While the National Rifle Association (NRA) garners most of the mainstream media's attention when discussions about anti-gun control issues come up, there is another gun rights organization that is even more deeply concerned with gun rights; the Gun Owners of America. GOA was defined by Ron Paul (who gets an A+ rating from GOA) as "the only no-compromise gun lobby in Washington".
GOA is a non-profit lobbying organization formed in 1975 by long-time California Senator Bill Richardson to defend the Second Amendment rights of American gun owners. GOA has a nationwide network of attorneys that help fight court battles to protect gun owner rights from inroads being made by "the radical left", a term that frequently appears on GOA's website. GOA has approximately 300,000 members who pay $20 for an annual membership or $500 for a lifetime membership.
GOA is very active politically and has often been critical of what it sees as the NRA's compromising views on many key gun control issues. To keep its members informed about who's playing in their field, GOA's Political Victory Fund ranks all House and Senate members on a scale from A to F- as shown in this ranking scheme:
You've got to like the classification "philosophically sound"!
GOA's website has a page where it lists all state Congressional and Senate candidates that the organization endorses. It also ranks current members of the 113th Congress on the same scale, rating just about every Democrat as an F or F-. GOA is even hard on some Republicans including John McCain who garners a rating of C- which means that, according to GOA, he "leans our way occasionally". In sharp contrast, over the period from 1989 to 2012, John McCain was the recipient of $543,386 in donations from the NRA as shown here:
On GOA's website, you can even look at a wide selection of issues and legislation related to firearms in both the Senate and the House, the result of the voting and how the members of both voted on a state-by-state basis as shown in this example from 2004 when John McCain proposed an amendment that would outlaw the private sale of firearms at gun shows unless the buyer agreed to submit to a background registration check:
I guess the passage of this amendment explains why John McCain is not one of GOA's favourite senators, doesn't it?
Let's look at GOA's financial activities. According to Open Secrets, GOA spent $1,299,650 on lobbying in 2012 and $1,307,996 in 2011. This ranks them a rather surprising 372 out of 4351 lobbyists in 2012. Here is a look at how much GOA has spent on lobbying by year since 1998:
In the 2012 cycle, GOA raised $119,850, ranking them nearly in the top 10 percent of fundraisers. Here is a look at the trends in contributions to GOA since 1990:
Not terribly surprising, GOA has selected Republican candidates to be the recipients of the vast majority of its donations since 1990 as shown here:
In the 2012 election cycle, GOA contributed a total of $36,897 to Republican candidates; the biggest beneficiary was Steve Stockman (R - Texas) who received $9,449. Here are the recipients of GOA's largesse during the 2012 election cycle:
That's a whopping $0 donated to Democrat candidates for the Senate and the House in the 2012 election cycle.
Here is a listing of the recipients during the 2008 election cycle:
Let's put GOA's influence into perspective. During 2011 and the first three-quarters of 2012, the National Rifle Association accounted for 60 percent of the total spending on gun rights issues. By comparison, over the same period of time, the NRA alone spent more than ten times as much on gun issues than gun control interest groups. As well, the 2012 election cycle was the most active election cycle for gun rights groups who donated a total of $3 million mainly to Republican candidates who received 96 percent of their contributions.
Let's take a quick look at one part of GOA's website, the "Self-Defense Corner". In this section, the organization takes a brief look at headlines where gun ownership "saved the day". Stories like this one recount the advantages of having a bystander that is armed and, in this case, local police even thanked the shooter for taking down an armed perpetrator as shown in this quote:
"Brown County Sheriff Bobby Grubbs later said, “The citizen that fired these shots did a tremendous job out there. Had he not had a gun and the presence of mind to do this, we don’t know what the outcome would’ve been.” It is currently unclear as to whether it was Stacy’s shots or Officer Mean’s shots that delivered the killing blow. Either way, the police are not planning to press charges against Stacy. If anything, they should give him a medal. Police and RV park residents alike have been calling Stacy a hero, but he’s rejected the label. He said that he’s just an “average workin’ person” who was just “trying to help an officer out.”
I opened by mentioning that Ron Paul is one of GOA's great heros. In closing, here's what the organization has to say about Mr. Paul:
"Guts. That is the one word which describes Rep. Ron Paul of Texas best. Perhaps the most consistent vote in the Congress, he can be expected to oppose any unconstitutional expansion of government, no matter how politically difficult that vote might be. He was one of only three Congressmen to vote against the USA Patriot Act -- a law which not only removes many of the delicate checks and balances protecting our freedoms, but opens the door for the ATF to conduct blanket searches in obtaining 4473’s and other gun records....In 2011, Rep. Paul introduced HR 2613, a bill to repeal the infamous Gun Free School Zones law. Slammed through in 1996 as an amendment to a giant last-minute must-pass appropriations bill, the school zones law disarmed school staff and other adults, leaving elementary and secondary school children defenseless to serial killers. It also made it virtually impossible to drive your car down the street with your gun inside without violating the law by creating a 1000-foot so-called “gun-free zone” around every public and private school in the country. It’s “gun free,” that is, except for the criminals...
I guess that GOA has a pretty good idea of how Mr. Paul would have voted in any gun debate.