After a big hoopla was made from gun rights advocates over media outlets requesting publicly available information on gun owners, a Gawker FOIA request turned up evidence that the people who request public records on gun owners the most often are the gun rights advocates. We would suggest for very different, selfish reasons, too.
Sergio Hernandez made public records requests for all the parties who had made their own public records requests for gun ownership records across seven states. Many, it turned out, were either members of gun rights groups, like the National Rifle Association, or organizations working on their behalf. Public records requests for gun licenses has been politicized in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings. Just last night, Robert Horne, the editor of a small town North Carolina newspaper, resigned after being flooded with hate mail after asking a local sheriff for publicly available records on gun owners. The issue caught on with gun rights advocates after The Journal News, a newspaper serving New York's Rockland and Westchester counties, was criticized for publishing a map of gun owners in their area. In response, gun owners published the newspapers' employees' personal info and addresses in a convenient map form. Gawker, itself, became a target on Fox News after it published a list of handgun owners in New York City. The National Rifle Association said the papers had "no business" going after the publicly available records.
But the NRA does. Literally. The NRA lives off of membership dues and while they say they represent all gun owners on all matters gun related, the numbers show that's not really the case because very many gun owners are not NRA members. There's an estimated 70 million gun owners in America right now. But the NRA claims to only have about 4.5 million members, but even that number is shaky when not taken at face value. So, what we're getting at here, is the NRA spends a lot of time and money marketing its memberships. Like other marketing firms, publicly available information plays a role in this effort. They are so good at this kind of data-mining, that even when The New York Times writer David Carr visited a shooting range with some media dudes, he told our Elspeth Reeve, he filled out some forms and, a short time later, "unbeckoned by me an NRA member card showed up in the mail."
It kind of makes you wonder if there isn't someone in the NRA's membership department who fantasizes about how much easier their job would be if there really was a national gun registry.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.