The NRA and Me
There is no independently verified count of the National Rifle Association’s membership. What does seem indisputable is that the NRA contains multitudes. There’s the group’s combative and uncompromising leadership. There are the few hundred thousand loyalists who vote in its board elections. And there is the NRA’s rank and file members, which, below the surface, defy simple categorizations.
Late last summer, Kerry Shaw, a frequent contributor to The Trace, commenced a series of in-depth phone conversations with more than a dozen current and former NRA members around the country. She wanted to understand what leads some gun owners to find kinship in the group (or, in some cases, what pushed them to part ways with it). Much of what she learned added color to what surveys have documented in the aggregate: NRA members are significantly more conservative on matters of firearm laws than gun owners as a whole. But nearly all of those Kerry spoke with mentioned new safety measures that they would support. Many expressed deep grief about shooting victims, even as they remain deeply skeptical of the solutions championed by gun violence prevention advocates.
When the NRA gathered in Dallas for its 2018 annual convention, we published the remarks that stood out in Kerry’s more than 40 hours of interviews. Each of the Americans you will meet here has a different relationship with the NRA. All of them are very much “gun people,” which may make their perspectives new to readers who are not. After speaking with them for the first time last year, Kerry went back to the gun owners she met through this project to see if any of the views that they had shared in their first conversations had changed after the Parkland shooting. None reported having their core beliefs on firearms changed by the debate now raging around them.