If you don’t like being tracked, you should reconsider membership in the National Rifle Association.
The NRA has compiled a massive database about its members and gun owners in general.
The NRA has not revealed the purpose for the database or what it does with the information in it. Some observers think the NRA might use the data for political purposes such as lobbying and rally support from gun owners. The NRA doesn’t want to reveal that it collects the information, let alone say what it does with it.
Others think the group uses the data to maintain its position as the most powerful gun rights organization in the country.
NRA gathering information about all gun owners
The NRA is gathering information about all gun owners whether they are NRA members or not. The group that supposedly opposes the registry of guns regularly collects information from state and count gun permit registration lists, NRA gun safety classes, and by “by buying lists of attendees of gun shows, subscribers to gun magazines,” BuzzFeed.com reported.
A company called Preferred Communications contacted the Virginia State Police in July 2009 and attempted to get a list of all the holders of concealed weapons permits in the state. The company’s representatives claimed that they were working on behalf of the National Rifle Association.
“Can you please let me know if you offer 2008 and/or 2009 names?” read one email from the company to the Virginia police. “Can you please let me know the address to send the check to and also whom to make it payable to?”
Tracking concealed weapons permit holders
Representatives of the NRA itself made similar requests to state officials in Iowa, Arkansas and Oregon. NRA lobbyist Christopher Rager sent the Iowa Department of Public Safety an email requesting a list of concealed weapons permit holders.
The information is apparently added to the NRA’s mailing lists so it can send all gun owners information on federal and state bills, the Gawker speculated. Some of those letters and emails would contain attacks on efforts to compile databases of information about gun owners.
These stories show that the NRA is gathering data about all gun owners, and not just its members. The organization is compiling records that presumably include the addresses and contact information for gun owners who might not agree with its agenda.
The NRA’s tactics are similar to the ones used by the Obama campaigns in 2008 and 2012.
“There are certainly some parallels,” said Laura Quinn, CEO of Catalist, a data firm used by the Obama campaigns. . “The NRA is not only able to understand people who their members are but also people who are not their members. The more data they have, the more it allows them to test different strategies and different messages on different people. … Part of the way they have gotten to a place where they are able to do what they do is through data. There is some irony.”
Former NRA lobbyist Richard Feldman estimates the group’s list includes “tens of millions of people.”
“There’s nothing that prevents them from mailing those people,” Feldman said “The more you know about people, the more targeted the message you can communicate with them, the more the message will resonate with them.”
He also speculated that gun owners would not be bothered by the NRA’s data tactics.
“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.”