One of the biggest, most persistent fears among pro-gun activists — aside from the ever-present threat of other people — is the notion of a national database of firearms and their owners.
This is one of the reasons they strongly oppose any gun control measures that would require gun owners to register their guns. The thought of President Barack Hussein Obama making a list, checking it twice, and then strolling through the suburbs taking everyone's guns has been the National Rifle Association's implied last-straw rallying cry for a while now. (Your marriage is defenseless, your Christmas is under siege, YOUR PETS HEADS ARE FALLING OFF!)
OK, actually, paranoia about what kind of files our government is keeping on its citizens is seeming increasingly justified in the post-Snowden era. In any case, gun owners, your fears are confirmed. There is a massive database, and your names are likely on it. Et tu, NRA?
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.
Later on in the piece, former NRA lobbyist Richard Feldman estimates that the organization keeps records on "tens of millions of people." Of course, he also notes that while gun owners' information is being kept without their knowledge or consent, many will likely not care. After all, the NRA is not the government.
Still, the irony is thick. While the NRA has used the notion of such a database to rally opposition to gun-control efforts at the federal level, pro-gun conservatives in Tennessee successfully closed public and media access to handgun carry permit records in most cases last year.
So while the public-at-large is prevented from knowing the identity of hundreds of thousands of individuals, in this state alone, who are packing heat in public, the nation's largest gun lobbying organization is using the same information to get larger and more powerful.