The National Rifle Association (NRA) broke a 15-year-old fundraising record in March, countering the wave of anti-gun enthusiasm that swept the country after the February mass shooting in Parkland, Fla.
The NRA Political Victory Fund raised $2.4 million from March 1 to March 31, according to Federal Election Commission filings, $1.9 million from donations of $200 or less. The windfall, the largest in one month since June 2003, came in the first full month of fundraising since 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day.
The fundraising success outweighs the donation surges that followed other recent mass shootings: The group raised $1.1 million in the first month after the December 2013 Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Conn., and another $1.5 million in the month after that.
The Political Victory Fund donates a small portion of the money it raises directly to political campaigns, but spends the bulk of its funds on external ads in favor of pro-Second Amendment candidates. Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) has been singled out by student gun-control activists in the wake of the Parkland shooting for the $3.3 million in outside spending the NRA committed to assist in his reelection.
The NRA energized its base by citing an unprecedented legislative defeat in the historically supportive state of Florida.
Influential NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer, who helped turn Florida into a testing ground for more permissive gun laws, circulated a letter to members in March titled “It’s Time to Name the Betrayers Who Voted For Gun Control,” which names the Republican members of the Florida legislature who voted in favor of a recent bill raising the minimum age to buy guns from 18 to 21, among other measures.
The surge in fundraising came amid a concerted effort by student activists, and national left-leaning advocacy groups, to move gun control to the forefront of the national conversation. The March for Our Lives, which brought hundreds of thousands of protesters to Washington, D.C. in late March, has raised $3.5 million through GoFundMe since February 18, most of which was spent on organizing marches and assisting the families of Parkland victims.