NRA sees rise in membership after Connecticut school shooting

The National Rifle Association, while staying mostly quiet in the immediate aftermath of the mass shooting in Connecticut, has registered an average of 8,000 new members a day since the tragedy, an NRA source told Fox News.

While this broadly aligns with trends seen after similar incidents in the past, the surge in membership this time is said to dwarf past trends.

The source, based on his access to an internal memo prepared by the organization’s membership division, said both the number of individual contributions to the NRA and their average amount have risen significantly in this period.

Amid the uptick, the NRA is planning what it describes as a “major” news conference on Friday. In its first public statement since last week's shooting, issued Tuesday by an aide to NRA President Wayne LaPierre, the organization also conveyed condolences to the murder victims' families and expressed the group's willingness to offer "meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again."

"The National Rifle Association of America is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters -- and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown," the statement said on Tuesday.

"Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting."

Sources close to the issue had earlier alerted Fox News that the National Rifle Association would soon start to "push back" against gun-control proponents.

Following the shooting at the Connecticut elementary school, gun-control advocates immediately launched a campaign to pressure Congress and the Obama administration into enacting stricter regulation of guns and rifles.

These forces -- led by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. – initially faced little resistance from the NRA, though conservatives questioned the value of the proposed measures.

The NRA news conference on Friday could alter the debate landscape. It also comes as President Obama on Wednesday announced a new administration task force, led by Vice President Biden, to examine policy proposals to reduce gun violence.

Though the task force was given a broad mandate, Obama made clear that the group would focus in large part on gun control. The president said he expects “concrete” proposals on his desk by January.

Fox News' James Rosen contributed to this report.