NRA: Whom does the National Rifle Association support?

Posted on Jun 29, 2020
The skills I demoed here can be learned through taking Data Science with Machine Learning bootcamp with NYC Data Science Academy.
Shiny App | Github | LinkedIn


Founded in 1871, the National Rifle Association is the largest gun rights organization in the United States. The NRA campaigns against all forms of gun control in the US and argues that more guns make the country safer. It is among the most powerful special interest lobby groups in the US, with a substantial budget to influence members of Congress on gun policy. 1 in 5 American gun owners are members of the NRA.

For this project, I wanted to display how much the NRA is spending on each state and who the NRA is supporting. From this information, I discovered who the NRA is opposing as well.

NRA Spending Map

This map contains the spending pattern of the NRA in the last two years. The map is separated by two topics, NRA Spending Total-Supporting is the money spent on candidates the NRA has lobbied, campaigned and fundraised for. NRA Spending Total-Opposing is the money spent trying to defeat candidates the NRA opposes. Funds spent in opposition of candidates are recorded as negative.


Party Funding Data

This graph displays how the NRA divides their spending by a political party. Users of the app can select a state to display how the NRA spends per party in that state. Again, funds spent in opposition of candidates are recorded as negative numbers. 


Gun Violence Data Map

This map contains the death rates and total deaths caused by gun violence as recorded by the CDC. Casualties are shown per 100,000.


Representatives Lobby Funding Data

This graph displays NRA spending on individual candidates in each state. Negative numbers represent funds spent opposing that candidate. Only candidates that won their respective races are included. 


Gun Laws Data Table

This table displays which states have enacted which of five laws restricting gun use and ownership. These laws are:

  • Whether guns must be registered.
  • Whether a permit is required to carry a firearm.
  • Whether a permit is required to purchase a firearm.
  • Whether the state allows firearms to be carried openly.
  • Whether a background check is required before an individual will be permitted to purchase a firearm.


Data Analysis

The Shiny App displayed a few observations regarding NRA spending.

First, Republican states tended to have received more money than the Democratic States. The states that received the most were North Carolina, Utah, and Missouri. Three states that have a history of electing Republican candidates. 

Democratic representatives were more likely to be opposed by the NRA, while Republican representatives were more likely to receive funding in support of their campaigns.  Mitt Romney, a Republican presidential candidate, has received the most NRA funding throughout his career. 

States with looser gun laws and higher NRA spending tended to have a higher death rate per capita than states with stricter gun laws and less NRA spending. For example, the states with looser gun laws and higher death rates per capita included Arizona, North Dakota, and Colorado in 2018.

Next Steps

I would like to run a supervised learning algorithm and see if there is a linear relationship between NRA spending and gun violence. I would also like to run a supervised model to display if there is a correlation between NRA spending and less strict gun laws. Each of these would help determine the effect the NRA has on public policy in the country.

About Author

Devin Fagan

Devin graduated from City College of NY with a Bachelor's degree in Political Science. His background includes exposure to economics, public policy, and campaign strategy. He plans to use data to create data-driven public policy that helps the...
View all posts by Devin Fagan >

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