Americans who want gun safety can rejoice: The NRA had a really horrific year.
The NRA had a terrible 2018.
This year was full of setbacks for the most prominent alliance of gun extremists in the country. Even with a staunch ally like Trump boosting them from the White House, the NRA faced a crisis in public support, electoral strength, and financial resources.
The Parkland shooting started a movement for gun safety
The spiral began in February, as millions mourned the victims of the mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida. Instead of bowing to the NRA's demands that victims and everyone else stay silent about the role gun availability played in the massacre, the teen survivors of the shooting started a grassroots uprising.
That put the NRA's attack dogs on defense for a change. The lobbying group was being easily bested in the court of public opinion by an ad-hoc alliance of teenagers. The NRA cried victim and lashed out while the teens got busy putting together the historic March for Our Lives.
Americans listened to the voices of the Parkland students, and got fed up with the NRA's toxic influence.
Soon, corporate supporters and sponsors ended their affiliations with the NRA. Walmart made it harder for young people to purchase guns there, while Dick's Sporting Goods dropped assault rifles altogether. The NRA angrily called the backlash "shameful" and an example of "cowardice."
For the first time in 18 years of polling, the NRA is now viewed more negatively than positively.
And the hits kept coming.
The NRA lost a lot of money
The NRA has been experiencing major cash shortages due to falling membership dues; its receipts in 2017 were down $55 million from the year before. The group was so strapped for cash that it even cut off free coffee and watercoolers for employees at its Fairfax, Virginia headquarters.
The cash-strapped NRA cut back on investing in Republican campaigns by a significant amount. By October, the NRA had pledged only about $1.6 million to GOP candidates in the midterms — compared to the $16 million they spent on GOP campaign efforts in the last midterm election in 2014.
Soon there were layoffs at NRA TV, the organization's propaganda arm.
The NRA faced the perfect storm in November, as its chosen Republican candidates lost big at the ballot box to candidates who championed the mainstream American call for more gun safety legislation.
The group's reputation just got worse and worse
Reeling from its midterm losses, the NRA made the foolish decision to attack doctors — one of the most respected professions.
Responding to recommendations from the American College of Physicians on how to help gun safety, the NRA tweeted, "Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane."
From that insult sprung the hashtag #ThisIsMyLane, where thousands of doctors, elected officials, and ordinary citizens made it crystal-clear to the NRA that gun safety matters to mainstream Americans.
The NRA's public image was also shaken by revelations that Russian entities invested in the NRA as a way to assert influence over the Republican Party.
By the end of 2018, an admitted Russian spy had pleaded guilty in open court to working for Vladimir Putin's government through the NRA to manipulate American politics.
The NRA has been on the wrong side of history for a long time, but has always managed to bully and intimidate its way into keeping political power.
But 2018 was the year Americans finally decided they wouldn't be bullied anymore — and made the NRA pay for its dangerous behavior.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.