According to reports, the National Rifle Association has a database of gun owners even though the organization doesn’t want a national gun registry.
New York Magazine reports that while 91 percent of Americans support universal background checks, a bipartisan effort to merely expand background checks failed earlier this year. Part of the reason was the NRA's ability to sow fears that the government was trying to create a national registry of firearm owners.
However, according to Buzzfeed, such a database 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.
The database has reportedly 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 NRA reportedly won’t say how many names and what other personal information is in its database, but former NRA lobbyist Richard Feldman estimates they keep tabs on “tens of millions of people.”
Buzzfeed also reports that the NRA used the specter of a national gun registry to great effect in the debate over the Manchin-Toomey background checks 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.