The National Rifle Association has suffered another blow in its history of financial woes: it can no longer afford to provide coffee to its employees, according to a report published this week.
The triviality underscores a serious situation for the gun rights group: financially, it’s not doing well.
A third-party audit showed that the organization is in the red for the second year in a row, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, who obtained the audit, which is done annually for nonprofits.
According to the NAR’s financial records, membership dues have declined by more than $35 million from 2016 to 2017. Total assets also declined, from $217 million to $196 million.
Even more worryingly for the organization, there is an unrestricted net assets deficiency. That’s money that can be spent at the discretion of the organization without restrictions. In 2017, the NRA had a deficit of over $31 million, which is nearly twice the NRA’s deficit from the year before.
Despite declining revenues, the NRA continues to spend. In 2016, the NRA spent a staggering $419 million in a push during the elections. Much of that increased spending went to areas the NRA describes as ‘legislative programs’ and ‘public affairs’. According to FEC filings, in 2016 the NRA donated heavily to support pro-gun candidates like President Donald Trump, Bob Portman, and Richard Burr. It also contributed funds to oppose gun reform candidates.
While it’s understandable that spending would increase during election years (the group spent $312 million in 2015), it’s a large jump from spending in 2012 and 2008. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the NRA spent $261 million and $204 million, respectively, in those years.
The NRA’s spending declined in 2017 (not an election year) to $343 million – an increase of more than $30 million compared with 2015.
Lower rates of gun ownership
It’s not surprising that the NRA is struggling. Gun ownership has been declining for years, reaching an all-time low in 2016. Gun stocks of the top three most popular publicly traded gun manufacturers – including Smith & Wesson (AOBC), Sturm, Ruger & Co. (RGR), and Olin (OLN) – normally outperform after mass shootings. But in recent years they haven’t seen the same level of success. Stocks have been hurt by growing interest in gun reform and mounting pressure on companies and funds to divest in the industry.
In May the NRA stated it was in financial jeopardy in its lawsuit against the state of New York and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The lawsuit alleges that the governor in his capacity has pressured financial institutions and insurers to stop working with the gun rights organization.
Insurance company Lockton provided personal liability insurance for members of the NRA’s Carry Guard program, which provides training for self-defense. According to its website, “without insurance, lawful self-defense can cost you a fortune.” The insurance is no longer available in New York after Lockton was hit with a $7.5 million fine in May of this year. New York’s Department of Financial Services said the NRA is not licensed to conduct insurance business in the state.
In the lawsuit’s complaint, the NRA alleges an “an overt viewpoint-based discrimination campaign against the NRA.” The complaint also states: “If the NRA is unable to collect donations from its members, safeguard the assets endowed to it, apply its funds to cover media buys and other expenses integral to its political speech, and obtain basic corporate insurance coverage, it will be unable to exist as a not-for-profit or pursue its advocacy mission.”
“Defendants seek to silence one of America’s oldest constitutional rights advocates. If their abuses are not enjoined, they will soon, substantially, succeed.”
Kristin Myers is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.