Washington Bulletin

9/07/00 3:15 p.m.

Gunning for Gore
NRA membership through roof.


By NR's John J. Miller & Ramesh Ponnuru



Being demonized has never felt so good. The National Rifle Association's membership is shooting through the roof, thanks to the continual potshots at the organization from Al Gore and the media.

Membership in the gun group, which will be a crucial part of George W. Bush's base in November, has hit more than 4 million — an all-time high.

A formal announcement is two weeks away, but executive vice president Wayne LaPierre confirmed the figure on Thursday. "And we're headed to 5 million," he says.

The gun group has gained more than 1 million new members in the last 12 months. "Americans have heard Al Gore say he wants every gun registered, every gun owner licensed, and federal testing," says LaPierre. "That will only hit the honest people."

NRA membership generally rises during election years and dips during off years, but this year seems different. "Everything is up, up, up — programs, membership, contributions," says LaPierre. "Every rally we go to around the country has 1,000 people. I've never seen that before."

The group's previous high point came in 1994, according to LaPierre, when the NRA had 3.1 million members. Many commentators credited the NRA with making the difference for the GOP that year.

"The gateway to the presidency is made up of hunters and firearm owners in the key states. That's why Gore had Tommy Lee Jones at the Democratic convention talking about how the two of them used to go shooting," says LaPierre.

"We support a lot of Democrats," says LaPierre. "But we sure don't support Al Gore."


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