National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre made it very clear this spring that the organization categorically opposed any gun-owner registry.
“What’s the point of registering lawful gun owners anyway?” LaPierre asked in a speech before the Conservative Political Action Committee in March. “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.”
The NRA complained loudly about “anti-gun media outlets” who they said had abused the privilege of the Freedom of Information Act by publishing the names of registered gun-owners. But, as it turns out, the NRA itself has requested the lists of registered gun owners from different states, using the lists to raise funds and recruit new members, BuzzFeed reported Tuesday.
Earlier this year the NRA opposed a bipartisan bill in Congress that would have required background checks on commercial firearms purchases. The gun lobby opposed the legislation, sponsored by Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, claiming it would have created a federal database of gun owners, even though the same legislation mandated a 15-year prison sentence for any official who knowingly tried to create a federal registry.
According to the website, in July 2009, a North Carolina-based firm called Preferred Communications sent an email “on behalf of the National Rifle Association” to the Virginia state police asking whether the names of concealed-carry permit holders could be purchased.
Christopher Ranger, a gun lobbyist, wrote from an official NRA email address to the Iowa Department of Public Safety asking how the organization could “collect data” on gun permit holders in another email obtained by BuzzFeed. Unnamed officials in Arkansas and Oregon also said they had similarly received requests for gun owner lists, the site reported.
In Tennessee, an NRA-certified firearms “training academy” requested information from a database of gun owners maintained by the state’s Department of Safety and Homeland Security, Gawker reported in February.
Lawmakers in Tennessee have periodically introduced bills that would seal the personal information of gun permit holders in an effort to protect their privacy, a position which NRA officials’ public claims would seem to support. One bill failed in 2009 “when questions about closing the records” to advocacy groups that would use gun registry lists for “fundraising purposes” put the brakes on it, according to WSMV, an NBC affiliate television station in Nashville. A bill introduced earlier this year has also failed to pass the Tennessee legislature.
The NRA has yet to comment on its efforts to obtain the names and address of registered gun owners.