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NRA Reaps Profits From the Internet Ammo Sales It Made Possible

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Alleged Aurora mass shooter James Holmes' ability to reportedly purchase more than six thousand rounds of ammunition online without any record-keeping is the direct result of Congressional passage of the National Rifle Association's flagship bill of the 1980s: the Firearms Owners' Protection Act.

Commonly known as "McClure-Volkmer" for its Senate and House sponsors -- Senator James McClure and Representative (and long-time NRA board member) Harold Volkmer (both now deceased) -- the bill was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1986.

Prior to passage of McClure-Volkmer, interstate ammunition sales by common carrier to private individuals were banned and records were maintained of ammunition sales. McClure-Volkmer ended these limited controls -- and opened up a new financial funding stream for the NRA.

Today the NRA receives millions of dollars from online sales of ammunition, high-capacity ammunition magazines, and other accessories through the Round-Up Program, created by top NRA benefactor Larry Potterfield. Potterfield is founder and head of MidwayUSA, which claims to stock "[j]ust about everything for shooting, reloading, gunsmithing and hunting," including ammunition and high-capacity ammunition magazines. The Round-Up Program encourages buyers to "round-up" their purchase to the nearest dollar with the difference going to the NRA.

Potterfield credits McClure-Volkmer with helping make his financial fortune possible, stating on the company's website:

By 1987, we were doing about $5 million in business, selling mostly to dealers. The product lines were bulk components and cartridge boxes. The Volkmer-McClure [sic] law was enacted in October 1987, which removed the restriction of shipping brass and bullets to FFL holders only. Midway immediately began selling directly to consumers, in addition to selling to dealers.

The NRA's lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) has received nearly $9.3 million dollars from the Round-Up Program. On its website, MidwayUSA states that Round-Up Program contributions from the company total nearly $7.2 million since 1992. Total Round-Up contributions (MidwayUSA's and those of other companies participating in the Round-Up Program) to the NRA are nearly $9.3 million. (One mass shooter who took part in the NRA's Round-Up Program through MidwayUSA was concealed carry permit holder George Sodini, who in August 2009 opened fire at an LA Fitness Center in Collier, Pennsylvania, killing three women and wounding nine others before turning the gun on himself and taking his own life.)

More recently, in April 2011, Potterfield announced an NRA fundraising effort for the November elections, Project 12*12*12, which "will raise money for the critical 2012 elections and will run through November 2012." Each contribution is matched by the Potterfields up to $100 per invoice. According to MidwayUSA's website, "When you are placing an order with MidwayUSA, or if you just want to make a contribution, add one or more of product #121212 to your shopping cart before checking out."

Potterfield's contributions represent just a portion of the millions of dollars the NRA receives from the gun industry, as the Violence Policy Center detailed in our 2011 report, "Blood Money: How the Gun Industry Bankrolls the NRA." The report found that between 2005 and 2010, contributions from gun industry "corporate partners" to the NRA totaled between $14.7 million and $38.9 million. Total donations to the NRA from all "corporate partners" -- both gun industry and non-gun industry -- for the same time period totaled between $19.8 million and $52.6 million. The vast majority of funds -- 74 percent -- contributed to the NRA from "corporate partners" came from members of the firearms industry: companies involved in the manufacture or sale of firearms or shooting-related products. Many of these "corporate partners" are honored in the NRA's Ring of Freedom, with the Golden Ring of Freedom "reserved for those who have given gifts of cash or assets to the NRA totaling one million dollars or more."

And the most recent honoree in the NRA's million-dollar Golden Ring of Freedom?

Smith & Wesson, manufacturer of the M&P15 assault rifle used in the Colorado massacre.

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