In 2020, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana was the top recipient of money from members of the “gun rights” industry. According to Open Secrets, his campaign received a total of $142,653 for the 2019-20 cycle. That put the so-called gun lobby at 33 on the list, far behind other industries like real estate and accounting. Health professionals alone gave roughly seven times more money to Scalise ($1,072,904) than the gun lobby did. Meanwhile, individuals who simply put down “retired,” instead of any industry at all, gave 100 times more, just shy of $14 million.
Scalise’s corporate-connected and PAC donors tell a similar story. You won’t find the NRA, Smith & Wesson, or anybody else from the “gun lobby,” among the top corporate or PAC contributors.
And yet, Scalise often touts his A+ rating from the NRA. For some opponents of gun rights, this is shocking since Scalise was gravely wounded in 2017 by a mass shooter. The brush with death, Scalise would say a few months later (in the wake of another mass shooting), only “fortified” his support for gun rights.
Say what you will about Scalise’s views on guns, they weren’t “bought and paid for” by the gun lobby. The same holds for the Republican Party generally. In 2020, the NRA gave less than $1 million directly to candidates—putting it 996th on the list of top donors. It spent $5.4 million on lobbying, making it the 169th most lavish lobbyist. As Stephen Gutowski, founder of The Reload, a site focused on gun issues and politics, wrote in The Atlantic, since 2012, “the NRA’s highest contribution ranking has been 294th, and its highest lobbying ranking has been 85th.”