The National Rifle Association has built a secret database of tens of millions of current, former and prospective gun owners, many of whom aren't members, the website Buzzfeed reports.
The database has taken years to build and draws on gun permit registration lists from state and county offices, state-held listings of hunter licenses, rosters of gun-safety classes taught by NRA-certified instructors, and lists purchased from gun shows and gun magazines, in addition to the organization's own estimated 3 million membership records.
Housed in the NRA Virginia headquarters, the database is considered to be the largest, privately held list of current, former and prospective gun owners in the country, according to Buzzfeed.
The scope of its data-gathering has enabled the organization to micro-target its messages to non-members, raise millions of dollars, and secure its influence on the national political agenda, with a sophistication comparable only to presidential campaigns.
"There are certainly some parallels," Laura Quinn, CEO of Catalist, a data analysis firm used by Obama for America, told Buzzfeed. "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," she added, referring to the organization's intense opposition to gun control proposals which it said would create a national database of firearms and their owners.
An NRA spokesman would not discuss the group's name-gathering methods or what is done with the data on millions of non-member gun owners, according to Buzzfeed.
"That's not any of your business," he reportedly told Buzzfeed.
According to the report, the NRA has not engaged in any wrongful activity and use of open source data like this is common for marketing companies and other businesses.
Discussing the Buzzfeed report on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Wednesday, co-host Thomas Roberts said he thought the NRA was simply engaging in a smart business move.
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