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.
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.
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.