The National Rifle Association (NRA) has compiled a database on gun owners, despite the body repeatedly criticizing government proposals to create such a registry, according to reports out this week.
According to Buzzfeed, registry names were not collected with individuals' knowledge or consent but rather the result of the organization compiling them through former gun safety class student registries, gun magazine subscribers, gun show conference goers and other sources.
The database is allegedly one the NRA's prize tools because its breadth expands beyond a traditional membership list. When Congress tried to pass a background check bill earlier this year in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shootings, Washington rep. Maureen Walsh initially supported the measure. However, the 1,200 letters and calls that she received from her constituents convinced her to alter her vote, many of whom the NRA had reached out to, though they were not officially members.
At the same time as possessing their internal list, the NRA has been adamant that the government had no right or reason to build a registry themselves. At the Conservative Political Action Convention earlier this year, NRA President Wayne LaPierre argued that a national registry was a foreign policy risk.
"What's the point of registering lawful gun owners anyway? So newspapers can print those names and addresses for criminals and gangs to access? So that list can be hacked by foreign entities like the Chinese, who recently hacked Pentagon computers? So that list can be handed over to the Mexican government that, oh by the way, has already requested it," said LaPierre.
Not all are convinced that the NRA's internal list is at odds with their sentiments that the government stay out.
Jim Geraghty of the National Review reminded readers in his column on Wednesday that the NRA was a private institution collecting the information (as opposed to the National Security Administration) and likely had the interests of the individuals of whom they were collecting the data from.
"Of course, this list has a couple of important distinctions from what the NRA warns about, doesn't it? After all, it's a private organization collecting this information, not the government. It's astronomically unlikely that the NRA would ever use this data as part of an effort of national gun confiscation. The purchasing of magazine subscriber lists — hey, that's been around for a long time," wrote Geraghty.
This perspective was reiterated by blogger Sebastian on "Shall Not Be Questioned," a blog focused on second amendment rights.
"The biggest failing of the article is to assume that gun owners are opposed to gun registration for registration's sake. We're opposed to it because it gives officials a convenient list to come knocking on doors once the end game is reached," he wrote. "I'm really not concerned that Wayne LaPierre is going to come knocking on my door demanding I turn in my guns, and even if he did, NRA doesn't have a list of every gun I own. I'm very concerned Diane "Mr and Mrs America, turn them all in" Feinstein would be quite willing to send government agents around, likely at gunpoint for dangerous folks like us, to collect them."
In contrast, Margaret Hartmann at New York Magazine argued that the mentality of believing the government wanted to seize guns in the first place, had been propaganda spread by the NRA.
"If the NRA was willing to discuss its secret list, it might defend itself by arguing it would never use the information to violate gun owners' rights; the group only opposed Washington's effort to create a national gun registry because it's a precursor to gun confiscation. Of course, the Manchin-Toomey bill would have strengthened prohibitions against a national registry, and no lawmakers were advocating the seizure of Americans' guns. But the NRA effectively spread that misinformation, with help from its own shady gun database," she wrote.