Since the shootings Saturday in Tucson, Ariz., which left six people dead and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) in critical condition after being shot in the head, members of Congress are questioning whether gun control laws should be strengthened. The Center for Responsive Politics provides data on both pro-gun and anti-gun groups stretching back more than two decades.
Gun rights issues have waned over the past decade compared with the late 1990s. As the Center for Public Integrity mentioned Tuesday, Gallup polls show the public losing interest in stricter gun laws. In 1990, 78 percent of the public said gun laws should be more strict, and by November, that percentage had decreased to 44.
The gun rights lobby's spending also dropped in recent years, as it spent $6.6 million in 2000 compared to $3.9 million in 2010. The National Rifle Association also decreased its contributions to federal candidates from $1.56 million during the 1994 election to $1.14 in the 2010 election -- not adjusting for inflation. Both pro- and anti-gun groups are seeing a decline in contributions to federal candidates since the early 1990s.
The one political spending avenue that has stayed high over the years is the independent expenditures made by the National Rifle Association. During the 2008 election cycle, the organization spent $17.9 million on independent expenditures -- typically, advertisements and communications overtly supporting or opposing political candidates -- of which 99 percent supported Republican candidates. These expenditures dipped during the 2010 election cycle, thanks in part to it being a midterm election in which no presidential contest was waged.