November 4, 2019; Washington Post
Friends of NRA, a volunteer group that carries out fundraisers for the NRA (National Rifle Association) Foundation, a 501c3 NRA affiliate that supports youth gun education and safety programs, raised $33 million in 2018. But parents are increasingly objecting to school facilities being used as sites for gun sales.
In some cases, this has led to odd compromises. For example, this year in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, guns were still auctioned, but in the gym there were only pictures of the weapons being sold. One reason for the change: this past January, two students had been murdered and more than a dozen wounded at Marshall County High School in Benton, just 80 miles away.
Gwen Clements, whose granddaughter participates in Army Junior ROTC at the high school, was one of many to cry foul. “They are selling guns on school property—where we have active-shooter drills.” Shannon Myers, whose 16-year-old son attends Muhlenberg County High School, also objected. Myers told the Washington Post, “It’s obscene that they have had guns inside our gym. The more I looked into it, the more I realized they are having these events all over the place. Not just here in our little town, but in little towns all over the country.”
Indeed, communities all across the country—from Denver and Santa Fe to Broward County, Florida, and Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania—are beginning to question whether NRA money belongs in their schools.
“I don’t think we have any business, and it’s against my moral conscience for any schools to be taking money from the NRA,” said Steven Carrillo, a member of the Santa Fe school committee.
Other venues are also shutting down the events. The Aqua Turf Club, just outside Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults were shot and killed in 2012, used to host a major fundraiser for Friends of NRA, but no longer does so. And in Brooklyn, the Grand Prospect Hall backed out of its contract to host an event last year.
As the movement to stop gun violence becomes more vocal, proprietors like Michael Halkias of the Grand Prospect Hall are realizing hosting NRA events comes with a price. After receiving a barrage of phone calls, he said, “It’s not worth it to have so many people upset.”
Where does the money that the Friends of the NRA raise go? About half the money raised each year goes to 4-H clubs, shooting and archery teams at schools, Scouting, and other youth groups. But some of the money may be getting commingled with other NRA activity. According to the Post, as the NRA continues to lose members and funds, it is drawing more of its income from the NRA Foundation:
The NRA received grants from the foundation for educational programs totaling $13.5 million in 2018 and $18.8 in 2017. The NRA also has been borrowing and paying off a series of $5 million loans from the foundation. The two entities share employees, office space and other resources, and the NRA nearly tripled the amount it sought in reimbursements from the foundation between 2017 and 2018.
This commingling of funds is one of the many questionable financial activities now being pursued by the attorneys general of both New York and Washington DC.
Once, Friends of NRA was considered a family-friendly organization, supporting “shooting sports” for kids. But now it has become increasingly tainted by the aggressive gun lobby of the NRA. And clearly a growing number of parents who fear for their children’s safety at school are saying they have had enough.—Karen Kahn