall I’ve been quite happy with them.
In addition to subscribing to several pro-gun blogs, twitter feeds, and mailing lists, I also subscribe to several belonging to anti-gun-rights groups just so I can keep up to date on what’s going on. In particular, I’m interested in the so-called “moderate groups” like Mark Kelly and Gabby Gifford’s?Americans for Responsible Solutions which, despite their mild name and claims to being moderate, continue to promote the same tried-and-ineffective policies like bans on popular guns, limiting magazine capacity, banning private transfers, and other policies that seem to come directly from groups like the VPC and the Brady Campaign.
In the days leading up to the big Senate vote, I received several letters from ARS asking for donations and support for their cause. Instead, I donated twice the amount ARS requested to the NRA-ILA.
Budget permitting, I will continue to do so for the foreseeable future and?recommend?that you do too.