Established in 1975, the Institute for Legis-lative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is committed to preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
ILA`s ability to fight successfully for the rights of America`s law-abiding gun owners directly reflects the support of NRA`s nearly 4 million members--a number that has more than tripled since 1978. When restrictive "gun control" legislation is proposed at the local, state or federal level, NRA members and supporters are alerted and respond with individual letters, faxes, e-mails and calls to their elected representatives to make their views known.
In 1986, the NRA and millions of gun owners nationwide applauded as the Firearms Owners` Protection Act was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. ILA worked for more than a decade to secure passage of that historic legislation to reform the Gun Control Act of 1968.
Combined with the strong grassroots efforts of NRA members and NRA-affiliated state associations and local gun clubs, the Institute has worked vigorously to pass pro-gun reform legislation at the state level.
These efforts include enacting laws that recognize the right of honest citizens to carry firearms for self-protection; passing preemption bills to prevent attacks on gun owner rights by local anti-gun politicians and fighting for legislation to prevent the bankrupting of America`s firearms industry through reckless, predatory lawsuits.
The Institute is also involved in educating the public about the facts concerning the many facets of firearms ownership in America. Through the distribution of millions of printed fact sheets, brochures and articles annually and the posting of information and the latest news daily on its Internet site (www.nraila.org), the Institute provides facts about responsible firearms ownership, the Second Amendment and other topics.
In NRA Headquarters in Fairfax, Va., and in offices in Washington, D.C., and in Sacramento, Calif., the Institute employs a staff of more than 70, with a team of full-time lobbyists defending Second Amendment issues on Capitol Hill, in state legislatures and in local government bodies.
While NRA is a single-issue organization, the Institute is involved in any issue that directly or indirectly affects firearms ownership and use. These involve such topics as hunting and access to hunting lands, wilderness and wildlife conservation, civilian marksmanship training and ranges for public use, law enforcement-related issues, product liability, trapping, crime victim rights and criminal justice reform.
NRA, ILA and the NRA Political Victory Fund
The Institute receives some funding from NRA member dues, but its main source of revenue is derived from member contributions designated for legislative activity--ILA is not associated with any firearms or ammunition manufacturers.
All NRA members know the benefits they receive from being part of the pre-eminent grassroots lobbying organization in America. At the same time, many are unaware of some of the important regulations and restrictions that govern NRA`s legislative and political activities, particularly those relating to the segregated nature of fund-raising activities.
The fund-raising that sustains NRA`s legislative activities is conducted by ILA. Federal and many state election laws dictate that funds used to assist candidates for office must be raised separately, and that is the task of NRA`s political action committee--the NRA Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF). Neither NRA member dues nor contributions to ILA can be used directly for the election or defeat of candidates.
Because of these clearly defined parameters, and because only a small fraction of ILA`s operating budget comes from regular NRA membership dues, both ILA and NRA-PVF must continuously raise the funds needed to sustain NRA`s legislative and political activities. The resources expended in these arenas come from the generous contributions of NRA members--above and beyond their regular dues.
While NRA doesn`t expect every member to contribute to every fund-raising mailing, the mailers do double as legislative alerts, providing important information that empowers members to take specific actions: calling lawmakers, writing letters or completing and returning postcards. Sending solicitations periodically allows NRA to keep its members informed on the issues and threats gun owners face, while attempting to accommodate individual member budgets.
Raising the tens of millions of dollars needed every year to defend Second Amendment rights is no small task. But, in order for NRA to meet the challenges gun owners face head on in the legislative and political arenas, it is a necessity.
NRA Election Activity in 2004
In the 2004 elections, more NRA resources were better deployed in more critical battles than ever before. Millions of dollars were spent on direct campaign donations, independent campaign expenditures and on mobilizing the most aggressive grassroots operation in NRA history. There were 6.5 million endorsement cards and letters sent, 2.4 million endorsement phone calls, 1.6 million bumper stickers, nearly 50,00 television, radio and newspaper ads and 510 billboards. Election Volunteer Coordinators (EVCs) in congressional districts nationwide rallied support for the Second Amendment at gun clubs, ranges, shooting events and gun shops, recruiting thousands of new political volunteers and registering thousands of new voters. To provide EVCs with energized campaign volunteers, ILA staff conducted grassroots election seminars in key states and districts.
The NRA-PVF ranks political candidates--irrespective of party affiliation--based on voting records, public statements and their responses to an NRA-PVF questionnaire. In 2004, NRA-PVF was involved in 265 campaigns for the U.S. House and Senate, winning in 254 of those races. These victories represent the re-election of pro-gun majorities in both the U.S. House and Senate.
NRA-PVF endorsed thousands of candidates running in state legislative races and achieved a 86% success rate in those elections.
NRA relies on a very simple premise: when provided with the facts, the nation`s elected officials will recognize that "gun control" schemes are an infringement on the Second Amendment and a proven failure in fighting crime. The importance of this premise lies in the knowledge that, as one U.S. Congressman put it: "The gun lobby is people."