Stefan Zaklin/Getty Images U.S. Capitol
In the wake of Tuesday's mass shooting at a Texas elementary school — in which a gunman killed 19 students, a teacher and another adult — many lawmakers are calling for gun reform.
But even with hundreds of mass shootings taking place in the U.S. every year, Congress has repeatedly failed to pass any major piece of gun control legislation.
One of the most recent efforts to reform federal gun laws came in 2013 with the Manchin-Toomey amendment, a measure that would have required background checks on all commercial gun sales. The amendment — which came to a vote four months after 20 first-graders and six educators were fatally shot at Sandy Hook Elementary School — failed, getting only 54 of the 60 votes it needed to overcome a filibuster.
Most of the 46 senators who voted against the amendment expressed the opinion that it simply wouldn't work, with Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley telling reporters at the time: "Criminals do not submit to background checks now. They will not submit to expanded background checks."
But they also shared something else in common. According to the non-partisan campaign finance research group OpenSecrets, nearly all of the 46 senators who voted against the amendment had accepted significant campaign contributions from PACs associated with gun rights groups, including the National Rifle Association.
Since then, U.S. lawmakers have continued to rack up donations from gun rights groups – some to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.
Even in the immediate wake of the shooting, many Republicans continue to throw their support behind the NRA. On Friday, just days after the Uvalde school shooting, Republicans including former President Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz are scheduled to headline a forum at the group's annual meeting in Houston.
OpenSecrets maintains a list of the top recipients of NRA and gun rights groups funds, with data updates as recently as May 16, 2022.
It's important to note that the NRA contributions on the OpenSecrets list are career totals, some going back as early as 1989 (so lawmakers who have been in office longer will likely have seen more NRA donations). The funds include both direct support to candidates (i.e. money donated by the NRA or NRA employees to a candidate or their PAC) and indirect support, via money spent against their opponent.
Below are the lawmakers who received the most funding from the NRA — either directly or indirectly — according to OpenSecrets data.
Rick Bowmer/AP/Shutterstock Sen. Mitt Romney
Sen. Mitt Romney, Utah Republican: $13,645,387
What he's received: $1,000 in direct support from the NRA and $3,278,632 in independent support. But the largest contributions to Romney came via NRA spending against his political opponents (including Barack Obama, during the 2012 presidential race), to the tune of $10,369,044. Speaking to The Washington Post, a Romney spokesperson said, "No one owns Senator Romney's vote, as evidenced by his record of independence in the Senate."
His recent take: Following Tuesday's school shooting in Texas, Romney expressed support for gun control measures, telling reporters: "Background checks and updating our background check technology is something that I think is an appropriate federal responsibility."
When he's up for reelection: Romney has said he's undecided regarding whether he'll choose to run for reelection in 2024.
Greg Nash- Pool/Getty Sen. Richard Burr
Sen. Richard Burr, North Carolina Republican: $6,987,380
What he's received: Burr has received $43,900 in direct support from the NRA; $1,356,247 in independent support; and $5,587,233 in money spent against his political opponents.
His recent take: Burr has declined to make much of a stance one or way or the other regarding whether or not gun laws need to be strengthened. Asked by the New York Times whether he would support a pair of House-passed measures to strengthen background checks for gun buyers, Burr said this: "If somebody's got a solution to this, by all means, let's talk about it. But nobody's proposed that they've got one."
When he's up for reelection: Burr said in 2016 that he would not seek reelection in 2022.
Anna Moneymaker/Getty U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis
Sen. Thom Tillis, North Carolina Republican: $5,611,796
What he's received: Tillis has received $17,900 in direct support from the NRA; $2,412,153 in independent support; and $3,182,564 in money spent against his political opponents.
His recent take: Asked by the Times whether he supported the House measures to strengthen background checks Tillis said, "I have not seen them, but [Majority Leader Chuck Schumer] hasn't consulted with us, so that's a not a good sign." But in separate statements to CNN, Tillis said, "we need to avoid is the reflexive reaction we have to say this could all be solved by not having guns in anyone's hands."
When he's up for reelection: Tillis' term ends in 2027. It is unclear whether he will run for office again at that point.
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Roy Blunt
Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican: $4,555,722
What he's received: Blunt has received $82,450 in direct support from the NRA; $1,410,401 in independent support; and $3,062,871 in money spent against his political opponents.
His recent take: In a statement sent to PBS News, Blunt expressed a willingness to support some gun laws, but also spoke about the need to expand mental health programs. "As we learn more about the facts in this case, I'm open to looking at what we can do, in a bipartisan way, to prevent another tragedy like this from occurring. That might include the possibility of a red flag law to keep weapons out of the hands of people who pose an imminent threat to themselves or others."
When he's up for reelection: Blunt announced in 2021 that he will not seek reelection, and will retire from office in 2022.
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Sen. Joni Ernst
Sen. Joni Ernst, Iowa Republican: $3,688,078
What she's received: Ernst has received $19,800 in direct support from the NRA; $577,396 in independent support; and $3,091,382 in money spent against her political opponents.
Her recent take: Asked if she would support the House-passed measures to strengthen background checks, Ernst told the Times she needed to first better "understand the circumstances" of the Texas school shooting.
When she's up for reelection: Ernst, who was elected to her second term in 2020, won't see her term end until 2027 (it's unclear if she plans to run for reelection at the time).
Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/Shutterstock Sen. Marco Rubio
Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican: $3,303,355
What he's received: $4,950 in direct support from the NRA and $1,008,030 in independent support. In addition to spending against his political opponents, the grand total in NRA spending to support Rubio is $3,303,355.
His recent take: "The horrific tragedy in Texas should spur Congress to act on proposals that can pass and actually make a difference like our bipartisan Luke & Alex School Safety Act," Rubio reportedly said, referring to a bill that would require the Department of Homeland Security to establish best practices for school safety to be used by state and local educational and law-enforcement agencies.
When he's up for reelection: In 2022, Rubio faces a number of challengers in the Republican primary on Aug. 23. Rep. Val Demings is the likely Democrat who'll be on the ballot in November, hoping to defeat Rubio, who's served in the U.S. Senate since 2011.
Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Rob Portman
Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican: $3,063,327
What he's received: $20,300 in direct support from the NRA and $1,453,432 in independent support. In addition to spending against his political opponents, the grand total in NRA spending to support Portman is $3,063,327.
His recent take: "My heart goes out to the families of the victims of this horrible tragedy in Uvalde. Our nation mourns for the innocent children, teacher, and all those affected by this senseless act of violence," Portman tweeted. "We also thank the brave first responders who run toward danger in the name of protecting us all."
When he's up for reelection: Portman announced in January, he won't seek reelection in 2022 for a third term. After Ohio's primary elections earlier this month, Republican J.D. Vance and Democrat Congressman Tim Ryan will face off in November.
Following the massacre in Uvalde, Vance said in a statement, "Many will call for large scale gun confiscation. This approach would be a mistake."
Rep. Ryan said in a tweet he and his wife are "praying for the Uvalde community and the innocent young lives taken from us in another senseless tragedy. Our babies are being killed by gun violence and we are failing them. We have to do something."
He also tweeted about the Enhanced Background Checks Act and the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, saying those are "two bills we passed in the House that the Senate can take up right now. No more holding the will of the American people hostage. Either stand with us or get the hell out of the way."
Kevin Dietsch/Getty U.S. Sen. Todd Young
Sen. Todd Young, Indiana Republican: $2,899,232
What he's received: $11,950 in direct support from the NRA and $440,645 in independent support. In addition to spending against his political opponents, the grand total in NRA spending to support Young is $2,899,232.
His recent take: "I am deeply saddened by the horrific shooting today at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Our nation mourns the innocent lives taken in this senseless tragedy," the senator tweeted.
Asked by The New York Times about a pair of House measures to strengthen background checks, Young said, "I'm huddling up with my colleagues, Republicans and Democrats alike," initiating "conversations about this horrible incident and what we can do to prevent future types of incidents."
When he's up for reelection: In November, Young will face Democrat Thomas McDermott.
Greg Nash/The Hill/Bloomberg via Getty
Sen. Bill Cassidy, Louisiana Republican: $2,864,547
What he's received: $13,950 in direct support from the NRA and $409,201 in independent support. In addition to spending against his political opponents, the grand total in NRA spending to support Cassidy is $2,864,547.
His recent take: "Our hearts are with the families in Texas. We owe it to these families to find answers to prevent these events. Real answers that will work. God be with those affected," Cassidy tweeted.
Cassidy is reportedly participating in discussions about gun control measures, including proposals on expanded background checks for firearms purchases and transfers as well as red flag legislation to keep people considered dangerous to themselves or others from possessing firearms, according to The Hill.
When he's up for reelection: Cassidy was reelected for a second term in 2020, so he's not up for reelection until 2026 ahead of the end of his term in 2027.
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Sen. Tom Cotton
Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican: $1,973,201
What he's received: $12,400 in direct support from the NRA and $1,960,801 in independent support. In addition to spending against his political opponents, the grand total in NRA spending to support Cotton is $1,973,201.
His recent take: Cotton tweeted that he and his wife "join all Arkansans in praying for the victims and the childrens' families in Uvalde. And we're grateful for law enforcement and the first responders who are helping in the face of this unimaginable evil." Asked by The New York Times about a pair of House measures to strengthen background checks, Cotton said, "I have no comment on that."
He released a statement in April on President Biden's restrictions on ghost guns, defined by the administration as "unserialized, privately-made firearms."
"Expanding federal gun regulations only makes it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to own guns," Cotton said. "If President Biden wants to crack down on crime, he should begin by enforcing existing laws and prosecuting violent criminals."
When he's up for reelection: Cotton's term as a senator ends in 2027, though his name has repeatedly come up on lists of those reportedly mulling a run for the presidency in 2024.