The media seems to be going into spasms of anti-gun hysteria, all focused on the AR-15. I wouldn’t be surprised if they started claiming that AR-15s are responsible for nails in your tires, cracks in the wall, mosquito bites, and that annoying itch on your nose that only starts once you’ve picked up something heavy.
Imagine my shock when I saw an article at NPR saying, in essence, AR-15s and similar rifles are pretty ordinary, common guns that average people own for normal, non-mass-shooty things.
They seem to love quoting anti-gun UCLA professor Adam Winkler, but even he had this to say:
“These are widely available in gun stores all across America. They’re incredibly popular firearms among hobbyists and gun enthusiasts…They’ve really caught on, just because of their military styling and because of their ease of use and customization. They’re very highly customizable. You can put on your own component parts to it, take things out and easily put new things in. So some people have likened it to the iPhone of guns.”
Despite its popularity, the AR-15 is not widely used in violent crimes. The rifle’s size makes it difficult to conceal, so most criminals tend to choose something smaller, like a handgun, Winkler says. Even most mass killings are carried out using other types of weapons such as handguns, he says.
Wow. They even quoted the Gun Owners of America website about why people like such guns.
Of course, they couldn’t help quoting the anti-gun tabloid New York Daily News, nor the ambulance-chasing attorney representing Sandy Hook parents in their lawsuit against gun manufacturers, but the bulk of the article is talking about how modern firearms are popular and normal.
Did I roll out of bed and find myself in some sort of bizarro opposite world?
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.
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?
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.