Firepower: Gun Control Opponents Outspend Opposition 25-to-1

In wake of Aurora shooting, a look at the financial influence of the guns rights industry in Washington.


In the aftermath of the Aurora theater shooting, America's gun laws have come to the forefront of the country's political discussion. While the speculation over the laws continue, U.S. News has examined the political entities that influenced how current gun policy came to be.

[Photos: Colorado Movie Theater Shooting]

Since 2009, advocates for gun rights have spent nearly 25 times more in Washington than those advocating for gun control, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Gun advocacy groups have spent $20 million on political contributions and lobbying over that time, while gun control groups have spent $832,000.

Gun rights groups focused most of their resources on lobbying, which accounts for $17.4 million of its $20 million investment. Led by the National Rifle Association, these groups have spent about $5 million per year since 2009 lobbying Congress and the Department of the Interior, which oversees gun regulations on public lands, such as those that govern hunting. The groups also contribute heavily to Republican politicians, with House Speaker John Boehner, South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune, and Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller being some of their top beneficiaries since 2009.

[Referendum: Should the Colorado Theater Shooting Spur More Gun Control?]

The dominant pro-gun force is the NRA, though Safari Club International and Gun Owners of America are also politically active. Through its political action committee, the NRA has given about $2.8 million to state and federal politicians since 2009. It has also advertised heavily: since 1990 it has dropped $62.6 million on state and federal elections on its own, including $60,000 this July opposing President Barack Obama, according to CRP. In Colorado specifically, the gun laws were altered in the years following the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School. Over that time, the NRA has spent $2.6 million in the state.

In Colorado and nationwide, gun control advocacy has no singular force like the NRA. The most prominent groups at the federal level are Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Together, they have spent less than $300,000 annually on federal politics since 2009. In the years since the Columbine shooting, gun control groups have spent $48,000 in Colorado, led by a group called Colorado Ceasefire, according to the National Institute for Money in State Politics.

Seth Cline is a reporter with U.S. News and World Report. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter.