August 22, 2013
The website BuzzFeed breathlessly informs us that NRA maintains a large and comprehensive database of gun owners and asks why we shouldn't be as worried about that as they are about the government maintaining records on us.
The reasons for that should be obvious to anyone with a pulse, but let's count them down, slowly, as for a non-especially bright child:
1. The NRA knows you're a gun owner, and may be able to extrapolate from Big Data what sort of guns interest you, but they don't know and are uninterested in knowing, exactly what guns you own, their serial numbers and where you keep them.
2. The NRA has never said, "If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States, for an outright ban, picking up every one of them, Mr. and Mrs. America, turn 'em all in, I would have done it."
3. The NRA doesn't have the capability to monitor your phone calls, emails and social media activities in the name of national security.
4. NRA gets your name if you take a training course or go to a Friends of NRA dinner. It has no capability to monitor in minute detail your Internet and social media usage as do Facebook and Google, which then use that information to market you to those who want to sell you something.
5. And most importantly, the NRA is not the government. The NRA can't put you in jail, sic the IRS on you, confine you in Guantanamo or incinerate you with a drone attack.
A fascination with NRA data-processing capabilities is nothing new. When I was a PR man for the organization in the 1970s, stories about vast and sinister information capacities were quite common. I once escorted a reporter from the Christian Science Monitor around the old 1600 Rhode Island Ave. headquarters. She feigned interest in the range, the museum and other spots, but, with some squirming and hemming, finally said, "they wouldn't let me see the computer room, would they?"
The guy who ran the computer room was a buddy of mine, so it was no problem. It looked pretty much exactly like the photo to the left: lots of old-fashioned tape drives and control desks. The reporter, who was expecting something like Dr. Evil's lair, seemed disappointed. What I didn't tell her, of course, was that in those days, the real magic was being performed by direct mail wizard Richard Viguerie somewhere out in Virginia.
So Buzzfeed is just trodding the same well-worn path blazed when reporters used dial phones and spiral notebooks. I don't doubt some eager beaver not yet born will be doing the same 35 years from today.