Should the NRA’s Rating System be Trusted Anymore?

For once, the National Rifle Association is holding Republicans accountable for their anti-gun behavior.  Or that’s what it looks like at first glance…

The Trace reported that the NRA has downgraded its ratings of 15 Republicans in federal and state-level races during the 2018 election cycle. By NRA standards, this is a considerable increase compared to previous election cycles.

The NRA has typically assigned letter grades to thousands of candidates in state and federal races across the country. Their grading system has gained notoriety in demonstrating a politician’s loyalty or opposition to gun rights.

At least, at face value.

15 Republicans were downgraded in the NRA’s rankings. Of those 15, more than half fell by ranking points or more. This was in stark contrast to 2016, where six Republicans were downgraded, and only Republican saw their grades get docked by more than one point.

In the 2012 and 2014 elections, seven and eight GOP candidates were docked points respectively. During these elections, only three Republicans saw their scores decrease by more than one grade.

The grading system can be accessed here.

The NRA’s recent downgrades are largely the result of the 2018 Parkland school massacre. Former Florida governor and current Senator Rick Scott has recently met the NRA’s disapproval. His signing of SB 7026 into law — which includes red flag gun confiscation provisions, raises the age to buy a firearm to 21, and mandates a three-day waiting period for all firearms purchases —  prompted the NRA to downgrade him to a C rating.

Brian Mast, a Republican Congressman, penned an op-ed floating the idea of AR-15 bans and universal gun registration.  He would later follow through with his desire for pushing universal gun registration when he voted for H.R. 8, the House’s universal gun registration bill. As a result, the NRA gave him a dishonorable F rating.

At the very least, NRA is starting to somewhat hold politicians accountable.

However, there is a more cynical outlook to these developments. What the NRA’s latest downgrades show is that the Republican Party might actually be slowly shifting toward the anti-gun fold. On top of that, NRA has largely enabled this kind of behavior. Gun owners may have been right all along — the NRA is not the alpha and the omega when it comes to identifying true pro-gun champions.

The NRA is playing clean up, but gun owners would be wise to not give the NRA too much credit.

NRA downgrades 15 Republican candidates

State Office Candidate Grade change
FL U.S. House Brian Mast AQ → F
VT Governor Phil Scott A  → D
MA Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito A- → D
FL U.S. House Carlos Curbelo B+ → Fx
PA U.S. House Brian Fitzpatrick B  → F
FL U.S. Senate Rick Scott A+ → C
NJ U.S. House Leonard Lance A  → C-
MD Governor Larry Hogan A- → C
IL U.S. House Peter Roskam A  → B-
KY U.S. House Thomas Massie A  → B
NJ U.S. House Jay Webber A  → B+
TX U.S. House Louie Gohmert A  → B+
KS Secretary of State Scott Schwab A  → B+
OR Governor Knute Buehler A- → B
OH U.S. House Tim Ryan D  → F

Sources: National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund; Everytown for Gun Safety


The NRA’s grades should always be taken with a grain of salt. When pro-gun elected officials like Thomas Massie are being docked points for standing up to the unconstitutional “Fix NICS” provisions, there is reason to believe that the NRA’s grading system should be called into question. Fix NICS incentivized states to increase gun owner data submissions to the federal background check system.

This is only one step before establishing a federal gun registry, a clear violation of gun rights. Too bad establishment gun lobbies don’t see it that way.

And this only the tip of the iceberg.

Recent behavior from the NRA should also raise gun owners’ eyebrows. The NRA has reverted back to its usual ways by providing cover for anti-gun schemes in Georgia. An anti-due process gun bill, SB 150, has caused controversy in the Georgia gun community.

Georgia Gun Owners exposed how establishment gun lobbies like the NRA and Georgia Carry have worked with two Senate Republicans, Brian Strickland and William Ligon, to ram this bill through the Georgia legislature.

Some things never change.

In times when Republicans such as Lindsey Graham are pushing for gun confiscation bills, gun owners should be skeptical not only of the NRA’s rating system, but also their efforts to actually kill bad legislation and restore gun rights.

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