The NRA’s 2022 conference saw the fewest attendees in 16 years.
The NRA announced during its Monday board meeting that 61,254 people had attended its Annual Meeting over the weekend in Houston, Texas. That’s the worst attendance the group has reported since its 2006 meeting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It’s even lower than the group’s 2004 conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Election participation saw a significant hit as well, according to documents obtained by The Reload at the meeting. A report published by the group shows that of the two and a half million ballots mailed out to voting members, members returned only 83,409. That’s the fewest ballots returned in any NRA election since 79,227 were collected in 2006, a review of previous reports conducted by The Reload found. Though, the group sent out a million fewer ballots in 2006 than in 2022.
The member disengagement comes after years of NRA turmoil stemming from corruption allegations against Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and other members of leadership. Accusations that LaPierre spent member money on luxury personal items and trips sent shockwaves through the organization and led to a bitter internal struggle for power that saw the group’s president, lobbying arm director, and a dozen or so board members ousted. It has also led to a lawsuit from New York Attorney General Letitia James (D.), who seeks to remove LaPierre and have a court-appointed overseer take his place.
The disengagement also coincides with what’s likely to be the NRA’s most significant political fight in a decade. Democrats and Republicans in Congress are meeting to try and work out a deal on gun legislation to respond to the horrific attack on Robb Elementary School last week, where a gunman murdered 19 children and two teachers. LaPierre spoke out against new gun restrictions during the group’s annual meeting, but its finances have been hobbled as member participation has waned, making it more vulnerable than at any time in recent history.
The 2022 numbers are down by nearly 15,000 from last year and represent about a 15 percent drop in participation in that time. They are down nearly half from the group’s 2016 board election, which saw 164,026 ballots returned to the NRA.
Additionally, only 544 of the over 61,000 people who attended this year’s meeting voted in the election of the group’s 76th board member. That’s the board position elected in direct voting at the convention to represent the roughly two million NRA members who aren’t eligible to vote on the regular ballot. The NRA requires members to buy a lifetime membership or be a member for five consecutive years to vote on the regular ballot for 75 of the 76 members.
The poor election participation tracks with recent downturns in overall membership at the NRA. Internal documents published by The Reload earlier this year show the group’s membership crossed five million in 2013 and fluctuated until peaking in 2018 at somewhere below five and a half million. Since that time, membership has steadily, if slowly, declined to just over four and a half million.
The NRA did not respond to a request for comment.