The Parkland school shooting may have been a tragedy for the students who died, the ones who lived with trauma and a nation that has been gripped by fear of when the next school shooting will occur, but it has been a boon for the NRA.
The gun rights organization saw a massive donations surge in the aftermath of the shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, according to CNN. The Center for Responsive Politics found that itemized contributions (that is, individual donations that equal at least $200) increased by roughly 200 percent from the two weeks prior to the shooting to the two weeks after it happened. The week immediately after the shooting saw a 500 percent increase from the week prior to it.
Overall, the NRA only collected roughly $248,000 in individual contributions in January. That number tripled to roughly $779,000 in February.
Until recently, this development would have gone against conventional wisdom. Although the NRA has traditionally increased its revenue by scaring gun fans into thinking that Democratic presidents and/or Democratic Congresses are going to confiscate their weapons, America has had both a Republican president and Republican Congress since January 2017, which suggested it would be harder to play up those fears. That trend seemed to be in place even after the Parkland shooting, when gun sales failed to significantly increase, despite the fears of gun confiscation that tend to occur after a mass shooting, according to CNN Money.
"In the year since the Trump administration took office, there's no serious discussion about gun control. This shooting may prompt some people to buy guns, it's unlikely to create the same kind of sales spike we saw following shootings during the Obama administration," David Studdert, a Stanford professor who has studied gun sales after mass shootings, told CNN Money.
It is unclear why donations to the NRA saw such a spike after the Parkland school shooting. One possibility is that the outcry for stricter gun control laws, which has been heightened by the protests of the Parkland students, has managed to outweigh the fact that Republicans currently control the federal government. Another possibility is that Trump stoked some of those fears himself when he suggested taking guns away without due process and made other suggestions that gave the impression he was open to gun control efforts.
The NRA has also made a point of vilifying the Parkland survivors who have led a national crusade for stricter gun control laws, a decision that has had major implications for their brand, regardless of whether it has directly helped them in their fundraising. This type of attack was best exemplified by NRATV host Colion Noir, who delivered a stemwinder against the students in a speech on the eve of their March on Washington over the weekend:
To all the kids from Parkland getting ready to use your First Amendment to attack everyone else’s Second Amendment at your march on Saturday, I wish a hero like Blaine Gaskill had been at Marjory Douglas High School last month because your classmates would still be alive and no one would know your names, because the media would have completely and utterly ignored your story, the way they ignored his.
Gaskill is a SWAT-trained officer who successfully stopped a gunman in Maryland who shot his ex-girlfriend at a high school, a story that (despite Colion Noir's claim to the contrary) was extensively covered by the media.
"I think conservatives view themselves as having little option but to try to take on these kids. They know these students are incredibly good on television. They’re good messengers for the gun violence prevention movement and they’re getting a lot of attention," Matt Gertz of Media Matters told Salon.
Although the NRA has depicted itself as a guardian of Americans' Second Amendment rights, it's pushing an extremist, absolutist, radical right-wing stance on gun rights that was viewed as fringe prior to the 1970s. Before that, the NRA promoted sporting and recreational shooting, and politicians from both parties agreed with the courts that moderate gun control could be necessary when specific types of guns posed a threat to public safety. Since the 1970s, however, the NRA has been led by individuals who subscribe to conspiracy theories that vilify liberals and characterize gun control regulation as the first step toward mass confiscation of firearms and, eventually, tyranny.