The National Rifle Association says that gun registration will lead to tyranny because they — meaning the government — will know where every gun is so when the revolution comes and people take to the streets to take back their country, they’ll know who’s carrying what. Or worse, they’ll send bands of jack-booted thugs to confiscate all the guns and put the law-abiding defenders of the Second Amendment into FEMA camps and throw away the keys. Right? Of course right.
You know, of course, where this is leading.
The National Rifle Association has rallied gun owners — and raised tens of millions of dollars — campaigning against the threat of a national database of firearms or their owners.
But in fact, the sort of vast, secret database the NRA often warns of already exists, despite having been assembled largely without the knowledge or consent of gun owners. It is housed in the Virginia offices of the NRA itself. The country’s largest privately held database of current, former, and prospective gun owners is one of the powerful lobby’s secret weapons, expanding its influence well beyond its estimated 3 million members and bolstering its political supremacy.
That database has been built through years of acquiring gun permit registration lists from state and county offices, gathering names of new owners from the thousands of gun safety classes taught by NRA-certified instructors and by buying lists of attendees of gun shows, subscribers to gun magazines, and more, BuzzFeed has learned.
The result: a big data powerhouse that deploys the same high-tech tactics all year round that the vaunted Obama campaign used to win two presidential elections.
The NRA used the specter of a national gun registry to great effect in the debate over the Manchin-Toomey background check bill that failed last spring. Even though the bill explicitly prohibited the federal government from creating such a database, it was a talking point that senators who opposed the measure repeatedly cited.
Yet there does not seem to be the same concern among gun owners about the NRA’s own efforts to amass the same information.
“It’s probably partially true that people don’t know the information is being collected,” said Feldman, “but even if they don’t know it, they probably won’t care because the NRA is not part of the government.”
That’s true; the N.R.A. is not the government. They just own it.