The Associated Press completed an independent analysis of the National Rifle Association's (NRA) public tax filings. What the AP discovered was that the NRA donated roughly $7.3 million to schools across the country between 2010 and 2016.
According to the report, about 500 schools received the money, mostly through grants designed to promote the shooting sports. The grants were awarded to school programs, such as the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, rifle teams, hunting safety courses and agriculture clubs.
Interestingly enough, three-quarters of the schools that received NRA grants were in rural counties that voted for President Donald Trump during the 2016 election.
The Associated Press put together a graphic showing just how much the NRA Foundation has provided schools in each state:
California came in first with more than $1 million and Florida was a close second with just shy of $1 million in grants.
Broward County School District, where the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting took place on February 14th, is the first to no longer accept funding from the foundation. Denver Public Schools followed suit on Thursday, saying they will turn down multiple grants that were awarded this school year.
Ron Severson, Superintendent of Roseville Joint Union High School District in California, who is one of the largest grant recipients, says administrators may talk about how proceed moving forward, although they have received no parental complaints.
Other school districts, however, say they won't turn down funding.
“Whatever I think of the NRA, they’re providing legitimate educational services,” said Billy Townsend, a school board member in Florida’s Polk County district, whose JROTC programs received $33,000, primarily to buy air rifles. “If the NRA wanted to provide air rifles for our ROTC folks in the future, I wouldn’t have a problem with that.”
How the Money is Raised And Distributed
The NRA Foundation raises its money primarily through local Friends of the NRA chapters who hold fundraisers. During those fundraisers, half of the funds go to the local chapter and half go to the national foundation.
According to the Associated Press, tax records show NRA headquarters received $19 million in grants in 2015 and 2016.
The NRA Foundation provides grants to other groups as well, including 4-H groups ($12.2 million since 2010) , BoyScout troops and councils ($4 million since 2010) and private gun clubs.
Nearly half of the 773 overall school grants have gone to JROTC programs, which put students through a basic military curriculum and offer an array of small competitive clubs, like the rifle team at Broward’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. But JROTC leaders say few students ultimately enlist in the military, and the primary goal is to teach students skills like discipline and leadership.
“The safety that we’re teaching, the good citizenship that we’re teaching here, those are the things you don’t hear about,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jim Flores, a JROTC instructor at Cibola High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “The majority of people walk out of here awesome young men and women, respectful of authority, things of that nature. Not so much little tin soldiers.”
While the majority of JROTC programs rely on various branches of the federal government for funding, budget cuts have made it more difficult on schools. The NRA has stepped in and filled the void that arises from those budget cuts, which allows JROTC programs to stay afloat.
Districts that tallied the largest sums of NRA money typically used it for JROTC programs, including $126,000 given to Albuquerque schools, $126,000 to Broward County and $125,000 to Anchorage, Alaska. The most awarded to a single district was $291,000, given to Roseville schools near Sacramento, California, which say much of the funding went toward ammunition and gear for trap-shooting teams.
Grants are often provided as equipment rather than cash, with schools given rifles, ammunition, safety gear and updates to shooting ranges. Nationally, about $1.3 million was provided as cash, while $6 million was provided through equipment, training and other costs.