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Fact-checking Gillibrand's claim NRA 'is largely funded' by gun makers

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By Holmes Lybrand, CNN

During her CNN town hall Tuesday night, Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York addressed a question on gun control and her personal shift from receiving an A-rating by the National Rifle Association during her time as a member of the House of Representatives to the F-rating she maintains as a senator.

In her answer, Gillibrand went after the NRA. "Let's be really clear what the issue is. It's the NRA, and it's greed. The NRA is largely funded by the gun manufacturers."

Facts First: Gillibrand is incorrect. The NRA is not "largely funded" by gun makers.

There are two ways to think of the NRA's funding: the money it raises for the operating budget of its core organization, and the money its political action committee (PAC) raises.

"Less than 5% of NRA's operating budget comes from the gun industry including everyone from Bass Pro Shops to Billy's Gun Shop," NRA spokesperson Lars Dalseide told CNN. "The money NRA raises for political purposes comes from donations that average less than $50 from every day Americans from all across the country."

This is not to say that the NRA does not receive money from gun manufacturers. The Violence Policy Center, a pro-gun control organization, claims that from 2005 to 2013 the firearms industry "donated between $19.3 million and $60.2 million." (This range is extremely wide and broader than "gun manufacturers" as it includes gun retailers as well as manufacturers.) But in 2017 alone, the NRA's core organization reported $98 million in contributions, a 22% decrease from 2016, according to the Daily Beast.

"The overwhelming majority of our funding comes from membership dues and donations," said Dalseide. The NRA currently has 5 million members, whose fee sits at $45 a year (or $75 for two years, $100 for three, and $150 for four).

In 2014, the average donation from the nearly 30,000 donors to the NRA's PAC (the NRA Political Victory Fund), which donates to candidates, was roughly $35, according to the NRA, CNN reported in a deep dive on NRA funding in 2015. Ninety-percent of those donors "gave less than $200 in a single year."

The report reviewed federal campaign records of the NRA's overall revenue in 2013, finding "that much of this money comes from everyday Americans." This remains accurate in 2019.

Gillibrand is incorrect to claim that "the NRA is largely funded by the gun manufacturers."