Washington Secrets

First membership, now NRA license plates are hot

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

The membership surge experienced by the National Rifle Association sparked by the push for gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings is going on the road.

Department of motor vehicle officials in some of the 10 states that sell specialty NRA license plates tell Secrets that they are seeing demand tick up.

"Americans know that we are in an all-out fight for our Second Amendment rights. They also know that the NRA is at the forefront of this fight, and that is why our membership has grown by 500,000 members since this most recent gun grab started. These people want to show their community that they are standing and fighting for the Second Amendment by joining the NRA," said spokeswoman Jacqueline Otto.

Since the mid-December Connecticut shootings and President Obama's push for gun limits took off last month, state motor vehicle offices have seen a surge in interest now being followed with a sales increase in the NRA tags.

Virginia, Maryland and eight other states offer license plates that show the NRA logo. Part of the money goes to the gun lobby. Applying for them can take time and cost another $20, so the initial increase is small. But some state officials said that the trend line is up.

In Virginia, a spokeswoman said that there has been a 20 percent increase in sales of NRA tags compared to January 2012. She said that 54 of the tags were sold this year, 45 last January, and that there are 2,830 on Virginia cars.

In Indiana, a department of motor vehicles official said that January 2013 saw 136 sold compared to 78 in January 2012. The numbers were tiny in Maryland, where none were sold in January 2012 and two were sold last month.

Other states that offer the NRA license plate are: Alaska, Delaware, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. The NRA has been pushing for other states to sell the tags.

Motor vehicle officials suggested that specialized tags do not sell well and that many organizations find it difficult to generate enough interest to get them made. Even the NRA has suffered from that. In Missouri, for example, the minimum of 200 applications for NRA tags has not yet been met in part because it is a new offering from the Missouri Department of Revenue.

Plus, said one official, it's one thing to privately join a group like the NRA and another to publicly display support on a car or truck. Shooting blogs, for example, include entries of gun owners worrying about becoming a target of thieves or anti-gun harassment if they display the NRA tag.

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