CUREJ - College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal

Rifles and Reinforcement: The National Rifle Association’s Partisan Approach to Gun Ownership

August Gebhard-Koenigstein, University of Pennsylvania

Division: Social Sciences

Dept/Program: Political Science

Document Type: Undergraduate Student Research

Mentor(s): Marc Meredith

Date of this Version: 26 March 2019



The NRA has long been the dominant player in the battle over gun control. Scholars have attributed this dominance in large part to the NRA’s ability to mobilize its membership when necessary. Lacombe (2018) has written of the NRA’s cultivation of a politicized social identity around gun ownership that assists it in doing so. In this thesis, I show that the NRA has tied this gun owner identity to conservatism and to the Republican party. I find that the NRA’s homogenous membership composition advantages it in its strategy of developing a partisan politicized gun-owner identity among its members. The NRA deliberately taps into members’ existing identities in the process of cultivating such an identity. Using Liliana Mason’s (2018) work on identity reinforcement as a framework, I demonstrate that the NRA has much to gain from facilitating the alignment of a gun owner identity with a Republican partisan identity. The alignment of identities tends to strengthen all identities involved, making individuals who hold them more susceptible to action-driving emotions, like enthusiasm and anger. These individuals thus become more likely to engage in politics and are easier to mobilize. With this in mind, I argue that identity reinforcement has been a driving factor in the NRA’s success in overcoming the problem of collective action.


American Politics

Suggested Citation

Gebhard-Koenigstein, August, "Rifles and Reinforcement: The National Rifle Association’s Partisan Approach to Gun Ownership" 26 March 2019. CUREJ: College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal, University of Pennsylvania,

Date Posted: 17 May 2019




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